The ups and downs of living in a foreign language: What to expect during your year abroad

The ups and downs of living in a foreign language: What to expect during your year abroad

By: Sol Tovar is an EFL teacher and freelance content writer from Argentina. She writes on Medium about English Linguistics and Foreign Language Education and is the creator of the blog Fat In Translation.

If you are considering spending a year living in a foreign country, doing an internship or volunteering while learning the language, your brain is probably full of questions: What if I don’t understand native speakers? What if native speakers don’t understand me? What if I get lost and don’t know how to ask for help? What if, what if, what if…

I consider myself a big language nerd. When I was in first grade, I would get on my mom’s brand new PC, open Encarta 97 and go to the World Languages section, and spend hours practicing the numbers from one to ten and some phrases in all of the languages available. It was so much fun! As a child, I had always dreamt of living in another country, where I would have to speak in a foreign language all the time. Little did I know that’s what I was going to be doing in 2018 when I left my country for the first time to go study a year abroad in Germany.

The truth is, however, that even though living in another language was my dream come true, in reality, it was an emotional rollercoaster with its ups and downs.

Up: You are learning the language all the time

Living in another country is not like going to an intensive course at home. Learning does not stop once you step out of the classroom, it continues all day long. Every single aspect of your life is dominated by the language of the place that you are living in. This means that little by little you will be incorporating new vocabulary related to the things that you do the most which are perhaps not so common in textbooks. For instance, I very quickly learned that Sonderangebot and Aktion meant reduced prices at the supermarket, and I also learned a lot of new words I didn’t know before moving to Germany just by browsing through postcards!