Why studying abroad is the best way to learn a new language

If you’ve ever thought about learning a foreign language or exploring a new country, you should probably read this.

Why studying abroad is the best way to learn a new language
Photo: ESL

They say that in today’s globalized world, borders matter less than they used to. And while it may be easier to travel from one country to another, there’s no getting around the fact that not everyone speaks the same language.

Of course, you may be able to get by with English in a lot of places, but as anyone who’s spent time abroad will tell you, knowing the local language can transform the experience.

And while taking classes close to home or spending time with the latest language-learning app may help you pick up the basics, but you simply can’t beat learning a language where it’s spoken in the streets, on the radio, and everywhere around you.

Not convinced? Here are six reasons you really should choose to learn the language abroad.

You get to live abroad

OK, we can all admit that setting up life in a new place isn’t always easy – but it’s rewarding in so many different ways – especially if you choose to use that time abroad to learn a new language.

Learn more about studying a foreign language abroad

Experiencing a new culture and country first-hand opens the door to host of new experiences, expanding your comfort zone, which in turn can do wonders for your confidence.

Whereas before the thought of boarding a plane solo to an unfamiliar place, or trying to navigate a new city may have had you sweating, following a stint abroad, tackling such unknowns is a breeze.

You can turn a detour into a fast track

Lots of young graduates look to take a gap year after university before starting their careers. The reasons can be many – exploring, soul search, delaying the inevitability of that 9-5 life.

But choosing to study a foreign language abroad suddenly transforms that gap year from what cynical family members might consider a detour into a rewarding, relevant, and downright desirable capstone that helps accelerate your life and career.

Learn a new language during your gap year with ESL

We’re not saying you can’t spend time on the beach or at the bar, but conversing about the weather or ordering drinks in a foreign language – coupled with some actual time in class – makes for a year that is far from a gap on your CV; rather, it becomes an asset.

You can boost your employability

Let’s take that a step farther. It’s no secret living abroad and studying a foreign language entails plenty of fun. But the experience can really take your career in all sorts of new directions. International connections are important to an increasing number of companies of all shapes and sizes.

Having language skills and direct experience in the country of a new client could be the deciding factor between a company hiring you rather than your classmate you never left home – even if he or she had better grades.

You get smarter

Learning a new language is like exercise for the brain. It takes effort, but the reward is brain that’s more adaptable and able to learn new things faster. Learning a second language also improves your memory and helps fend off dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Grappling with a foreign language can also give you new insights into your mother tongue. From grammar to idiomatic phrases – understanding how and why certain words are strung together in certain ways in another language gets you thinking about why things work they do in our own language. And all of that can help make you a better communicator altogether.

You can amaze others

Let’s face it – it’s hard not to be somewhat impressed when you hear someone carry on a conversation in what may sound like gibberish. So why not be the one that gets others jaws to drop when you strike up a conversation with a local while on holiday.

And who doesn’t get a little kick from showing off to friends and family?

It’s by far the best way to learn

Learning and communicating in the language of a foreign country while living there is without doubt the best way of learning simply because, well – you never stop learning. Everywhere you turn you’re faced with opportunities to hear, read, and use your new language – basically, your entire environment because your classroom.

There’s also the added bonus of getting to experience the language “in real life” as opposed to trying to make it come alive from the pages of a book back in your hometown. And there’s certainly no app that can replicate that.

By now, the choice should be clear – the time to study a foreign language abroad is now. And doing so is easy and cost-effective with ESL – Language studies abroad.

ESL offers programmes in 23 languages at 250 destinations around the world. And with more than two decades of experience, ESL delivers language learning opportunities for everyone who’s ever dreamed studying a new language abroad.

Click here to find out which ESL programme is right for you

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by ESL.
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Italian word of the day: ‘Spaghettata’

If you like your spaghetti, you'll love the 'spaghettata'.

Italian word of the day: 'Spaghettata'

You may have twirled and chomped your way through enough spaghetti to be ranked up there with the best of them – but if you’ve never lived in Italy, you’ve probably never experienced the spaghettata (‘spag-ett-TAH-tah’).

Garfield Spaghetti GIF - Garfield Spaghetti Pasta GIFs

Is it a party? Is it a meal? The best way we can describe it is as a fun, relaxed spaghetti feast eaten at home with friends.

Informal and often impromptu, a spaghettata typically lasts for several hours involves copious amounts of wine..

Ci ha invitati a casa sua per una spaghettata.
She’s invited us to her place for a spaghettata.

Whereas a traditional Italian meal would have pasta as a first course (primo), followed by a meat or fish secondo, the spaghettata is a meal unto itself.

Pasta is all that’s on the menu, and if you’re coming back for seconds or thirds, pasta is what you’ll get.

party spaghetti GIF by Isola dei Famosi

Because of its humble, cobbled-together nature, a typical spaghettata can be made with the kind of basic ingredients you might find in any Italian kitchen, such as garlic, olive oil and chilli flakes.

If you have Italian friends who are keen to show off their culinary skills, it can be a little more involved and they might want to show off a local or family recipe. In these cases, it can become more like a dinner party – but with multiple helpings of pasta, instead of multiple courses.

You can also expect to see regional or city-based variations on the spaghetti dishes involved. In Bari, for example, you might be invited to someone’s house so they can show off their recipe for spaghetti allassassina: lightly scorched, toasted spaghetti with tomato sauce.

One of the best things about the spaghettata, though, is the lack of rules; the meal’s improvisational origins mean really anything goes, provided you can source it at the last minute or dig it out of your pantry to feed a hungry crowd.

A meal also doesn’t need to be put on at any particular time of day to be a spaghettata: it might be a lunchtime affair, or it might happen on those long, lazy summer evenings and nights – in which case it becomes a spaghettata di mezzanotte (‘midnight spaghettata‘).

Facciamo una bella spaghettata di mezzanotte!
Let’s have a nice late night spaghettata!

While you’d normally have your spaghettata in the company of others, it can occasionally be used to describe a dish you whip up for yourself at the last minute – particularly if you come home after a night out and suddenly realise you’re a bit peckish.

Oddly enough, spaghettata di gelato (‘ice cream spaghettata’) is what Italians call the German dish spaghettieis.

That isn’t a meal consisting entirely of gelato (if only…), but a dessert deliberately designed to look like a plate of pasta, with vanilla ice cream ‘spaghetti’ and red or green ‘sauces’ made of things like berries or pistachio.

Celebration Will GIF

You might think that given how alert Italians often are to the desecration of their culinary traditions, this would have sparked some discontent – but the dish appears to be quite popular in Italy, with numerous Italian websites offering recipes for the dessert (often simply known as spaghetti di gelato).

Maybe it’s that no one can resist a little novelty ice cream – or maybe the laid back associations of the spaghettata simply encourage everyone to be a bit more scialla.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.