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Travelling abroad: a necessary step in learning a language?

«Travelling abroad broadens the mind», but does it also shape our language learning? Of course, immersion in a foreign country is always a valuable experience. But in the digital age and Covid-19 era, is it necessary to travel to learn a language

Immersion: the most effective form of learning?

The main advantage of travelling in language learning is the opportunity to practise what is known as language immersion.. 

In the context of learning a second language, linguistic immersion consists of “cutting off all contact” with your mother tongue and living in an environment where only the target language is used. For example, if you are learning English, you can immerse yourself by going to an English-speaking country where you will be surrounded by native speakers. By being in constant touch with your target language:

  • your ears get used to the sounds and pronunciation;
  • you discover more vocabulary, and also idioms;
  • you improve your oral expression by speaking only in the language you are learning.

Thus, on paper, immersion seems to be the ultimate form of language learning. However, in reality, things are not so simple. Indeed, when faced with a new environment, we tend to turn to what we already know. Sometimes, we:

  • make friends with other French speakers (so that we are still in touch with our mother tongue);
  • are too shy to talk to the natives;
  • ask if there is a French menu at the restaurant…

What a pity to travel abroad without speaking the local language, don’t you think? That’s right! To practise immersion, you have to be able to get out of your comfort zone, and that’s not always easy.

Language trips: useful, but sometimes overpriced

Rather than travelling alone to learn a language, some people therefore prefer to go on language trips.

These are organised by specialist providers and aim to give you maximum practice of your target language in a supportive environment. You can benefit from:

  • language courses in specialised schools;
  • staying with a host family so you are surrounded by native speakers;
  • participating in supervised activities (sports, cultural events, etc.) where all communication is in your target language.

These language trips can last from a few weeks to several months. They are specially designed to boost your language proficiency through intensive practice.

However, their cost, sometimes prohibitive, is a real obstacle for many learners. They are also difficult to finance via CPF(the Personal Training Account), as they must lead to a certification. Nevertheless, when this is the case, it should be noted that transport or accommodation costs cannot be covered by the CPF, despite being the two most important items of expenditure on a language trip..

Learning a language without travelling: it’s possible!

Travelling to learn a language is a very useful experience, but unfortunately not accessible to some learners. Lack of time, fear of travelling alone, cost or even unforeseeable events (such as the Covid-19 pandemic) are real barriers to learning a language abroad.

Fortunately, there are now many tools available  to multilingual learners to learn a language effectively from their living room or office.

Practising immersion from home

No need to travel thousands of miles to practice language immersion! Here are some examples of activities to do in your target language:

  • find friends or colleagues who are learning the same language as you and talk with them;
  • watch television (films, series, news channels…there is something for everyone);
  • listen to podcasts;
  • change the default language of your digital devices (mobile phone, computer, etc.);
  • take notes in your target language (e.g. at work);
  • read books, magazines, newspapers;
  • etc.

Distance language training

The best way to learn a language without travelling (and even without leaving home) is to enrol in a distance language training course. You will be able to benefit from courses adapted to your level and your objectives. Your trainer (preferably native) will be able to guide you throughout your learning process.

In addition to the sessions that you can take by phone or web conference, you will also have access to a language learning platform. This is a medium on which you will find:

  • your lessons in digital format;
  • additional educational content (such as articles or videos);
  • quizzes…

✨ Would you like to know all the advantages of this way of learning languages in 2.0 mode? Check out our article: learning a language remotely: what are the advantages?

Of course, travelling is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and rewarding ways to learn a language. But it doesn’t have to be! You can achieve an advanced level in the language of your choice without travelling to the four corners of the world.