"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.