Looking back at my language experience, I find that one of the most interesting things I have found about learning a new language is the importance of outside the classroom interactions. As much as my language skills developed from attending lecture and drilling grammar structures, I found that possibly the greatest growth took place when I interacted with people outside of the classroom. Even studying vocab from a book is only helpful to a certain extent. Without being able to make use of it, and solidify it in one’s memory in the context of actual conversation, it does not do much good.
The language shock of going to China for two months can really only be compared to the cultural differences that were experienced. After spending so much time in a different country, one is bound to get accustomed to a lot of the different ways of doing things, but this is only after a long time, and there are still bound to be many things that one never gets used to. In China, even street manners are starkly different. One thing that I found funny is that staring is much more acceptable. Experiencing different cultures was an opportunity that the SLA grant provided me, as valuable as the language experience.
Going forward, I do not think that class alone is sufficient for sustaining the language level that was attained during my time in China. In addition to formal studying, I think that it is important to practice more informal conversation with other people in order to maintain the same type of fluency. After all, I feel as though that is one of the main benefits of studying in a different country; aside from studying language in the classroom, one can communicate in a more common way, which is bound to yield improvement in ways that traditional classroom settings simply cannot. These language skills are invaluable moving forward, as speaking any foreign language in any field of work opens the doors to a myriad of opportunities through being able to connect to more people in a more personal way.