10 ways to become fluent fast when living abroad

Maybe you are a university student preparing for your year abroad. Perhaps you are going abroad to work or study for a few months. Even if you know enough basics to get by, it can still be daunting. From my own experiences as well as ideas from current and ex-clients here are a few tips for becoming fluent quickly.

1. Absorb everything you see and hear. When out walking, in shops, cafe’s or bars, travelling by bus or the underground listen in on conversations. As well as being interesting at times, this is a really good way of hearing how local people put words together to express themselves. Watch TV, listen to the radio, go to see a film, read newspapers and magazines.

2. Keep a diary. Write down everything you have done each day, how you were feeling, your thoughts and opinions. This is an excellent way of practising everyday words and phrases.

3. Keep a notebook of new words and phrases. Whenever you come across a new word or phrase write it down. Get into the habit of learning the new vocabulary regularly. Typing them up on your computer helps you memorise them and also means they are in a safe place.

4. Find a language exchange partner. Conversation Exchange is one organisation which helps you find local people who want to help you practice their language in exchange for helping them with their English. You spend 30 minutes chatting in English and 30 minutes in Spanish, for example.

5. Ask questions about anything you are unsure about, grammar points or how to say specific things. Natives enjoy helping people who take an interest in learning their language and culture.

6. Keep up with your hobbies. Join a gym, do a spinning class, go to a salsa class, cooking class, running club or whatever interests you. This is a good way of meeting locals and practising the language. You will learn specific terms related to the activity as well as general vocabulary for any situation.

7. Live with locals. It is a much better idea to live with native speakers rather than other English people or other foreigners. It is the best way to integrate yourself into the language, the culture and to acquire a more authentic accent. Even if you live with other foreigners who speak Spanish as a second language, you will tend to pick up the same mistakes and it will not help you to improve your pronunciation.

8. Shop in a market rather than a supermarket. If possible try to buy your groceries from a market or small local grocery shop where you have to ask for each item. This is great for practising the numbers, prices, quantities and food items.

9. Don’t worry about making mistakes. It is inevitable that you are going to make mistakes along the way. This is the only way to learn. People will correct you and encourage you as you are making an effort to learn their language.

10. Stay motivated and practice the new words and phrases you have learned.

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