Language Learning

Frances Chang

"I decided to study abroad in Japan mainly to improve my Japanese language skills, so I chose a language intensive program and to live with a host family. I knew I was a quiet and shy person when it came to learning a new language and living in a new culture. As much as I learned from my Japanese courses, I soon realized that to really improve, I needed to step out of my comfort zone and actually practice in real life. My host family was very patient with me and helped me with any question I had about Japanese culture or language. Although, at the beginning, there were some struggles in understanding each other, we still managed to get our message across. I started with an understanding of 30% of my host family's conversation to more than 70% at the end of the semester. Additionally, I also made local Japanese friends through joining the university choir, volunteer club and language partner program. Most of the time, the people I have met wanted to learn English, so we helped each other with the language we wanted to learn. Through these interactions, I made friends who I still keep in contact with!" — Frances Chang ’16

Why should I take courses in another language when courses in English are available?

  • Greatly improve your language skills.
  • Become friends with your classmates and experience things that can only be experienced if you know people locally.
  • See your major/minor from a new perspective in a different language.
  • Have more confidence in speaking with local people in their native language and understand the culture better.

I’m nervous that I’m not ready.

  • The language requirement is there for a reason and your program believes you can do it if you have the recommended amount of semesters for that language.
  • Expect the transition to be difficult at first but over time it will become easier to understand what your professor and friends are saying.
  • Don’t expect to be perfect — know you will make mistakes and that’s okay.
  • Read Minnie Norgaisse's '19 Language Pledge Survival Guide from her time studying abroad with CET in Beijing.

What can I do before I go abroad?

  • PRACTICE! Hearing the language really helps you develop an ear for it.
  • Take as many classes in that language at Brandeis as you can before you go abroad.
  • Watch TV shows, movies, news, YouTube videos, read magazines/books in that language. Even watching a show with English subtitles can help you!
  • Brush up on your vocabulary by going on Quizlet or Duolingo to test yourself.
  • Join a club at Brandeis that lets you practice the language.
  • Make friends with an international student at Brandeis who speaks the language.

What can help ease the transition once I’m abroad?

  • Speak with your professors and explain your concerns.

    • They likely will talk slower, find you a class buddy to explain material to you, or go over material with you after class.

    • Go to your professor’s office hours.

    • Speak with students in your class and ask if you can study together (you may even become friends!).

    • Take advantage of any service your program provides (for example: a language interchange with another student, tutoring).

    • It may be difficult at first, but over time it becomes easier to understand what your professor is saying.

    • It is okay to not understand everything the professor says as long as you understand the main points.