Learning a second language is a big endeavor. In order to apprehend a foreign language, it is necessary to learn the language structure, its phonemes, expressions, possible collocations, and other intricate aspects related to it. More than the mere linguistic aspect, cultural and social facets should be considered. Therefore, I was fortunate to have this opportunity to live in Australia for a couple of years. Being totally immersed in the Australian culture took my language acquisition journey to an unexpected level.
Joining Bible College in Sydney was a dream come true. Besides the fact that living in a beautiful English-speaking country is a life-changing experience, becoming part of an enormous Christian community like Hillsong College granted me the chance to develop my communicative skills in English. On a daily basis, I had the opportunity to be around hundreds of students from different countries. Most importantly, I was given the chance to be around some remarkable friends who were native speakers. They treated me like family and encouraged me to speak the language out fearlessly.
Those amazing friends, especially my roommate Kaitlyn, daily took the time to chat with me and gently correct me. These generous actions helped me to develop some of the conversational skills that were very limited at that time. Every night, a different visitor was invited over and the conversations went on and on, even when we all had classes in the following morning. Thus, as I interacted to various people with diverse backgrounds and accents, I assimilated the language without even noticing the process involved.
Therefore, I believe that it wouldn’t have been possible to become fluent in English so quickly if I hadn’t had these lovely people around me. Socializing can really contribute to the language acquisition process, once social interaction provides natural practice and it includes the values and behaviors of a culture. Living abroad allowed me both continuous practice and immersion in an English-speaking environment.
After a few months, chatting with friends or talking about my life back in Brazil wasn’t really an issue anymore. I finally started to feel comfortable using my second language, finally reaching a point when I felt confident to give my opinion in class. I can clearly remember the day I had to perform a song to my class, as part of my assessment evaluation for the Worship Music course.
Singing a song in front of amazing musicians wasn’t a real challenge for me, but presenting the background of the song in English was. I slowly introduced myself to the class, explained the story behind the lyrics and announced the singer’s name. Then I described my interpretation of the song and the musical arrangements that were modified. As I saw the reaction of the audience, cheering and nodding their heads in agreement, it felt like reaching the top of a huge mountain. Finally, I overcame an enormous obstacle. Indeed, I was able to communicate my message in a second language, not only because I knew the right words, but also because I was acquainted with the culture.
Obviously, living in a country where you are exposed to English continuously can really contribute to the learning process of the language. However, what made my experience in Australia count were the colors, the flavors, the affection, all the cultural exchange that I got from living there. All of those aspects are incrusted in my memory, resulting in a natural and effective language production, which came out of constant social interaction and practice.