Should I study abroad? (1): no teacher can guarantee your success…
Let me jump right to the conclusion. Both studying in Japan and spending time in the country where the language is spoken are equally important to improving your language skill.
It is YOU who decides
But there is a caveat. Even if you are to do both, at the end of the day, it is YOU who decides how much you improve.
I spent one month in Brazil this summer. The growth that was produced in a month in Brazil feels almost the same as the amount of improvement I made in the past two years I spent in Japan taking weekly Portuguese lessons.
But, the truth is that it only ‘feels’ like so.
I believe that the progress I made in Brazil would never have been possible if it hadn’t been for the work I’d done in Japan drilling grammar and vocabulary.
The biggest take away I have for you is that no matter how good your teacher or your textbook might be, ultimately it is you that can decide whether you will be successful or not.
Taking exactly the same lesson, some people improve and others don’t. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the lesson is of the highest standard or the worst possible, people who improve will always improve and people who don’t don’t. It’s as simple as that.
If there is something called “natural language talent” maybe it can help you a bit, but the result will always depend on how responsible you are with your learning.
Setting your own goal
Being responsible in this sense doesn’t mean that you have to dedicate 100% of your free time to the language and you immerse yourself in the language from the time you wake up until you drop dead at night.
To take charge of your learning means to set your goal properly. You need to be able to picture with clarity and urgency what you want to become by when.
Not everyone needs to be fluent. We all have our own needs and goals, so it is only natural that each of us works toward different efficiency levels.
Learning the basic phrases so that you can survive in the country is a reasonable and acceptable goal.
If reading books in the language and using the language as a tool to access information is your aim, you need not only ample knowledge of grammar and vocabulary but also a general level of education and understanding of culture. Obviously this will add a little more time to your pursuit.
When you have your goal clearly set, you will be able to select an appropriate learning style and will naturally figure out how much time you need to invest in order to achieve your goal.
When asked what their goal is, many will reply that holding daily conversation is their goal.
Frankly speaking, daily conversation is one of the most challenging goals you could set for yourself for the following reasons: the scope of daily conversation is incredibly wide; the conversation topic could be anything and is unpredictable.
Some of my students who use English at work tell me that they struggle more with small talk at a dinner table than with business negotiation in a meeting room. And I agree with them.
Instead of making ‘daily conversation’ as your goal, it is better to narrow down on specific tasks such as self-introduction, shopping, travel abroad, giving directions and presentation. In this way, you can identify exactly what you need to learn and also will be able to feel progress much quicker.
If you are about to embark on a language learning journey, it is a must to review the basic grammar, which is the level usually covered in junior high. As you ‘get used to the language’ used to the specific area you decided to study, you can slowly expand the scope of your topics according to your interest.
* (the phrase ‘get used to the language’ means to adapt to being comfortable not understanding majority of what’s being said and to get good at making guesses)日本語文へ]