Language Learning And Travel

Posted by Up with People on July 20, 2018

Each semester participants of Up with People’s program meet for the first time in Denver, CO. These young people represent over 20 countries and come from places like Japan, China, Sweden, Mexico and the United States. Many of these travelers have spent years practicing their English speaking skills and come to Up with People to practice those skills in the real world for the first time. Many second language learners will tell you that the only way to truly learn a language is to travel and speak with people in the real world. This forces you out of your comfort zone and challenges you in ways you could have never thought possible.

To find out just how powerful travel is in terms of language learning we decided to ask recent participants of Up with People about their experiences in the program. It’s important to note that Up with People’s program is conducted in English and a basic level of English proficiency is required.

Likun Tang from China – Native language Mandarin – Alumnus of Up with People

How did traveling help your English speaking skills?

Travel gives me an opportunity to meet different people and start a conversation right away. And most of the conversation runs in English. I can also hear different English accents that help me correct myself and keep improving my pronunciation.

What was most difficult about your first few weeks of traveling with Up with People?

It’s difficult but also exciting, I still remember I was so excited to open the door and say good morning to everyone. The most difficult thing was the feeling of limitation, from the small thing of asking where is the bathroom to the conversations are all in English. I felt because of the language barrier, I can’t be myself, couldn’t express how I feel and what I want. A funny story is that there is a language buddy system during the first few weeks of the program. This system was created to have a native speaker help the participant who has difficulties to understand, but I even didn’t know the word ‘buddy’, so I didn’t sign up even I really need a language buddy.

Did you notice a significant improvement in your language skills and if so when? How long did it take?

Yes, it took around 4 years. I noticed this since last semester. The first improvement happened during my student year, it helped me understand better, able to start a conversation and be more confident. The most significant improvement happened last semester, it was my first semester as a staff member, this experience helped me improve my English skill to a working requirement level.

Why is it important to you to improve your language skills?

I think there are so many ways you can get to know a person and let people know you. But talking and having a conversation is still the most effective, direct way to communicate. Therefore, mastering the language is one of the basic tools to get to know a different culture, people, and society. This is also one of the motivating powers for me to learn another language.

Sara Rodriguez from USA – Native language English – Alumna of Up with People

In Up with People you travel with people who speak many languages and our program is conducted in English. How did you change the way you speak English to help those who speak it as a second language?

In order to speak effectively with people who have English as a second language, it is important to use basic, grammatically correct English, at least at first. Any slang words or phrases can be very confusing to people who are not around native English speakers. Over time, it is important for non-native speakers to learn these phrases too, so I also would take the time to explain them to anyone who didn’t understand.

What was most difficult about your first few weeks of traveling with Up with People?

The most difficult part of Up with People language wise during the first few weeks was tuning into the English proficiency levels around me. I had to become more mindful of when I can speak English at top speed, and when I needed to adjust to the language level of my cast mates. I was also able to be a language buddy to a cast member who needed help with English. This was not so much difficult, but more a way to challenge myself to use my language to help others.

How did you adjust your way of communicating with others who don’t speak English as a first language?

This really depends on the person. For those that have a lower level of English proficiency, it is important to speak slowly and to use simple sentences and words. If the person didn’t understand what I was saying, I would think of new ways to phrase what I was trying to portray. I have found that actions and body language also become very important when there is a language barrier.

Michelle Aguirre from Mexico – Native language Spanish – Alumna of Up with People

How did traveling help your English speaking skills?

Having no other option than to speak English in order to communicate with others really pushed me to go for it and try my best. It was hard at first, since my brain and my tongue were not used to the words and the grammar, but I just had to keep talking and listening and my brain eventually caught up.

What was most difficult about your first few weeks of traveling with Up with People?

Brain tiredness. After listening, reading and talking in English all day, during the evenings I just needed to shut down my brain for a while and take a break.

Did you notice a significant improvement in your language skills and if so when?

Definitely! After a couple of months, I noticed I no longer had to stop, think, and translate in my head what I wanted to say during a conversation. I was making jokes and feeling more confident while speaking.

Why is it important to you to improve your language skills? ​

Everywhere I go, I strive to learn and take in the culture as if I were a local. Having wider language skills brings me closer to achieving this.

 

Questions? Click Here To Contact Up with People.


Topics: "On The Road", Gap Year Abroad, Insider, Study Abroad

Up with People is a global education organization which aims to bring the world together through service and music. The unique combination of international travel, service learning, leadership development and performing arts offers young adults an unparalleled study abroad experience and a pathway to make a difference in the world, one community at a time. Click here to learn more about the internationally acclaimed program, Up with People.

Comment On this Blog Below:

RECENT POSTS

POSTS BY TOPIC