Language Immersion: The YFU Exchange Student’s Secret Weapon!

Learning to speak another language is more than just a new skill! It is a gateway to being part of a new culture, unlocking new learning skills, personal growth and achievement, enhanced travel experiences, greater career opportunities, and so much more!

YFU Exchange Students are expected to learn and speak their host country’s language while they are on exchange. While some countries require a certain level of language skills before arrival, others have no expectations before arrival but expect that students will learn and confidently speak the local language simply by immersion. What does that mean?

Learning by IMMERSION.

When a student is in an environment such as school or at home with their host family, surrounded by people speaking another language, they are constantly exposed to the language. They need to start to use the language to communicate their needs and wants.

Many students use language apps before they depart to gain some basic language skills, which can be beneficial as being surrounded by people you cannot communicate with can be overwhelming and isolating.

We know that YFU Exchange Students are brave, and they are encouraged just to have a go! Embrace mistakes! You will order the wrong lunch, get on the wrong bus and name the wrong thing, but this is all part of the learning process. Finding opportunities to “practice”, such as naming items in the supermarket or objects around the house, is a path to better language skills and can be fun (and funny!!) Many students include notes about their language learning skills in their exchange journal and can reflect on the frustrations, epic fails, and relive the moment it finally started to come together with fondness!

Exchange students are pretty surprised to find how quickly they can begin to understand words, sentences and instructions and then start to speak and even think in their new language. “For me, I knew when I started to dream in Norwegian that I had truly started to master the language,” said returnee student Indi from NSW.

Host families also provide support and real-life practice opportunities for students at home. One day, you may have the opportunity to read a story to a younger sibling in your new language and then share a classic Australian children’s story with them. Home is the perfect place for practising and refining pronunciation. Your host family will also help with colloquialisms and understanding local dialects through daily interactions, and they will cheer you on as you improve!

Learning by immersion can be challenging, but it opens students up to the richness of language beyond textbooks: slang, idioms, and cultural references. It’s real-world practice. Language comes to life in the streets, the markets, the shops, and at school.

Mastering a new language is a skill for life and something to be immensely proud of! Don’t let not speaking another language discourage you from applying to be an exchange student – we know you can do it!

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