Every year thousands ,although I wish it were more, of American students choose study abroad. Many go with various expectations. However, I find that many students get the wrong Idea going into it and often they are left disappointed upon departure back to their home. So let me clear some things up for any student or parent’s of students that are studying abroad in the upcoming years.
“When I get back I am going to be so fluent in my chosen language that I will speak like a native.”
While yes there are cases where students go abroad after years of studying and become very comfortable and fluid in the language. Many students who go abroad have only studied the language for 2-3 years and it would be outrageous to think that in 3 months, or even a years time, that you would be able to learn and have enough practice with the language to be able to speak like a native.
Fluency, is a word that should be taken out of the language learners mentality. It gives the false impression that you have reached this level where you no longer have to work on the language and can conduct yourself in all topics, No. Language learning is an ongoing process that never stops and the learner needs to continuously work on adding new words and remembering old ones. It becomes a lot easier as time goes on and yes there becomes a point where the language feels natural to you, but is there a point where you can say, “Today I am fluent, but yesterday I was not?” No.
Parents and friends: Don’t expect them to be able to go abroad for 3 months and then come back and be language gods.
Students: Just enjoy yourself and accept that language learning is an ongoing thing, that there are going to be awkward moments when you have NO idea what they are saying, and just strive to be a better speaker than you were the day before. Don’t be discouraged by little mistakes, even natives make mistakes when speaking.