Before I left to Japan, I studied Japanese for about nine months. My language skills were just budding, and my brain was full of random vocabulary and kanji. I was just barely able to squeeze out a basic sentence... It was pitiful.
Landing in Tokyo for a semester abroad was like jumping into the bottom end of a pool -- an unfamiliar, intimidating pool. I clammed up on the street, not confident enough in my abilities, afraid to make mistakes. I enrolled into an all-girls’ high school, where, for all of its perks, I was faced with rote memorization and tedious reviews of Japanese grammar.
Despite all of this, my language skills went into turbo-mode and improved immensely during my semester in Japan. I credit this entirely to my homestay program. I stayed with a family of six in Tokyo: a couple, their parents, and their two daughters. After just a few weeks, I was joking with my host sister and complimenting my host mom’s cooking. My Japanese skills were still basic, but I spoke more fluidly and confidently. I wasn’t afraid to blunder; instead, I embraced my mistakes and powered through broken sentences. And, somehow, my host family remained patient.
By the time I left, I was speaking full, correct sentences without hesitation. If your goal is to learn a foreign language during your study abroad, I highly recommend a homestay. It’ll help you boost your skills beyond your expectations and take them to the next level, and here’s how.