When you decide to do an exchange semester, one of the first things that cross your mind is “What about the language?”. The language can be a barrier, but it should not stop you from going. In my case, I chose a country with a language that I know quite well. My first two options were in German-speaking regions, although my third was in Finland – yep, you guessed, I do not know a single word in Finnish. I once heard an exchange student say “I chose that specific country because I knew the language and I wanted to improve it. I ended up speaking more English than any other language…”, this is what happen to most of us.
Anyway, knowing the local language can be helpful, so you should look for a language course: before the trip or during your stay, it is your choice. Some universities have their own language school with special prices for their students – so look it up! If you cannot find one near you, you can try with an online course – for less than €10 per month. There are several websites, my favourites are listed below.
Good news! The Erasmus+ program includes an online language course to help students learn the local language. At the moment, the languages available are Czech, Danish, German, Greek, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese and Swedish. Once you have been accepted for the exchange program you will be able to access the platform. I have already started using it and I have to say: it is similar to the online courses I have already experienced.
If you want to make real progress you (1st) study every day between 20 and 30 minutes, instead of studying during long periods of time, this is a tip I learned with someone who speaks more than 30 languages fluently, (2nd) think with the new language, if you think in your native language and translate, you won’t do as well as if you think directly what you want to transmit in the language you want to use, that is the most valuable advice I learned with my English teacher and the fact is it works!, (3rd) expose yourself to the new language, speak with others – or monologue with yourself -, set your phone to that language, watch videos, movies, shows, listen to their music, read articles, books,… do it intensely and you will see the great improvements, especially in vocabulary and understanding. Notice: watching movies means you watch it in the foreign language, without subtitles or with subtitles in the foreign language. And (4th) make the learning a priority, do not delay it!
I hope you are not afraid anymore with the language barrier and you commit to learning the new language. If you have any advice, please post it in the comments!