In this third episode of "Good Advice Gone Wrong," a segment in which I highlight some really good language learning advice that can also go wrong, I talk about moving to a country where your target language is spoken. I hear (or read on social media) language learners giving this advice almost daily, and I can't deny that it's amazing for immersion and natural input. There are so many benefits to learning a language while abroad, but it isn't a guaranteed path to success. Not only that, but moving abroad isn't possible for everyone, which can create a sense of missing out on some magic key to success. I started learning Italian after we moved to Italy (literally, I looked up the word for "thank you" while I was waiting at baggage claim and realized I didn't know how to say anything!), and most of my German acquisition has been while living in Germany. I can't say that moving to the countries hasn't helped me or that I've completely failed, but I can definitely say that in-country immersion hasn't been the missing piece to my language puzzle that effortlessly gave me the language.
Today I share three ways in which moving to a country of your target language could go wrong. Living abroad is something I wish everyone had the means and opportunity to do. Expanding our horizons, worldviews, mentalities, and experiencing and appreciating other cultures are invaluable. But when it comes to learning a language in a country where it’s spoken, it isn’t always rainbows and butterflies.
There are still challenges, it can still be a long and difficult road, and living abroad isn’t a guarantee that one will learn the local language. Things like culture shock, native-language bubbles, and our own personal roadblocks are just three things that can cause this good advice to go wrong. It’s important not to restrict ourselves to taking advice exactly as-is and putting too much stock into one single method being the magic trick to acquiring and speaking the language of our desires.
I also give some words specifically to those who are living abroad and find that the natural immersion just doesn't seem to be helping them improve their languages. I, too, have this experience, and I completely understand. I share my thoughts on what you can do to overcome the roadblocks you've found (some of which I'm currently trying out myself), and hopefully it sparks some ideas of your own. I also speak to those who want to move or travel abroad but aren't yet able to do so. Moving country takes time, money, and a lot of sacrifice. It really isn't simple advice, even though many toss it around as such. I see you. I know the stranded and frustrated feelings of not being able to be where you want to be. For you, I also spend some time giving my most creative ideas for building an immersive environment right where you are for little-to-no money, and I hope you get some fantastic ideas of your own that allow you to connect with the language and culture of your dreams.
There are countless methods for learning a language, and I believe that all of them are good, but they aren't all good for everyone. Instead of just giving language learning advice, this recurring segment focuses on reasons specific pieces of good advice may not work for everyone. So if this method isn't for you, that's okay. I love sharing this segment in order to spark creative ideas for how we can mold advice and shape it into something that does work for us, if desired, and I hope to inspire you to discover your own creative, personalized language learning journey.
If you like this episode, you can check out Good Advice Gone Wrong from Season 1 here, where I talk about watching kids' TV in your target language, and from Season 2 here, where I go over doing what you love but in your target language.