How To Learn Foreign Languages In Your Home Country

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone! This week it's all about languages. Feel free to join the prompt or just link-up another travel-related post!

As globetrotters or expats I guess we are all equally interested in foreign languages. As an expat you may have started learning the language of your new country before or after you moved and as a globetrotter you may learn languages on the road or beforehand. Today I want to present you 6 different ways of learning a foreign language at home. This can be inbetween travels or before you start your life as an expat. Over the last couple of years I tried to learn Swedish more or less effectively. I first wanted to travel to the country and learned the most useful expressions. Later on I wanted to study in the country and therefore started to learn the language "properly". Now I'm preparing for a life as an expat in Norway where my Swedish comes in more than handy as you can understand Norwegian if you speak Swedish and vice versa. Anyway after now almost 4 years of learning Swedish part-time with a lot of pauses in between, I can proudly announce that I can now read Swedish novels without major problems, watch Swedish TV and films without major problems and communicate with Swedes in everyday life. I think that's a huge achievement even though I still lack the ability to express myself properly in discussions or on topics that go further than discussing the weather.

I don't think you can achieve this last bit while living in your home country but you can get to my level (which is B2+) in most languages (certainly not Russian or Mandarin) while also pursuing full time studies or work. I want to present you the different options you have and what I think of them today. (Please note: This is not a sponsored post and I write solely about my opinion and experiences. You might learn differently than me and so options that I didn't like can prove to be successful for you. I also refer to the 

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

in this post.

1. Use an internet language program

I tried this option before I began to learn Swedish "properly" aka before I started my first Swedish course and it proved to be the worst method, at least for me. You can find loads of language learning sites on the internet nowadays. Just google and you get a few hundred sites. I haven't tried them all (obviously) but one program once and I can't say I've learned much of it. Okay yes, you can hear, read and write foreign words and even sentences but in the end - can you really use them? Is there someone to correct you AND tell you what exactly is wrong? Can you use the new words and sentences in different situations? Is there someone to explain you grammatical structures?

NO NO AND NO. My rating: 1/10 - completely useless

2. Visit a language course at your local university or community college

I began to learn Swedish "properly" in my first year at University. All in all I attended 4 Swedish courses (level A1 to A2) and they all had some pros and cons. First of all, I think you need to visit at least a beginner's course if you really want to learn a language properly. In a beginner's course you find out about grammatical structures, pronounciation or learn the alphabet (if you learn Russian or Mandarin).

Some languages (like Swedish, Norwegian, Danish or Dutch if you're German) can be learned independently but you need to do at least one course to learn about grammar and sentence structures. Beginner courses are also a great way to find out if the language is the right one for you. I did a beginner's course in Russian at Uni and the language turned out to be too difficult and time-consuming for me at that time. The Swedish courses were quite alright although I have to admit they were boring. The study pace was too slow for me. It was right for most of the others but I just found it boring.

And I'm not being arrogant, it's just that I got A's in every exam without studying for it. So be careful to choose the right level and talk with the institution before you apply for a course so that you don't end up paying tuition fees for a course that turns out to be boring and ineffective for your personal language studies.

My rating: 6/10 - nice to start with but heavily depends on your tutor and fellow coursemates

3. Study on your own

After my 4 Swedish courses I decided to study on my own for half a year. I worked through the study material that I already had out of my course but that we didn't use and then checked all the study materials on the next level (B1) and bought one that I found suitable. I worked my way through it and really liked to study independently at first.

Later on I noticed that my vocabulary increased and my listening skills improved but my writing and speaking skills still were bad. This was due to the fact that I didn't do every writing task (due to no motivation) and that I had no one to talk to in Swedish. All in all my listening and reading skills got to the level B2 whereas my speaking skills stagnated at level B1. I found out about that when I did an entrance test at a language school abroad (Folkuniversitet if you study Swedish / you can do them for free and as often as you like).

So if you want to study on your own, don't forget that you have to be really motivated and ambitious and may have to kick yourself in the butt to get some work done sometimes. And also bear in mind that your speaking skills will hardly improve that way.

My rating: 6/10 - study in your own pace and whenever you want to but keep in mind that your speaking skills will not improve and there is no one to correct you or kick your butt if you're lazy

4. Do a distance course

I recently started a distance course in Swedish level B2+ at Folkuniversitetet Lund. I had to pay 5000SEK (500€) that include all my study material which was sent to Germany plus an internet study base plus a personal tutor. It is an expensive option and as with the self study alternative, you don't get to speak the language. But your tutor will explain your mistakes and help you to improve. He or she corrects all your homework and tells you what you can improve in a detailed way (at least my tutor does).

The program I'm doing has the concept of you as a learner acting as a journalist. The course takes a maximum of 15 weeks (15 units, you have to do one per week but can of course do more) and you play the role of a journalist during that time. Every week there is another topic (culture, health, crime etc.) that you have to cover at the newspaper. First you read all the newspaper articles in your textbook, then you have to listen to an interview and answer questions in the same book and later on you have to write and translate all new vocabulary in your exercise book and do grammar tasks as well.

At the end of each unit you have to write a newspaper article on your own which then is revised and uploaded into the online version of the fictional newspaper by your tutor. So apart from the exercise and text book, you have a whole online newspaper with articles that were written by fellow coursemates, that you can read through. I really like the concept and my tutor but this option must go hand in hand with the everday use of foreign media for a great outcome.

My rating: 7/10 - study whenever you want in the pace that is best for you and get corrected by a tutor who is there to explain all your mistakes and answers all your questions but it heavily depends on your tutor and the program of course

5. Use foreign media every day

Which brings us to the next option. There are a few foreign newspapers, radio stations and TV programmes that you can access at home. It is of course a limited selection but you can acces the whole range of foreign TV by buying a foreign IP adress. It will cost you around 5€ per month but enables you to watch foreign TV programmes whenever you want to. You then can also watch the new hip series or the amazing thriller instead of only watching the news programme every day which in turn gives you more vocabulary.

Since I got back from Sweden I watch Swedish TV almost every day and I'm always happy like a little child at christmas when I understand everything ;)

Another option is reading foreign books. Now don't panic! If you're not at an advanced level yet, you can simply buy books for beginner's. For example, I read a few Wallander novels by Henning Mankell which were re-written into easy Swedish. Sentences are shorter and vocabulary is easier but the overall content of the book remains.

My rating: 8/10 - you can get a feeling for the language this way and improve your vocabulary without having to learn words by heart

6. Visit a language school abroad during your holiday

I know the topic of this post is how to learn a foreign language at home but let's be honest: You can't fully learn a language without speaking it and without being surrounded by it every day. I only spent 4 weeks in Sweden doing a B1 Swedish course at Folkuniversitetet Stockholm but during that time my language skills improved rapidly! I remember watching "Emil i Lönneberga" (an Astrid Lindgren film version of a children's book) in Swedish at Christmas and didn't understand a word. Recently they showed an episode of the series on Swedish TV and I suddenly understood almost everything. How amazing is that?

And I didn't learn vocabulary excessively in Stockholm. In fact I didn't really learn at all. I did my homework and watched Swedish TV and of course communicated with my hosts, fellow coursemates and cashiers in Swedish and that was it! I didn't spend my time learning but instead going out, visiting museums and exploring the city. But because I was surrounded by the language, because I heard the language every day and because I had to use the language every day, I somehow improved my Swedish. Learning by doing - as simple as that.

So I think if you really want to learn a language you can of course do so by all the other options I mentioned, but eventually you just have to go abroad and do a course there at least once. And even if it's just a 4 week course, your language skills will definitely improve! Why not spend the summer learning a language abroad? You can explore an interesting city and learn a language at the same time! It is of course the most expensive option as you not only have to pay the course but also flights, rent and food but in my opinion it's just the best and most effective option of all!

My rating: 9/10 - if you're surrounded by the language you will easily learn it but it is an expensive option of course

Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language in your home country? Which option did you prefer? Tell me all about your language learning processes!

 Each Tuesday,

Bonnie

,

Sammy

,

Kiki

and I pick one post of the previous link-up that we liked particularly. Head over to their blogs to find out, who they have picked.

http://www.elenastravelgram.com/2014/05/nice-city-guide.html

 This week I'd like to highlight Elena of

Elena's Travelgram

. She is a Ukrainian girl currently living in France and exploring Europe. She recently went on a trip to Corsica and had a 5 hour layover in Nice in the south of France on her way back. Elena used every minute of the 5 hours to explore what the city has to offer and posted an express city guide on Nice last Tuesday. Her pictures are gorgeous and I will definitely keep her tips in mind if I ever get to Nice!

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