Don´t let this tragedy happen to you.
Don´t come back from your English exchange without reaching fluency.
Choose to get the best out of your study abroad experience.
Too many people invest their precious time and money to travel abroad with an English exchange program only to come back home WITHOUT really learning to use their English.
This is very unfortunate, embarrassing, and this happens MUCH MORE THAN PEOPLE THINK!
Too many people spend years learning grammar in their home country, dreaming of the perfect English exchange experience, only to find themselves back home and horribly disappointed to NOT be fluent in English.
NOTE: Most victims of this DON`T ADMIT IT (to themselves or others)!
DON´T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU
How can we learn to avoid these unfortunate situations? Our first piece of advice is to GET INFORMED. The Real Life English Exchange Blog is the perfect place to start! Sign up to on the bottom or on the margins to receive information.
It´s time to start investing your time and energy into the process of planning and creating YOUR perfect study abroad experience NOW, so you won´t regret it later.
Here are some of the top reasons why people don´t reach fluency in their exchange experience.
7 Reasons Why People Don’t Get Fluent in Exchange Programs
1.LAZINESS—There needs to be a whole article dedicated to laziness because this the top reason why people fail at every stage of the study abroad process.
You could probably include here a general lack of enthusiasm, a lack of responsibility, a lack of initiative, and a lack of personal investment in the process of successful language learning.
They don´t take responsibility for their English, and are hoping that some outside experience will transplant English into their brains like a computer chip. Laziness manifests itself in nearly all of the following ways (#2 through 6 below)
OUR ADVICE is to inject purpose into your process, to open your imagination and your life to the cultural and social aspects of the language, to use media and social networks as much as possible to make English into a lifestyle.
If you feel unmotivated in your learning process, look into yourself and discover why. English is not boring or unimaginative when your process is connected to a deep purpose.
2. PEOPLE THINK ENGLISH EXCHANGE IS A MAGICAL SOLUTION TO THEIR LEARNING PROBLEMS—When people don´t go through the language preparation process appropriately (for whatever reason), they often think that traveling to another country will solve their problems and automatically acquire for them English fluency as if English were a chip brain or something you can pay for.
This is very naïve, and it allows them to continue NOT take responsibility for their process.
Living in an English speaking country IS, without a doubt, a GREAT help, even if you don´t speak much English before you go, but it doesn´t replace the real desire and pleasure to go through the learning process, it doesn´t solve all of your learning problems, and it doesn´t magically transmit the English language into your brain.
MY ADVICE IS to not wait until you travel abroad to do an English exchange to get motivated. If you don´t like your English learning process at home, there´s a good chance you won´t be successful there because the circumstances will never be perfect, and the excuses we tell ourselves mask our real problems.
3. LACK OF GOOD INFORMATION about HOW to prepare for and execute a successful study abroad experience.
People often don´t know when to decide to study abroad or how to plan and prepare for the experience. They don´t know what to do and what to avoid once they get there. They don´t know what to look for in an exchange agency or English school abroad. And when they finish it all, they don´t know what to do when they get back to maintain their English.
OUR ADVICE IS to get informed, know what the qualities are of a successful program, follow the Real Life English Exchange Blog, talk to people you know and trust who have traveled abroad for an English exchange.
You should really try to get a deeper sense of how happy they are with the experience and how much they truly learned. Ask specific questions and try to really look beyond their words to feel the depth of their experience.
4. NOT USING ENGLISH ENOUGH IN REAL LIFE SITUATIONS WITH NATIVES. It´s easy to spend a lot of time there without really speaking much English in authentic, real-life situations.
This is especially true if you´re shy or have difficulty meeting people. If you have difficulty meeting people in your native language, it´s gonna be a lot harder in English. You really need to step outside of your comfort zone!
Another thing that happens often is that people make friends with people in their class and feel so comfortable with them that they never really speak with natives. This is such a difficult decision to make because you often really like these people and enjoy hanging out, but you have to remember the reason why you´re there.
MY ADVICE IS to look for situations to speak before you go. One social network that has regular meetups in most cities in the world is Couchsurfing, an international network of travelers, in addition to forums/ communities for all major cities.
Try to meet people online before you go through common interests. What do you like to do? Connect with those people there. It demands a lot of initiative, but it will drastically improve the quality of your trip.
5. STUDY ABROAD/ ENGLISH EXCHANGE AGENCIES often don´t take the student´s best interests into account when recommending and selling different exchange programs. They are businesses that are trying to profit, and they receive a commission, which means that you should take this into account when they recommend certain schools over others.
Some programs will try to create the illusion of scarcity, making you feel that if you don´t decide now you will lose your spot. Your English exchange experience should not be an impulsive decision, so have patience, learn about your different options, and go through the process of finding the right agency.
I´ve heard horror stories of oversized classes, ineffective teachers, some of whom aren´t natives and have their own problems with English. I´ve heard of students at drastically different levels studying together (inadequately tested for leveling), as well as the school being two hours from the homestay.
OUR ADVICE IS to look for an agent who has had a successful study abroad experience and understands all angles of the experience. Here are a few important questions to ask:
- What exactly is the homestay like?
- How many exchange students will they be hosting?
- Do I get my own room?
- How far is it away from the school?
- Are there any important social/ cultural areas close that can facilitate making friends?
- If you don´t like the homestay, can you transfer to a different one, or even receive a refund and find your own place to stay?
- How many people will be in the class, and will they be at the same level?
- What kind of test do they use to level students?
- What portion of the students in the class are Brazilian and where are other students from?
- If you don´t like the school, can you get a refund and switch schools (most big cities have different options?)
- You can even ask what kind of commission is the agency getting (compare this to other options)? Good agencies are not afraid of transparency.
6. HOMESTAYS WITH NON-NATIVES & NO PERSONAL CONNECTION
I´ve talked to a lot of people who have done homestays for months with little or no connection with their hosts. These people, or families, host so many students that it becomes impersonal. The business side of the arrangement robs the student of the enriching cultural and language experience.
Another thing to try to avoid and are families that aren´t natives. I´ve heard several instances of host families with lots of problems with their English. Remember that you are going to these countries to have contact with the native source of the English language.
OUR ADVICE IS to ask a lot of questions and clarify everything. If an agency or school tries to put you in a homestay with a family from another country, you should really start questioning their ability to give you the experience you are paying for.
7. NOT KNOWING HOW TO USE ENGLISH WHEN YOU GET BACK
This final piece of advice has nothing to do with the experience itself, but what you do when you return. It is extremely common for people to forget a lot of what they learned simply because they can´t find a way to make it a part of their life when they get back home.
There are, however, options, with the increasing availability of online and in person international social networks, such as the Real Life English International Community, Couch Surfing and Livemocha!
Apart from this, with the technology and the increasing availability of lifestyle English options, English entertainment, including TV Shows, movies, and online radio, in addition to the amazing world of podcasts, there are more and more opportunities to make English a natural part of your day.
CALL TO ACTION
Don´t wait! Start dreaming now. Start researching now. You can start making English a part of your daily life. Your English exchange experience will be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. Even if your exchange experience is only a distant possibility, it starts now.
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7 Reasons Why People Don´t Get Fluent is the first article in a series called How to Create the Perfect Study Abroad Experience. We will expand upon these topics and more in the Real Life English Exchange Blog, as well as discuss later stages in future articles. Join the RLE mailing list to follow along.