Why studying abroad is the best way to learn a new language

If you’ve ever thought about learning a foreign language or exploring a new country, you should probably read this.

Why studying abroad is the best way to learn a new language
Photo: ESL

They say that in today’s globalized world, borders matter less than they used to. And while it may be easier to travel from one country to another, there’s no getting around the fact that not everyone speaks the same language.

Of course, you may be able to get by with English in a lot of places, but as anyone who’s spent time abroad will tell you, knowing the local language can transform the experience.

And while taking classes close to home or spending time with the latest language-learning app may help you pick up the basics, but you simply can’t beat learning a language where it’s spoken in the streets, on the radio, and everywhere around you.

Not convinced? Here are six reasons you really should choose to learn the language abroad.

You get to live abroad

OK, we can all admit that setting up life in a new place isn’t always easy – but it’s rewarding in so many different ways – especially if you choose to use that time abroad to learn a new language.

Learn more about studying a foreign language abroad

Experiencing a new culture and country first-hand opens the door to host of new experiences, expanding your comfort zone, which in turn can do wonders for your confidence.

Whereas before the thought of boarding a plane solo to an unfamiliar place, or trying to navigate a new city may have had you sweating, following a stint abroad, tackling such unknowns is a breeze.

You can turn a detour into a fast track

Lots of young graduates look to take a gap year after university before starting their careers. The reasons can be many – exploring, soul search, delaying the inevitability of that 9-5 life.

But choosing to study a foreign language abroad suddenly transforms that gap year from what cynical family members might consider a detour into a rewarding, relevant, and downright desirable capstone that helps accelerate your life and career.

Learn a new language during your gap year with ESL

We’re not saying you can’t spend time on the beach or at the bar, but conversing about the weather or ordering drinks in a foreign language – coupled with some actual time in class – makes for a year that is far from a gap on your CV; rather, it becomes an asset.

You can boost your employability

Let’s take that a step farther. It’s no secret living abroad and studying a foreign language entails plenty of fun. But the experience can really take your career in all sorts of new directions. International connections are important to an increasing number of companies of all shapes and sizes.

Having language skills and direct experience in the country of a new client could be the deciding factor between a company hiring you rather than your classmate you never left home – even if he or she had better grades.

You get smarter

Learning a new language is like exercise for the brain. It takes effort, but the reward is brain that’s more adaptable and able to learn new things faster. Learning a second language also improves your memory and helps fend off dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Grappling with a foreign language can also give you new insights into your mother tongue. From grammar to idiomatic phrases – understanding how and why certain words are strung together in certain ways in another language gets you thinking about why things work they do in our own language. And all of that can help make you a better communicator altogether.

You can amaze others

Let’s face it – it’s hard not to be somewhat impressed when you hear someone carry on a conversation in what may sound like gibberish. So why not be the one that gets others jaws to drop when you strike up a conversation with a local while on holiday.

And who doesn’t get a little kick from showing off to friends and family?

It’s by far the best way to learn

Learning and communicating in the language of a foreign country while living there is without doubt the best way of learning simply because, well – you never stop learning. Everywhere you turn you’re faced with opportunities to hear, read, and use your new language – basically, your entire environment because your classroom.

There’s also the added bonus of getting to experience the language “in real life” as opposed to trying to make it come alive from the pages of a book back in your hometown. And there’s certainly no app that can replicate that.

By now, the choice should be clear – the time to study a foreign language abroad is now. And doing so is easy and cost-effective with ESL – Language studies abroad.

ESL offers programmes in 23 languages at 250 destinations around the world. And with more than two decades of experience, ESL delivers language learning opportunities for everyone who’s ever dreamed studying a new language abroad.

Click here to find out which ESL programme is right for you

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by ESL.
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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.