Language Maintenance

If you studied a language while abroad, you'll probably want to do everything you can, once you're back, to maintain the proficiency you've worked so hard to achieve. As difficult as it was to insist on speaking that other language on your program, even with other native English speakers, it will be that much more difficult once you're back stateside...­ but it can be done.

We list below a few strategies for attacking this problem:

  1. If it's a language taught at Wesleyan, take upper-level courses in the language. If Wesleyan doesn't teach it formally, contact the FCGS staff about setting up a Self-Instructional Language Program or using other resources.

  2. Contact the Assitant Director of Language and Intercultural Learning, Kia Lor, about social events involving with other returnees and international students from countries where the target language is spoken. This gives you the added benefit of spending time with people who, like you, are dealing with "re-entry shock" and re-adjusting to Wesleyan after studying abroad.

  3. Make a point of attending lectures, parties, and other events on campus related to the language and culture of your study abroad destination. Many language departments invite speakers not only to a lecture, but to a dinner with faculty and interested students. Some ask majors to give a presentation in the target language about their experience abroad (and others might be encouraged to do so). Several departments hire Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs), who are in much the same situation as you were while abroad. It is both their job and their pleasure to speak with you in their native language. And you will each find a natural ally in the battle for cross-cultural understanding! 

  4. Rent videos and DVDs in the target language. If you're still struggling with the language, consider subtitled materials. If you can manage without subtitles, so much the better.

  5. Look for summer and on-campus jobs that will allow you to use the language.

  6. Consider selecting paper and thesis topics for which you will need to read or do research in the target language.

  7. Online newspapers and magazines are a good way to keep up with what's happening in your host country. Olin may well have fiction or other books in the target language, so allow for some time for pleasure reading too. You may well be able to order books from your host country online.

  8. Staying in touch with your homestay family, professors, local friends, your program director, and others you met abroad is a great opportunity not only to keep up with the language, but to maintain your sense of belonging to a community abroad. Many study abroad participants go back to their host countries to visit, work, or do research, and of course those visits are much nicer when you have people you care about to see!

  9. Especially if you have a car or access to transportation, find ways to connect to the expatriate community from your host country here. Consulates in Boston and New York may organize social and cultural events from time to time, so call and ask if there's a mailing list for this. Contact Wesleyan's Center for Community Partnerships about the possibility of organizing events with, host-country nationals in and around Middletown or Central Connecticut. As one example, you may want to ask about connecting with public schools to help teach the language and culture of your host country to local students.