Language Learning Adventures: How Travel Boosts Language Acquisition Skills

“The brain is built to learn. It needs to be stimulated to keep it active.” When we learn a language, whether it be at school, university, tutor or special courses, most of the time is devoted to theory. We analyze the rules, do written exercises, learn to read, write and translate. At the same time, very little time is devoted to speaking practice - a maximum of 10-15% of the total number of hours. And this is despite the fact that classes are held only a couple of times a week. As a result, we know the theory very well, we read and translate texts, but we don’t know how to speak.


Once among the English-speaking population, you will have to talk anyway. And since we communicate with native speakers, this improves our speaking skills, pronunciation, and listening to the original speech. As a result, a person who has gone abroad sooner or later begins to speak English fluently and does not experience difficulties on the street, in shops, or in cafes.


This method will be very effective for those who have had very little practice and who have not even tried to practice their speaking. Many of those who have lived at least a little abroad come home with an updated vocabulary and improved speech skills. However, before choosing this method and packing your bags, you need to consider all its features in order to get the maximum effect. How exactly and why it all works - we tell in this article.



Individual lessons abroad


Remember Liz Gilbert from Eat Pray Love? That very first third, where she lived in Italy and studied Italian with a native speaker? Personal lessons are a way to learn English or any other language for those who want to work through all the difficult topics properly. Unlike group courses, which are limited in time, you can study individually until you reach your goal. At the same time, an English speaking tutor can create a program based on your strengths and weaknesses. You don't see that in the classroom either. But remember: the most difficult thing in this option is to find a teacher with whom you can study comfortably and effectively. 



A person feels happier abroad


In various situations, hormones of happiness are produced in the human body. Scientists from the University of Leuven have found that studying in a new, previously unknown environment stimulates the production of dopamine, one of these hormones. It is associated with the setting and achievement of goals, a sense of satisfaction from the tasks performed. Dopamine improves mood, adds energy and efficiency. Therefore, learning a language abroad becomes not only more productive, but also brings joy.



The "volume" of the brain increases


Researchers at the University of Bern discovered that learning a new language alters the way the brain is wired. For instance, more gray matter is present. However, studying abroad has a considerably greater impact on the brain than conventional classroom instruction. Mental capacities are controlled by gray matter. In other words, learning a foreign language abroad makes you smarter. You will be able to memorize more material, work through challenging issues more quickly, and develop your analytical and logical thinking abilities all without exerting additional effort.



The brain perceives a foreign language as a native 


Regardless of your age, learning in a language environment stimulates the same brain processes as bilinguals who have been bilingual since childhood. The brain perceives a foreign language as native if you are in a foreign language environment. Accordingly, the language is acquired faster and more efficiently. This is how you learn to think in a foreign language. New grammatical forms and syntactic patterns are built into the brain's "database". Thanks to this, you get new opportunities to express your own ideas. This makes immersive language learning different from classroom or online lessons. In the first case, you immediately get used to formulating thoughts in another language, in the second case, you continue to internally translate from your native language.



Develops the ability to multitask


When studying a foreign language abroad, a person constantly uses two languages in speech. Let's say one language during classes and communication with new friends, and native - for calls home and correspondence with friends. This juggling involves the executive functions of the brain, which are responsible for doing several things at the same time. The ability to multitask is retained even after mastering a foreign language. 



About the Author:

Jennifer Anders is a freelance writer who has traveled extensively and enjoys exploring off-the-beaten-path locations around the world.

She loves hiking national parks, windsurfing, and photographing wildlife.

Aside from all those crazy activities, you'll also find her eating plenty of local street food. She is absolutely fearless when it comes to trying new things.