Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Benefits of Studying English Abroad

Why Study Abroad

With the goal to master English as a second or foreign language, learners face questions on whether to stay in their home countries or study abroad. For many, deciding to study abroad is a big endeavor by which they have to give up or put to halt their jobs or school, and even live away from families and friends. Other than the pleasure of seeing the other side of the world or developing one’s language skill, it requires a lot of hardwork to achieve such a life-changing adventure.

Upon landing in your chosen destination, you will have the endless opportunity to learn the language in authentic situations, get acquainted with people who share the same goal, and learn English even when you are out of the classroom.  Those are things you will never get to experience in your home country. Research revealed that students, who study English in a territory where it is spoken as a primary language, getting along with people and taking part in their culture, improve language skills faster. This can be rooted on the fact that real-life experiences and immersion in a culture give learners the chance to gain familiarity on how language is supposed to be used.

Understanding ESL Programs Abroad

English as a Second Language (ESL), also known as English as a Foreign Language (EFL), are programs for language study that aims to cater to the specific needs of non-native speakers. Generally, these classes are small to ensure that each member receive the same amount of attention from the teacher. In these settings, students do not only study language but are exposed to the cultural and social activities of the school and the community.  This is because language acquisition is directly related to the country’s culture and social structures.
Generally, ESL classes aim to produce students who are able to communicate in English. The four core language skills; reading, writing, listening and speaking are taught with consideration to language proficiency, interests, and purpose for studying. In almost all cases, no matter how curricula differ from one school to another, ESL institution offers courses in vocabulary development, listening comprehension, reading for academic or professional purposes, grammar and writing, and conversation.  Students will choose programs that fit their needs. For example, if ESL learners wish to improve English skills to attend an English-speaking university, intensive academic English classes can be taken. For much older students, ESL institutions can offer courses in improving language skills necessary for travelling or socializing. Some classes in general English can range from business communication, situation-specific conversations, and vocabulary for certain professions and social settings.

Benefits of Studying English Abroad

There may be many challenges when studying abroad. All these require students’ adaptability, resourcefulness and creativity in order to survive.  As the student progresses towards the goal for studying English abroad, the fruits of their sacrifices in the form of self-confidence, maturation and flexibility to get along with people and communicate in different circumstances can now be reaped.

The following are the benefits of studying English abroad:

1. Wider professional opportunities. There is a great need for individuals who are able to communicate in English. With globalization, many companies require their employees to speak English even at its simplest form as national boundaries and economies continue to thrive. As a student learning English in a country where it is spoken as a primary form of communication, you are able to acquire the skills on how native speakers communicate. Additionally, as there is a need to adjust and survive, personal skills are developed. These, when combined with language ability, can be beneficial to one’s career in the future. Studying English abroad is advantageous as students get the chance to enhance their skills in specific subjects that address the needs just like business English. Since companies go international, employees who have studied abroad get the kind of language skills required to successfully close deals with foreign counterparts.

2. Be academically prepared. Many second language learners go abroad to study in an English-speaking environment as a preparation to get into main stream school in that country. ESL programs offer subjects that focus on academic language skills needed to successfully pass and survive life in a college or professional endeavor. With many schools asking for English test scores like that of IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge, students who study abroad get the edge of getting into practice every day as they encounter English conversations they wish to master.  In a research done by Cummins, it was concluded that ESL students who studied abroad for about two years had acquired face-to-face communication skills that helped developed their academic language proficiency. The same level of fluency can be achieved by students in their home countries after about 5 to 7 years. It was also mentioned that good communication skills acquired from exposure to the language are essential in one’s academic success. 

3. Use English exclusively. Perhaps one major challenge for many ESL students is not having the chance to practice their language skills outside of the classroom. In many cases, speaking English in public can be viewed as arrogance or boastfulness. Often, ESL students living under these social conditions finish years of studying the language without mastering it. When they choose to study English abroad, they will be forced to improve their existing language level or skills as there is a need to communicate to survive. Because they can’t get by with their mother tongue, they must cash in on their English basics and consequently able to grasps usage and complex sentences quicker than they are home. In addition to this, they will be exposed to culture and see the relevance in the correct choice of words. They will no longer solely rely on their thesaurus to find varying synonyms for a vocabulary, instead, they would use words according to how socially fitted they are.

4. Gain multicultural friends. When students study abroad, they get to sit in a class where people have differing interpretations of events as influenced by their culture. As ESL students wanted to get along with classmates and participate in discussions, they often struggle to get understood. Consequently, as class members do not share any common language other than English, they are not only forced to negotiate meanings but also learn from their peers. It is in this situation that ESL classrooms can serve as a bridge to forming friendship among peers of different nationalities. As the class progresses, students might disprove common stereotypes and get to understand people better. When the feeling of animosity towards another was eliminated, the willingness to communicate widens. With the friendships that develop abroad, both in school or in the community, the students will get to meet people whom they can pair up with and become language partners after they go back home.

5. Learn the language in authentic situations. Nothing beats first-hand experience when it comes to learning language. Though it is possible to be fluent in English without leaving your home country, it often takes a long time. Experts believed that studying abroad, in a country where the target language is spoken as a mother tongue, one can develop accent and fluency faster. This is because there is a great need to be understood as they talk with the locals. Additionally, special language features like contractions and omissions of words and letters can be discovered and used in correct contexts.  Using “gonna” and “wanna” can be examples of these. Additionally, as students may live with a home stay or a dormitory, they get the chance to talk in English after school, even at different events and situations. Authentic language learning can take place as students witness the way native speakers express themselves. As time goes by, ESL students can acquire language skills needed to satisfactorily express what they mean.

Wrapping it up
English is spoken in many countries. As years go by, it has played important roles in making clear communications possible. The popularity and its widespread use started the influx of second or foreign language learners. In fact, it is spoken by 300 million people as their first language, 600 million as their second language and millions more as their foreign language.
With English being the predominant language for international business and communications, many countries enacted laws that support its utilization as a language of the academics, politics and economics.  With this, English have surged to become an important factor in finding success in school, work, and international relations giving people the opportunity to find better employment, received greater pay, and get promotions easily.  

As the domains of English expand, people also wanted to learn it faster. There are many possible ways to improve one’s English skills, but one sure and quick way to achieving it is by studying English abroad- in a country where it is considered dominant.