Should I study abroad? (2): Magic cure for mastering the language[Check out the previous article here]
I am always amazed at the type of effort students put in when they have a concrete goal, such as traveling abroad. I’ve seen it countless times in my lessons, but it is no exaggeration that the effort and commitment these students bring is tens of times more than that of those without any concrete goals.
The magic cure for improving a language is this: plan a trip aboard and book your flight. You’ll find yourself shifting gears, whether you like it or not.
I experienced this personally when I decided to go to Brazil this summer.
Being an English teacher myself, I have come to understand how much time has to be invested in order to see some improvement. Even then, it is extremely difficult to keep the fire going without a sense of urgency…
It’s worth noting that no teacher can help you keep the fire burning. You’ll only achieve this, when you make a commitment to yourself…
Below, I would like to share my language learning experience leading to the day when I left for Brazil.
I had been taking weekly lessons with a Brazilian teacher for the last two years.
I’m embarrassed to tell you that I only managed to make measly progress because the type of effort I used to put in was getting my homework done just before the lesson started.
When I booked my trip to Brazil at the beginning of May, all of a sudden I had a goal. A very concrete one: I want to be able to hold a basic conversation in three months. To tell you the truth, it was more of desperation than aspiration that if I didn’t speak Portuguese by the time I went, I would have to face a lot of trouble and inconvenience. It doesn’t matter whether your driving force is a desire or a threat as long as it works. Personally, desperation and threat seem to have more effect.
For the next three months, I started working on dialogues from everyday situations to stock up daily expressions and vocabulary. Along with the weekly lessons, I completed a book of grammar exercise and continued reviewing example sentences of each grammar point using a flashcard app during my train commute. In addition, to get used to listening to Portuguese as well as to learn about Brazil in general I started watching videos on Youtube and other movies.
Then, it was time for me to leave for Brazil.
The total flight duration was 23 hours with a transit in Dubai. It took 46 hours from the time I left my house to when I arrived at my destination…
The most valuable thing you get by spending time in the country is this confidence rooted in the experience of having managed to communicate and having survived in the language.
The second advantage is the speed at which you learn and memorize new words. Not only do you use the words every day repeatedly , you encounter new words and figure out their meaning in a real everyday context. This undoubtedly makes it much easier for your brain to memorize the words. Thirdly, you get to learn the everyday expressions and vocabulary that the locals use. Those are usually hard to come by in textbooks or videos.
The upside of studying textbooks, that is to say studying grammar, is that you will be equipped to build sentences by yourself through structurally learning grammar, particularly the tenses. Without the knowledge of grammar, it is difficult to have a ‘normal conversation’ with sentences and you’ll have to try your luck putting words together.
In my case, it worked out like this: knowledge acquisition in Japan then practice in Brazil. However, that is not to say that the cycle of knowledge acquisition (i.e. input) and practice (i.e. output) has to be done at home and abroad respectably. Where you are does not matter nearly as much as how consciously you work at it.
In fact, there are a lot of people who achieved efficiency without ever stepping their foot outside of Japan. These people have made a conscious effort to find opportunities and used the language in the country.
On the other hand, there are those who have not made any noticeable improvement despite living in the target country. The amount of time you stay in the country does not correspond to the amount of progress you make with the language. As the type vocabulary and phrases you need to get by in day-to-day life is fairly limited, you need appropriate drive and effort if you want to reach a level of fluency.
To conclude, at the end of the day, whether and how much you improve depends on you. The environment could be ideal but without sufficient effort, you cannot hope to see any solid progress. It is always possible to improve facing adversity as long as your will is rock-solid.日本語文へ]