If you are wondering if you should study abroad, some recent research might make your decision a little easier for you. It’s been discovered that studying abroad will likely give you a better understanding of a second language, even if you only go for a small amount of time.
This may not be surprising, since immersion has always been considered a great tool for people looking to become fluent. But now we know why and how long it takes to reap the rewards of studying abroad.
The Science Behind Studying Abroad and Fluency
Medical Xpress, a medical and health news service, recently reported that studying abroad can improve language learning. Specifically, researchers suggest that an immersion experience can help students to better understand the grammar of a foreign language, which is a much more difficult task than memorizing new vocabulary.
This is based on a study where low and high-level Spanish language students read Spanish sentences alongside native Spanish speakers. Brain scans showed that the high-level students, who had taken regular university classes and then studied abroad for at least a semester, had brain waves which were basically the same as the native speakers.
However, the brain waves of the students without study abroad experience were very different from these groups.
So if you have ever learned another language in school and then studied abroad, only to find yourself occasionally thinking in that language, you’re not alone! When you read in that language, your brain waves are likely more similar to those of a native speaker.
How Long Should You Study Abroad?
The amount of time you spend studying in another country is up to you. It depends on how long you can afford to study abroad when it comes to finances, as well as which classes you need to take before graduation.
But if you are hoping to become fluent in the language you are studying, you will be glad to know that as little as one semester abroad can greatly improve your foreign language skills. So even if you cannot afford to go for a whole year or more, you can still get the benefits of immersing yourself in another language.
Just make sure you take at least a couple of years of language courses at your current college before you go. This is important because the study was performed on students who were in advanced courses prior to studying abroad, which means you would likely not get the same results if you go to another country for your first year or two of college.
If the benefit of becoming fluent in another language appeals to you, it might be time to apply to a study abroad program in the country of your choice. As long as you have the basics of the language down, you can get started on choosing the study abroad program that works for you.