Martin Howard, guest lecturer

“We need to be realistic about language learning abroad”


On November 11 Martin Howard, Head of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at University College Cork, Ireland, is giving the guest lecture "Study abroad - Opportunities and challenges for the university language student". Martin Howards research interest includes second language acquisition and language study abroad.

There is a common belief that language studies are best made abroad in a target-language context. What does your research show – is this the case?

– Study abroad is often associated with language immersion in the belief that we are ‘immersed’ in the language when we are abroad – the language is supposedly omnipresent, and we simply soak it up to become ‘fluent’ in a foreign language like children when they learn their first language. As adults, language learning is more challenging – there are no linguistic miracles even when we live abroad! But study abroad is certainly helpful as we learn to use the language for everyday social purposes, but we need to be realistic about the challenges of language learning abroad and the extent of the linguistic gains that we can make even while living in the target-language context.

What challenges might students meet when studying languages abroad?

– A difficulty is to ensure that students have ample contact with the language – it is very easy to meet other international students – that is obviously very enriching, but as an international community, English as the global lingua franca of our times can prevail. Creating more diverse social networks with other local speakers is especially challenging.
Ultimately, study abroad is a very individual experience – it takes time to establish oneself in a new community, and to learn to cope with the personal, social, cultural and linguistic challenges that we experience in a new language community.

What advice can you give students who are thinking about studying language abroad?

– Most of all, enjoy the experience! Be aware that study abroad is challenging as you set yourself up and establish yourself over time in a new environment. But it is also very rewarding at all levels, personal, social, cultural, educational. For language learning, be strategic in creating opportunities for contact with the language in various forms.


By: Janna Roosch

Guest lecture: Study abroad – Opportunities and challenges for the university language student

Date: 11 November

Time: 13:15-14:15

Venue: Room C350, Humanisten, and zoom

More about the lecture: