Expat's Manual

Mastering a foreign language isn't all about text books and MP3 files. There are many methods of optimizing your language acquisition and mastering the local lingo. Here's some top tips for learning a language when moving overseas.

Mix with the locals

As an expatriate living in a foreign country the tendency is to spend your time with fellow expatriates because it is easier and you potentially feel more comfortable around people who have a similar background to your own. While this is perfectly fine, it will do nothing to enhance your language skills and will also entail that you do not make the most of your experiences overseas. One of our biggest tips for learning a new language is to form friendships with people who speak the local language. This will allow you to practice your language skills in a safe environment with someone you feel comfortable with.


Join a language learning group or exchange

There are usually language learning groups and forums available at the majority of popular expatriate destinations. These language groups can offer an ideal opportunity to meet new people whilst also learning the local language. There are always large numbers of people who are looking to learn a new language and will be happy to teach their own language in return. Many of the online expat forums contain details of language exchanges and you can often also find details of such groups in our expatriate city guides.


Carry a dictionary or translator with you at all times

Learning a new language means making a constant effort to understand what is going on around you. Every single time you hear a word you don’t know, look it up immediately. This is a great tip for learning a language and can assist the learning process. In addition to this, if you’re lost or can’t find something you are looking for, you can point out the word to a local and they may be able to help you.


Give it a go but be patient

You will only ever master a language if you practice speaking it. Although this may be daunting and you may make mistakes, you need to ensure that the language you are speaking is understandable by the people in your host country, otherwise there’s no point. Be prepared to make mistakes, some of them probably embarrassing, but be patient and keep trying.


Carry a notebook with you

It is often useful to carry a notebook with you so that you can note down any words or phrases that you hear that you are not already familiar with. Read through the words you have learned on a regular basis, look them up using your dictionary and make it a habit to review them on a regular basis.


Concentrate on vocabulary

Learning a new language doesn't necessarily mean learning a dictionary full of vocabulary. Find out what the most commonly used words are in your chosen language and invest time learning them. One top tip for learning a new language is to label everyday appliances and objects throughout your house with their name in the second language and say them aloud as you use them/come across them. This will enable you to become immersed in the language; something that many language experts agree improves language acquisition.

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Our Expat's Manual is updated regularly so comments about the article may have already been addressed.

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