Leverage Your Multilingual Skills As International Students
March 03, 2021
Studying abroad is one of the best possible ways that you can improve your language skills. In order to reap the benefits of living abroad, you must ‘immerse’ yourself in the language and the culture. But what exactly does the word immersion mean? And how can immersing yourself in a new language and culture benefit your career prospects in the future?
For international students, ‘immersion’ is an experience. It can be exciting, sometimes strange and at times overwhelming, but its overall benefits are unparalleled, especially for future employers. It involves a deep understanding and involvement in a country’s culture which allows you to understand the sublayers of a country: the social, political, ideological, and economic layers that contribute to creating the culture of the country. Immersion also allows you to improve your language skills in a way that you did not think was possible.
How can I immerse myself as an international student?
There are several ways that you can immerse yourself in your residing country.
Join a university sport, society, or a campus club.
Societies and sports allow you to try new skills and build relationships that will help you at university and in your future career. They are a brilliant way to try something new or to build on an existing skill or sport. They also make finding new friends much easier as you are already surrounded by a group of like-minded people who have something in common. This makes starting a new conversation very easy! Societies and sports clubs give you the perfect opportunity to improve your language skills and to practise conversational skills with lots of very friendly people who will be delighted to welcome you into their society. Conversations with native speakers allow you to improve your vocabulary range, your conversation fluency, and your listening skills.
Ask your new friends who are natives in the language to help you improve yours
It is important that you maximise the time that you are with native speakers. Make sure you tell your native friends that you want to improve your language and ask them to politely point out when you have made a mistake. How are you supposed to know if you have made a mistake if no-one tells you? Your friends will be very happy to help you. Make sure you keep a list of all the new vocabulary items and phrases that you learn. That way, you can practise them in your own time too. Perhaps carry a small vocabulary book to write down all the new words you hear or see. If you are unsure about what your friends are saying, make sure you ask them to repeat the phrase or to slow down. This will allow you to expand your vocabulary knowledge.
Listen to local news/music in the language of the country
Listening to music from the country where you are an international student is a fantastic way to leverage your multilingual skills. Learning lyrics improves your knowledge of vocabulary and your understanding of how phrases are structured allows you to grasp the grammar. Music is also a great source of conversation so make sure you ask your new friends if they have any recommendations of artists. There is no greater feeling than being in a nightclub, a song starts blasting, all the native speakers are shouting out every word and you can join in because you know the lyrics and what they mean!
Watch TV shows/Netflix series from that country
Watching TV Shows and Netflix series from the country helps your ear tuned to the new accents. Watching the local news every evening will also bring you up-to-date with local events and news stories that are happening. This will make you feel more comfortable in your surroundings.
Travel and explore the country
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture and the language of a new country is to go out and explore. A walk down a high-street provides endless opportunities for improving your language skills. Look at the shop signs, the leaflets, the newspapers, the shop windows. You are surrounded by a new language that you will be taking in without even thinking about it. Is there an easier way to learn a new language than this!
How can you pitch yourself to potential employers based on your multilingual skills?
Fully immersing yourself in a new language and culture allows you to approach a potential employer with confidence in your multilingual abilities. This is hugely attractive to employers who can benefit in many ways from your language skills.
Firstly, you can take your multilingual skills to global companies and help employers navigate new markets where you speak the language. This increases business opportunities for the companies and gives them a competitive edge. Furthermore, your ideas and knowledge of a local context can add value to the global brand of a company. Having an understanding of the language used in your new market allows you to obtain greater insights into the local customs and beliefs, which is invaluable when providing the best service to clients.
Secondly, multilingual employees help to boost the diversity in an organisation as well as the diversity in their customer base. Being able to provide a multilingual service helps to foster strong relationships with clients and builds greater trust in your company. These strengthened relationships can be converted into significant profits. Therefore, hiring multilingual employees has considerable financial benefits for companies too.
Finally, adaptability and resilience are two of the greatest skills that international students can contribute to companies. Your international experience has allowed you to cope with extreme changes in climate, culture and the country that you live in. Yet you have shown that you can adapt to stressful challenges. You have kept strong and fought through the difficulties. You have not given up at the first hurdle and you have demonstrated a resilient attitude. You have adapted to the different changes optimistically and resiliently. These are precisely the skills that the modern workplace requires its employers to have and you possess them.
Written by Elizabeth Conway
Elizabeth Conway is a graduate in Spanish and English Language from the University of Birmingham. She is a former BBC Sport journalist and was selected to represent Great Britain as one of the best young journalists in the world at the Future News Worldwide conference in 2019. She is currently working as a freelance journalist and presenter whilst training to be a secondary school Spanish teacher.
Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash