A massive part of moving to abroad for studies will be learning about a new culture. Central to culture is language and the way we communicate – some things just aren’t funny if you have to translate them! Having a shared tongue opens up opportunities to authentically connect with people and have unique experiences. Check our previous post on the importance of cultural awareness

As a bonus, it also looks really good on your CV! Although English is still the major language used in business today, Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic and Spanish are also extremely useful according to Bloomberg Rankings.

Learning a second language also has major benefits for your brain. Researchers have found that learning a new language can literally make your brain bigger. People who can speak more than one language fluently get lots of other side benefits – like a better memory, increased creativity and mental flexibility.

These are all skills that will stand you in good stead as you travel to study in brand-new city and country, but there is even more good news as you grow older! Studies have also found that Alzheimer’s disease and the onset of dementia are diagnosed later for bilinguals than for those who only speak one language.

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These perks don’t come for free – it takes quite a bit of hard work. Although early childhood is the best time to start learning a new language, these benefits aren’t exclusive to those lucky ones who start learning from birth. But it’s never too late to start.

Here are five tips to make it easier, from those who’ve done it!

  1.  Speak from day one

Polyglot Benny Lewis swears by this piece of advice, encouraging learners to make mistakes. Being brave enough to look a bit silly in front of strangers as you try to wrap your tongue around foreign sounds is crucial to learning a new language in Benny’s book. That’s why he encourages his students to just dive in and speak – no matter how bad they sound at first. Being okay with those mistakes will give you a confidence boost that’ll carry over to learning other skills without fear – another unexpected benefit to becoming bilingual.

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  1. Exercise while you learn

A new study has found that doing light exercise while you’re learning a new language can help your brain memorise, remember and understand new vocabulary. In the study, students learned while cycling on stationary bikes, but doing some light exercise before and after your lessons should do the trick. Through exercise, your body release neurochemicals that prompt our brain to produce more new brain cells, increasing your ability to learn

  1. Create learning opportunities everywhere

Dedication to practising is key to succeeding at learning a new language, so make it easy for yourself by bringing the learning into everyday life. Put notes on everything with their “new” name, change the language on your phone or browser and watch your favourite movies in the language you’re learning. These little reminders will help to supplement your study time and speed up your learning process, according to the volunteer translators who create subtitles for TED videos.

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  1. Make it useful, and fun!

You’re already going to have plenty of self-study to do for your qualification – adding to that list won’t get you far. By making the learning process relevant, you’ll be more interested. For example, if you’re really into music, write songs in the language you’re trying to learn. Duolingo has taken this to a whole new level with their game-like learning process. Their app has made learning a new language simple and fun – with little rewards waiting for you every step of the way.

  1. Join a community

Being able to ask questions and learn with others is invaluable. If you’re struggling to find someone in your area, you can always look online. Reddit has dedicated communities built around different languages, or you can join the flourishing community on Duolingo. There are many fellow-learners on the platform ready to help and answer questions, so don’t be afraid to ask. And as your skills grow, you’ll be able to help others in turn!

As with learning any new skill, you won’t always feel like practising. Remind yourself why you’re learning a new language and of all the many benefits you’re already getting. Before you know it, you’ll have unlocked a whole new world of friends, food, art and experiences through language.

The choice to study abroad is yours. Begin your journey now!

About the Co-Author: Corli de Kock studied journalism and art history in a small little town in South Africa, away from her safe home nest. She's tried her hand at many things, journeying via rock 'n roll to social strategy and eventually copywriting. She's still figuring out what the next thing will be, gathering skills, lessons and friends along the way.