A group of University of Sydney students in front of a historical building in France

Experience the French-speaking world: learning a new language in its context

20 September 2023
Growing linguistic and cultural horizons for new opportunities
With daily interaction in French, Arts student Alexandra Lyons reflects on her time in France where she embraced new experiences in learning another language and expanding cross-cultural and interpersonal communication skills.

Since 2019, University of Sydney students have embarked on overseas adventures to learn new language skills within the local culture of a French-speaking country. From historical site visits to culinary explorations, International and Global Studies and Indonesian Studies student Alexandra Lyons shares about her experience in France where she learnt the basics of French and gained new skills in cross-cultural communication with partner institution, Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3.

Students in front of a historical catheral in France

Alexandra Lyons (centre) with fellow University of Sydney students in Lyon, France

What was it like learning French in France with an overseas partner university?

Learning French in context was very beneficial as you are constantly surrounded by the language. By having increased exposure to the language, you are able to quickly pick up phrases and words to then converse with locals.

Why did you choose to learn French? What benefits did you discover about learning the language?

French is a truly global language with over 200 million speakers across different continents. Learning French allows you to be able to communicate with a large variety of people.

What was your cultural immersion highlight?

For me, living with a French family through homestay was a rewarding experience. You can develop linguistically and culturally by being totally immersed within the French way of life.

What valuable skills and perspectives did you gain?

During my time in France, I developed a strong sense of courage. Living overseas with a basic knowledge of the language is a big step. Being able to confidently travel and communicate to my best ability in French is something I am proud of.

Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected. This means that that the need for linguistic and cultural competence is becoming more integral. By learning about languages and cultures, your horizons expand – bringing an abundance of opportunities.
Alexandra Lyons, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Advanced Studies (International and Global Studies) and Indonesian Studies major

How will you apply your in-country experience to your current studies and future?

This experience has taught me the importance of interpersonal communication and building positive relationships. I am more aware of the benefits of interacting with people from a range of different backgrounds and am excited to do this in my everyday life.

What advice would you give to other students about learning a new language overseas?

Step out of your comfort zone! There are many cultural aspects we may find confronting or unusual. When you step outside of your own cultural bubble and embrace the differences, you will really surprise yourself by how amazing they can be.

Worth 6 credit points, In-Country Experience units are open to undergraduate students with little to no language experience to learn new languages through cultural immersion with our partner institutions around the world.

Browse Alexandra's photo album and watch her video of her experience in Lyon, France on the School of Languages and Cultures’ Facebook page.

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