Tips for Language Learning while Abroad

Here it is, as promised 🙂 My best tips for making sure you make the most of you year abroad and get as fluent as possible. I’ve also checked some of the things my own uni recommended to add further suggestions, but mostly these are my personal recommendations and things I’ve found have helped me! You can totally reject this if it doesn’t work for you, everyone works differently. I’m a visual and kinesthetic learner before an aural learner – which means that I need lots of visual information and I also need to do or practice the language / grammar for it to actually go into my brain. Just listening isn’t enough. So here’s tip number one:

  1. Find out what kind of learner you are. This is really important because it will change the way you revise and it will help you memorise vocab and grammar easier. You can take free tests online, just Google it 😉 There are about 4 types, Kinesthetic, Aural, Visual and then Traditional (I think).
  2. Say ‘yes’ a lot! People will offer you things, to go shopping, to go see a movie, etc. Just say yes. It’s all good experience and you’ll learn something about the culture from these.
  3. Stay with a family/Spanish friends who speak only/mostly Spanish/whatever your target language is. This way you wake up speaking the language, and go to bed speaking the language. You’ll get so much more out of it, trust me. And if the family has kids, this is a good way of getting practice using different registers – speaking more politely to grandparents whereas with kids you can usually be more informal.
  4. Go over difficult areas of grammar that you notice yourself struggling with. Don’t just leave them and hope they go away! I still go over the past tenses in Spanish and the subjunctive… and ser and estar still catch me out occasionally!! Just because you’re in the country doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll immediately become bad-ass at grammar, so make sure you try and do some exercises / revision a few times a week. Nothing intensive. If you can, take a course at a local uni.
  5. Write down new vocabulary – no excuses! I keep lists of new vocab, and as I mentioned in my last post, we’ve actually stuck up some pieces of blank paper in the kitchen with all of our names on so we can write down new words in English/Spanish and then go over them together at meal times. This is great for kids, but to be honest it works for adults too.
  6. You’re gonna love this one! Watch TV! and films… but in the target language obviously. If possible, use subtitles in that language too instead of in your native language, if you need it that is! But often programs have actors speaking clearly and with good grammar. I watched an episode of El Ministerio del Tiempo last night and it was great! I recommend the site for series and news etc. for Spanish.
  7. Read. If you can, get your hands on a novel, maybe one you’ve read before so you know what happens, but trust me, this really helped not only to widen my vocabulary but also to get used to ways of saying things, set phrases/idioms, and the grammar structures. I read the Fault in Our Stars (Bajo la misma estrella) only in Spanish, I’ve also read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter y la cámara secreta), The Last Song (La última canción) and the Hunger Games (book one – Los juegos del hambre) in Spanish, and am currently reading Gone Girl (Perdida). I haven’t managed to get my hands on a Russian novel yet but I’m probably going to try and get the first Harry Potter on my kindle! [*Fun fact, in Russian they sometimes pronounce the ‘H’ sound (х) as a hard G sound like in gutter (г), so Harry Potter is Gary Potter to Russians (Гарpи Поттер), but for us English lot at least this makes it take on a whole different meaning! 😉 ]
  8. Do things that scare you – go for a train journey somewhere so that you have to buy tickets, go to the cinema or theatre, etc. These experiences will bring you into contact with people who don’t speak English/ your native language and will help you use what you have on the spot. 

So there you go – my 8 pieces of advice for helping you use and develop your language on your year abroad. Hope this helps! 

Housing, God and more amazing things


Seriously, we have a house. Well, a flat. It’s amazing. Everything’s amazing right now 🙂 It’s more expensive than we’d hoped, (£123 per week, per person), but most houses are about that price anyway once bills are added, and our price includes bills. We are going to have a lovely flat with ensuites in every bedroom and a spacious kitchen which is close to campus. Although it’s not so close to town, or to Aldi, I do have a bike, and there are buses, and these things can be worked out next year. So we’re happy, we’re a lovely bunch with top quality banter in our Facebook chat already – and I can’t help but sit back and smile at how God has brought all of this about.

I feel like right now, through every big or little challenge, God is showing me how much he can provide and how much he has a plan, and is very much in the drivers seat. Obviously I am not always 100% confident and trusting – finances are a weak area with me in particular, just being honest! But I’m reminded again and again when I look back at just how good he is.

We have a house. For 5 people, that’s a miracle. Most fives have had to split up and find single places elsewhere, it’s that bad. But God provided us with a house, and has helped us pay the huge deposit, and will continue to help us next year paying the rent.

I’ve just got back from a really wonderful church weekend away with Grace Church. I feel so blessed to have joined it. I feel so much closer to not only the students but some of the adults (particularly in my community group/huddle), and the talks we had were really inspiring and encouraging for me. They talked a lot about forming communities where you are, finding people with similar passions as you and joining together to make that grow, God’s plan in your life, and so much more.

I’ve felt for a long time now that my family and I didn’t move to Spain for no reason all those years ago when I turned 9. I feel like we went so I could learn Spanish. So dad could too… but personally I feel like God has given me this love of languages through that experience. Somehow, without much practice, I was able to remember a lot of it – enough to get A* at GCSE (with some work, obviously, but not half as much as my other subjects). I taught myself GCSE French with ~1 & 1/2 hours of ‘lesson time’ a week a year early and got an A. I discovered that I love grammar, the way a language works, and the culture behind it. And I feel now more strongly than ever that my calling involves this passion, which is stronger than pretty much all of my other (many passions/hobbies/abilities) and that God is going to use it. I don’t know how yet. But that, I’m sure, will come.

Cornwall was great – we stayed in the Esplanade hotel at Newquay and it was practically on the beach. The dinner hall looked out onto the sea, which was stormy and grey and preeeettyy 🙂 

I walked to the end of the coast with Bethany (a friend from Community Group and church who’s a first year medic student at St Luke’s campus) and we (plus Esther, my future house mate next year) went into Newquay together with a bunch of adults to find food on Saturday at lunchtime, and then had a massive laugh over my hilarious Facebook feed for a few hours afterward (I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in ages!).

I’m back and unpacked now, ready for week 4 (hopefully). Time to learn Future Aspect and other interesting things. Text-a-toastie is tomorrow night; its a CU (Christian Union) thing. Basically the hall group for Lafrowda makes chocolate or cheese toasties, and people from Lafrowda can text any question about Christianity to the number we put on the poster and then the flavour they want and we bring them a toastie and answer their question. So its an evangelical thing which is super fun 🙂

My little bro Daniel (Dan-the-Man) got baptised on Sunday back home in Worcester, which unfortunately I missed, although I got to watch a recording. I’m so proud. He’s growed up good. 🙂 He’s got a deep faith and he’s sturdy in what he believes – it’s hard to sway him. (Bit like me – the word I’m looking for is stubborn haha – but I think your faith is something it’s ok to be stubborn about!) Just so proud, and I’m sure my other siblings are too 🙂 I love my family ❤

News, news, do I have any more? Hmmm… Not sure but I’m super stoked for this week ahead 🙂 I think I’ll leave it there for now… this is quite a lengthy update, and I’m trying to cut down how much screen time I get before bed as I think it stops me switching off as easily. (Missing the hotel beds though… they were so good!)

Anyway, have a good week everyone! Happy Sunday (and first of February tomorrow).