5 reasons why studying abroad is the best way to learn a language

Learn languagesTravel November 24, 2023

Learning at home is a great first step for language learners, but learning a language isn’t like learning maths or science. Classroom hours are important, but a huge portion of your progress is made in the real world, which is where travelling abroad is the only real option. Read on to find out why we think that travelling abroad is the best (and only!) way to reach your language goals. 

1. You escape the “safety net” of your mother tongue

Sometimes your comfort zone is holding you back!

You have likely learned a language in a classroom setting at some point in your home country — the ritual is usually the same: you’re asked a question, and you either answer it or you’re secure in the knowledge that the teacher will explain it to you in your mother tongue. 

This is where learning abroad differs. Picture the same scenario, but instead of your classroom, you’re in a bakery in a new country, and your “teacher” is the baker behind the counter waiting for you to make your choice. There is no one to explain the answer to you, and you still need your bread, so what do you do? 

This may sound oddly terrifying, and it can be! But it’s also the absolute best way for you to pick up your target language. When you’re put on the spot, you start using language skills you didn’t know you even had! And, while you may not remember the German word for pumpernickel bread (spoiler: it’s pumpernickel), you may be able to describe “dark, brown, dry sweet bread”, which is close enough for the baker to tell you the real word! 

When you learn a language through genuine interactions, it makes stronger connections in your memory. Even if it seems daunting — taking the “safety net” of your mother tongue out of the equation will force you to have these interactions, giving you better fluency than if you studied at home.

Take the leap and contact an ESL advisor today!

2. It’s the motivation that you need

Progress looks better in the real world than on a whiteboard!

Continuing from our little example: You’ve lucked out and answered your question right in the classroom — well done, you! But, while it may feel great now, will the motivation be enough to sustain you through the inevitable self-doubt and mistakes that come later? 

The problem with keeping up motivation in solely a classroom setting is that all of your progress is confined in a “bubble”. It’s great getting approval from the teacher and your classmates, but it’s hard to translate this into feeling like you’re “good” at the language. However, when you learn a language abroad, after you leave your classroom, it’s your time to shine in the real world!

Once you start using your new language skills to achieve goals in your personal life (whether it’s buying bread, doing your taxes, or even going on a date!) It gives you a sense of accomplishment that’s impossible to replicate in a classroom.

You’re no longer helping a hypothetical character order at a fictional restaurant: It’s your tortilla de patata that you’re asking to be sin cebolla, and you should be proud!

Get the ultimate motivation with ESL! Choose your programme here

3. Culture has more of an impact than you think 

Singing. Dancing. Talking. Learning!

A new language never develops in a vacuum. When you’re learning it, your brain is constantly developing connections between the vocabulary you’re learning and your environment. So, what does that mean for you? 

In general, this means that the more you surround yourself with your target language, the faster your brain will make these connections. Similar to when you were a child, when you learned the word for “apple” — it was much easier to remember when you could bite into one than if you just saw it on Sesame Street!

 Fast-forward to your current language, learning more complicated phrases and context-based vocabulary becomes much easier when you can associate it with something you’ve experienced in the real world.

For language learners at home, immersing yourself in the culture and context of your target language can be difficult. While the internet has given a great gateway to learning other cultures, finding reliable and entertaining cultural sources can be tricky. 

When you learn a language abroad, it’s actually harder to not be immersed in your language’s culture — every day becomes a new lesson in immersion! 

When you take the bus to school, you’ll pass adverts in your target language. When you get home and watch TV, you’ll watch shows in your target language. When you make friends, you’ll talk about those TV shows in your target language, and when you go out to party with those friends, you’ll dance to music in your target language! 

Studying abroad will give you a unique, unfiltered view of your host country. All you need to do is simply exist, and your brain will be making these connections to make you a better speaker, with almost no effort on your side.

Looking to embrace a new culture while learning its language? Contact us today!

4. It’s actually fun

Learning on a beach beats learning in a school!

Now, we’re all rooting for you to get better at your target language (that’s why we made this article!), but there is one aspect of studying abroad that can’t be overlooked: It is really really fun! 

It’s important to focus on your professional goals while deciding to embark on a language programme, but that doesn’t mean you should throw your own enjoyment out of the window! 

Studying abroad gives you the perfect mix between a strong career step and a fun adventure. 

If you’re in Dublin, you can expect to study English during the day and experience the city’s famous party culture at night. If you learn Spanish in Barcelona, get ready to spend your weekends sunbathing on beautiful Mediterranean beaches. If you want to take French lessons in Montreux, put on your skis and plan your trip to the famous Alps! 

Every city has a unique culture and surroundings to explore, and while a lot of your time abroad should be spent in the classroom, you’ll still have plenty of time to experience what your host country has to offer. 

Looking to combine your language experience with a fun activity? Check out our Course Plus programmes

5. The return on investment is unbeatable

The return on investment is unbeatable

So, I think we’re all in agreement that studying abroad is a great option for you, but let’s address the elephant in the room: Studying abroad can indeed be quite expensive.

If you travel with a company like ESL, you can expect to get the absolute best price on the market, but between the flights, the accommodation, and the school itself — the fee can seem quite intimidating at first. So, how can you justify it to your wallet? 

A 2012 study by the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad) found that students who took their education abroad were far more likely to gain a higher salary and more prestigious positions than those who didn’t. Specifically, they found: 

  • Around 84% of students surveyed felt that they developed skills to help them find employment
  • Nearly 90% of students were able to find a job within six months of graduation
  • 90% of students were able to get into their first or second choice of higher education

While this study was largely focused on students who took a semester of higher education abroad, the findings can be applied to any study abroad programme! Spending time abroad gives you a huge arsenal of soft skills that can be applied to your professional life, and employers know this!

When you combine this with all of the language progress we mentioned before, studying abroad becomes more than just a fun trip — it’s an investment into your future and one that is almost guaranteed to pay out! 

Do you want to make the first step towards your language goals and higher employability? Speak to our team and find the language programme that suits you best!

By Christopher Robinson

What do you think?