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Learning a Language Abroad

Lauren 6

Oh man, haven’t brushed up on your [insert language here] since the two years you had in high school? Now you’re going to a country that speaks it? Boy, what a mess. Nah, I’m just kidding. This blog post is for those who do want to brush up on a language before and while being abroad. Now, there are plenty of programs at the University of Kentucky that just speak English even in an area that does not. However, regardless of the program’s language, maybe learning some foreign phrases isn’t a bad idea?

One of the best interfaces to learn beginner level language skills is Duolingo. It’s a basic application that you can download on your phone that will teach you verb tenses of languages and simple phrases to use. If you do happen to have papers from high school or previous studies, I also recommend looking at them. Make flash cards with expressions and phrases such as, “Hello”, “Thank you”, “Please”, “Where is the___?”, “Could you help me do___?”, etc. I know it may sound silly, but these phrases make a significant difference to people. The general attitudes towards those who might not know English in the United States is sympathetic and empathetic (not always, but generally speaking). Your host country might not be that tolerant of your lack of knowledge in their language (depends on your location and attitude towards Americans and foreigners). I personally was abroad in France, and depending on where you are, they might not know much English, so knowing some French is a good idea.

Another idea for language studies, maybe minor in that language and take some credit abroad for it? Or maybe not a minor, but just courses abroad or some before you go abroad at UK. Dip your toes in the water and try it out if you have the time and credit space. You most likely already know that studying abroad is a big résumé/CV booster, if you throw in a language though, oh my, look at you. You might get hired just for that. I am biased given the fact that I am a French and Francophone studies major, but in all reality, a language can set you apart from others. You also become closer with your host location. I have blogged about immersing yourself in your host location, but learning the language can take you a step further. Vous pouvez le faire! Bonne chance, et bon voyage!


Lauren Bix is a 3rd year senior at the University of Kentucky. Her major is in French and francophone studies and her time abroad was in Caen, Normandy, France, spring semester 2016.