If you study 2 or more languages you will be faced with the difficult task of choosing how long to spend in which country. As I study German and Spanish, I had to fit both countries in for a total of at least 8 months, which is the minimum amount of time required by my university. I originally planned to spend more time in Spain, Spanish being my weaker language, however I am now splitting them equally spending 5/6 months in each country. I think it is an important decision to make as this year will form how your language skills develop and you might not want one to improve at the expense of another.
So what should you consider when planning your year abroad?
Which is the weakest language that you study?
I decided to come to Spain first as that was my weaker language of the two, I didn’t feel that my Spanish could cope with 6 months of being in Germany and then moving to Spain so I wanted to start my YA using my Spanish. It was difficult enough after a Summer off but I can’t imagine what it would have been like had I been speaking German for 6 months and then faced with the task of living in Seville. As I started Spanish ab-initio (from level A as a fresher) I’ve only had 2 years of experience with the language and therefore it is much harder to think freely in Spanish.
I know some people who decided not to continue with their level B language after second year which I think is a great shame, on your YA nobody expects you to be fluent and this is the perfect time to improve your language skills and get it up to speed for the completion of your degree upon your return in England.
Summary: Decide which language you want to improve the most (or which needs the most improval) and think about whether you want to go there first, second or third.
Which language/s do you want to improve the most?
If both of your langauges are at a similar level, then the next thing to be considered is which language do you want to improve the most? If you have a preference for one language over the other, then you may want to prioritise that when it comes to deciding the timings of your YA. As I said earlier, I planned to spend 6 months in Spain and then 4 in Germany but I changed my mind and decided to make the most of my time away by squeezing in an extra 2 months. This also times perfectly with the German Formula 1 Grand Prix at Hockenheim ring, only 2 hours from Cologne by train… Sebastian Vettel I’m coming for you!
So although I wanted to improve my Spanish the most, speaking German is a very important part of my identity and I wanted to do myself justice by giving myself enough time to also improve my German and experience the culture of the country which has a special place in my heart (miss you Grandad and Mrs A xxx).
Summary: Decide which language you want to improve the most (despite your current level) and prioritise that one.
Which language/s do you see yourself using in the future?
In my opinion, there is no point dedicating part of your life to a language if you never see yourself using it in the future, whether it is for personal, educational or employability reasons. I do not understand why someone would force themselves to spend hours learning vocab, verb conjugations and the tenses, if they have no interest in said language, culture or people.
Summary: If you study a language that you hate and don’t see yourself using in the future then you may decide to leave that country out of your YA plans.
It is important to consider all the 3 factors mentioned above and anything else that is important to you rather than just looking at it from one angle. Other things to consider include travel to/from the destination, the time frame you have, money and convenience.
I hope this was helpful to all prospective year abroad-ers and if you have any tips just leave a comment below!