Foreign language immersionCompletely immersing yourself in a new language by going to a country where it is spoken is a very brave choice. Perhaps it’s not for complete beginners, but it’s definitely a great way to force yourself to improve quickly – when eating depends on your ability to ask for food, you will soon find words!

However, complete immersion can be overwhelming. Being unfamiliar with your surroundings as well as unable to communicate can lead to loneliness and culture shock. You may find the language you hear to be different from that you learned in a previous class, with slang words you may not have heard before. As much as you research the place you’re going to, your first few days are going to be a learning experience.

The positive side of immersion is the chance to get to know the culture and history of the country, alongside the language. You’ll (hopefully) meet new lifelong friends who you can continue to converse with after you’ve left. You get to try new things you may never have thought of, and it will also look great to future employers, showing both initiative and a willingness to accept challenges.

A major consideration of the language immersion route though, is the cost. Apart from the initial expenses of getting to your chosen country, there’s the day to day living costs and perhaps additional classes to help the transition. There are some grants and scholarships available, and language schools abroad will also be able to advise you on costs and what you can expect. This interview with an immersion school director is a good start, as well as these frequently asked questions (although they’re specifically about learning Spanish, they can be applied to all languages).

Milton from Travellers Rest moved to France on a semester abroad part of his MBA:

When I arrived in France, it was overwhelming! It’s pretty nerve racking when you not only have to deal with a new language but new customs as well. A trip to the supermarket became an ordeal – I ate oranges, bread and cheese for two weeks! I would come home exhausted every day from having to work through the simplest tasks in a new language. Eventually, however, things that you are forced to do every day become second nature and really contribute to your learning. For instance, on the way home from my school, there was a bakery that I stopped in every day. I came to know the owner and we would talk and she would tell me about the different foods and make recommendations. This not only helped my language skills, but my cultural knowledge as well. Now, I can’t wait to go back!