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5 Best Tips for Learning a New Language When Moving Abroad

Posted Moving Tips / April 18, 2018

Moving abroad is an exciting adventure, as it gives you an excellent opportunity to start anew. However, unless you’re relocating to an English-speaking country, it’s best to start learning a new language right away. Although picking up foreign tongues can be tricky, these five tips will certainly help make things more approachable, allowing you to fit in at your newest home almost right away.

Do You Have to Learn Other Languages When Moving Abroad?

If you’re tired of living in Orange County, for example, or the US in general, moving abroad could be the perfect way to start the next chapter of your life. Although relocating across the world provides people with the opportunity to explore other cultures, the relocation itself will not be easy. While getting packing services and renting a storage unit from an overseas moving company will prepare you for the trip, it won’t help you adjust to the new country. After all, we Americans are known to experience culture shock when we move to another country whose residents aren’t fluent in English.

Those who relocate to Spain or any other Spanish-speaking country often get surprised by how hard it is to find a person who speaks English fluently. While you don’t have to be an expert in other languages to get a job in Europe as an American, those who are moving abroad alone without any knowledge won’t be able to communicate with many people outside of expat communities. Knowing the local tongue is crucial for fitting in, so it’s best to start studying it even before shipping overseas. If you need any help, the five tips we prepared will enable you to pick up languages in almost no time.

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#1 Set Clear and Realistic Goals From the Beginning

Considering many people only know how to speak in their native tongue, starting to learn a different one can be pretty intimidating. Another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll only have a limited amount of time to study before moving overseas, so try to be realistic about your goals. If you’re starting from scratch, don’t expect to become an expert overnight. Mastering grammar and expanding the vocabulary takes time, so it’s crucial that you focus on the basics first, like memorizing the alphabet.

While some prefer to learn a specific number of words per day, trying to memorize a hundred of them each day for several weeks will only get you so far. That’s why it’s always better to learn the most commonly used phrases first. Remember that knowing a few gestures or how to ask someone about getting to a specific place is often everything you need to break the language barrier as soon as you start living abroad.

How Many Hours a Day Should You Study a New Language?

How long do you have to study to master another tongue? According to the US Foreign Service Institute (FSI), native English speakers need to study 10 hours a day for 48 days for basic fluency in Spanish, Dutch, and other Group 1 languages. If you think that’s a lot of work, these will look like a piece of cake compared to German, Chinese and other tongues from Groups 2-4. Although information like this would easily discourage anyone from studying in the first place, you’ll be glad to hear that thirty minutes to an hour a day is more than enough.

Keep in mind that it’s more about the quality than the duration of the study session. Studying for hours on end might improve your knowledge to a degree, but most of the things and words you’ve learned will probably perish quickly. More importantly, let’s not forget that you’re moving internationally. Even if you hire an overseas shipping company to ship your vehicle, you still have to pack for the move and gather all the documents needed for traveling abroad. Don’t stress if you can’t learn everything before the move, as there will be plenty of opportunities to catch up once you live in another country.

#2 Find a Study Method That Works for You

Whether it’s writing, spelling, or speaking, studying languages should be fun and exciting. While sitting down for an hour might be a good way to retain more information initially, people tend to get bored with this sooner rather than later. This makes it very easy to lose focus and forget everything, which anybody who took Spanish or French classes in school can confirm. If you find the traditional school-style method can’t keep your attention, don’t be afraid to explore other options. The good news is that there are many other things you can do that will help you stay productive, like:

  • Watch foreign movies and shows with subtitles,
  • Read bilingual editions of books that interest you,
  • Listen to news, podcasts, and audiobooks,
  • Translate a favorite story or write an original text,
  • Listen to recordings of yourself speaking the tongue,
  • Use learning apps such as Babbel, Rosetta Stone, and Duolingo.

Creating a Routine Is One of the Better Study Tips for Learning a New Language

Consistency is crucial when studying languages, so anyone who is serious about improving their knowledge of the lingo will need to set up a routine that suits them. As we already mentioned earlier, you don’t have to study for hours to get better at it, but it is vital that you do it regularly. For some, that means focusing on pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar on different days, while others prefer to do everything at once. Either way, whatever you choose to do, it’s crucial that you don’t miss more than one lesson in a row. Try not to make excuses for why you can’t study every other day, as this could significantly hamper your overall progress.

#3 Practice With a Partner Who Is Fluent

While we already mentioned several different ways to pick up the lingo, nothing beats practicing with another person. This is particularly true for speaking, as you can immediately get feedback on what you’re pronouncing correctly and what could use some improvement. Although most Americans probably already know a few Spanish speakers, you might not always have the opportunity to speak with an expert or a native.

However, practice alone is still an excellent way to hone your skills before the relocation. If you want to find people who are fluent and willing to help, apps such as Tandem, Hello Talk, and Speaky can help you meet a lot of native speakers from across the globe. You might even make a few friends in the process, but it’s up to you to start the conversation.

You Won’t Learn to Speak Like an Expert Without Making a Few Mistakes

Although conversing is one the best and most efficient ways to improve, insecurity causes many non-native speakers to avoid practicing their speaking skills altogether. If you feel this way, remember that nobody is born an expert and that making mistakes is normal, particularly for beginners. Think of it as a part of the process.

It gives you the opportunity to reflect and improve, which will undoubtedly come in handy once you begin living overseas. The next time you have a chance to speak with a native, simply start a conversation about a topic that interests you and go from there. You might end up sounding silly in the process, but at least you’ll still be learning things. After all, that’s all that matters.

#4 Use Every Opportunity to Hone Your Skills

Study sessions are good for expanding knowledge, but everyone knows that practice makes perfect. Forgetting a few words you don’t use every day is completely normal, which is why it’s important to test yourself any chance you get. Almost everything you do throughout the day could be an opportunity to reevaluate and improve your skills, so it might be good to carry a pocket dictionary with you at all times.

Planning on making dinner? Translate the names of the ingredients. Going out for dinner at an Italian restaurant? Practice your pronunciation by reading everything from the menu. You can also make things more interesting by playing a memory card game and trying to remember the names of items in the foreign tongue. The possibilities are endless.

Testing Helps You Retain Knowledge Much Longer

Testing yourself once in a while will help you retain a great deal of information for a more extended period, which is necessary for anyone who wants to become fluent in any lingo. If you need more tips on memorizing vocabulary, the video below features several effective techniques many experienced polyglots (people fluent in several foreign tongues) use regularly.

#5 Reward Yourself for Completing Tasks and Milestones

Learning new languages is a continuous process, and it can be challenging to stay motivated for extended periods of time. However, If you’re having trouble studying, creating a reward system will help you get through even the toughest of lessons. Grammar is giving you a headache? Treat yourself to some sweets after studying. Finished translating a challenging piece? Give yourself a good break before continuing. Acknowledging your accomplishments publicly can be a reward in itself, so don’t shy away from sharing on social media.

With the Best Tips for Learning a New Language Fast, You’ll Become an Expert in No Time

While every single person has different reasons for moving to another country, all the things we mentioned in this blog can help anyone pick up a foreign lingo. The journey is not easy, but if you’re organized and persistent for long enough, there’s no reason to believe you won’t meet your goals. All that’s left is to hire an international moving company and start preparing for the relocation. Feel free to pat yourself on the back. You’ve earned it.

Michael Vaughan

Moving through the Bay Area, Michael works as a freelance writer in the moving and transportation industry.

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