Are you planning to move to another country soon? Then you should know that learning a language abroad is something you should start thinking about as early as possible, well before you decide to book international moving services. Don’t wait until the last week before your departure. Acquiring the skill to communicate in a foreign language takes a lot of time and effort, much more than a week, which is why we suggest you start right now. Here are some tips to help you do it right.
Learning a Language Abroad: Passive vs. Active Approach
As an English speaker in a non-English speaking country, you’re given two choices when it comes to how to learn a language. You can either do it passively or actively. The passive approach requires minimal effort on your side and pretty much boils down to immersing yourself in the community and culture and letting your brain acquire the language naturally. While immersion is perfect for acquisition and improving skills in a certain way, there are, however, several problems with this approach:
- It takes time. Not taking action and letting something happen at its own pace always takes more time than being proactive.
- It doesn’t always work. For some people, languages don’t come so naturally, so there is a chance that immersion won’t work. On top of that, the older we get, the harder it is to acquire languages passively.
- It’s not always enough. If you are moving for a job, the chances are you will need to use the new language pretty early on. Likewise, if you’re moving for school or university, even if it’s a renowned university, you’ll need to know the language in order to understand lectures at the university and to be able to study and follow the program. In that case, you can’t rely on immersion and hope for quick results.
On the other hand, the active approach requires you to be more proactive when you learn. You will have to put in more time and effort, but it will surely pay off in the end, not only in your work and school environment but also in your everyday interactions with the locals and your new friends. If you want to enjoy your life to the fullest and perhaps join some local cultural organizations, it is necessary to work hard for it.
Get a Head Start Before Moving
As soon as you decide to move abroad, maybe even relocate across the world, you should begin to learn how to live in another country. This, of course, entails learning the language of the nation to make your life more comfortable and start feeling like a local as soon as possible. So put in some effort to start as early as possible. The sooner you master the basics, the easier it will be to learn the more complicated parts of grammar and vocabulary. Whether you want to learn Italian, French, or some other tongue, it might be a good idea to consider taking courses at a language school before moving abroad. Even if you just want to travel there, you can find a program that fits your needs.
Watch Popular TV Programs, Read Newspaper Articles, Listen to Music
Immersing yourself in the country’s popular culture and current affairs will surely help the process. Even if you feel like you barely understand anything at first, don’t get discouraged. Immersion can’t do you any harm. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself able to follow the news or read a magazine without any trouble, be it in French or Italian or some other tongue.
Don’t Fall into the English-Speaking Trap
English is one of the most widely learned second languages in the world. In other words, no matter where in the world you travel or move, there will be a good portion of people who speak English at least to the extent that they can form basic sentences. For that reason, it is all too easy for us, as native speakers, to rely on our mother tongue no matter where we go. However, if you’re moving abroad, you will have to teach yourself to actively avoid using English.
More Useful Tips on How to Learn a Language
Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to learn foreign languages when moving across the border, we’d like to share some additional tips that you will surely find useful.
Sign Up for a Language Course
Having someone who is not only fluent but also trained to teach people, help you learn the ropes can go a long way in this situation. Look up reviews or ask other foreigners and students for recommendations and sign up for a course. As a plus, you will surely meet new people and maybe even make some friends with other students in those courses of Italian, French, Sweedish, or any other tongue you pick. You might also want to consider signing up for student travel exchange programs.
Turn to the International Community Abroad
No matter where you are moving to, you are surely not the first American to do so. Pretty much every country in the world has an expat community you can turn to for some tips, recommendations, or introduction to the culture. This will help you fit in more easily and understand local cultural heritage and cultural events better. You should be able to experience everything like the local people do and enjoy those cultural happenings just as much as them.
Form a Study Group
If you already know some people who are in a similar situation to yours, we recommend that you form a study group and go through the process together with other students. That is, of course, if you are the type who enjoys studying in a group. No matter how demanding the program is, you’ll find it easier when you have someone to share your experience with.
Learn Through an App
There are so many handy apps out there, such as Duolingo, designed to help people study. All you have to do is download them, pick a course, and stay consistent. However, keep in mind that using such an app should be seen as practice, not as your main studying activity.
For instance, Duolingo is perfect if you have some free time between other activities or on your way to your office or back home. However, if you rely only on the app, you’ll never go past the fundamentals, and we’re sure you don’t want to get stuck with some basic phrases. Whether you want to master French or German, you’ll need a professional guiding you through the process. For that reason, these online programs are not sufficient for the level you want to achieve. You can use them at the beginning or later as a reminder. No online program can be as reliable as lessons with a teacher.
Practise, Practise, Practise
Embrace every chance you get to use a new phrase you learned or just communicate with the locals in general. Do whatever you can to make it clear that you don’t want to talk to them in English.
Sure, it will take longer and the conversation will be a little dull, but even a little practice goes a long way.
Remember: Mistakes Are Good
Studying foreign languages is not a straight-line process. Every mistake that you make is a sign that you have yet to internalize what you’ve learned in school or courses. In other words, it means that learning is actually taking place.
Memorize Phrases, Not Just Words
Since the main reason why you are doing this is to communicate with others, you’ll probably find it useful to start by memorizing whole phrases instead of separate words. We suggest that you start by memorizing various forms of greetings (“hello”, “good morning”, “good afternoon”), most common questions (“what’s your name”, “how are you”, “how can I help you”) and the answers to those questions.
Take Your Time
Remember – acquiring foreign languages is a life-long process. Be it Spanish, Italian, or French, you will need time. Don’t worry if it seems like it’s going slow. You’ll get to the point where you can communicate comfortably in no time!
Why Spanish is Useful Even Outside of Spain
If you’re still not sure where you would like to move, we suggest a Spanish-speaking country. Learning Spanish is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself, as it is spoken all over the world, from Europe to South America, and even in large parts of the USA. Whether you’re moving to Spain, relocating to Venezuela, or any other country where Spanish is dominant, it will surely come in handy.