Expat's Manual

Acquiring language skills can be very difficult and many expatriates struggle with how to learn a language. Choosing a course that is suitable for you will very much depend upon what your personal learning preferences and style. There are several different types of language learning approaches that are available:


How to Learn a Language by Teaching Yourself:

In order to teach yourself a language you need two things; a willingness to put in the effort and an intelligent method. If you approach the task of learning a language half-heartedly or assume that you can learn it by fitting in a couple of hours a week, it simply won’t happen. You need to prepared to dedicate real time to the task and integrate it into your daily life. It is generally recommended that you spend at least one to one and a half hours a day practicing the language. If possible do this in one sitting with a short break in the middle.

Critical to your ability to teach yourself a new language will be a good set of books. Choose books that have accompanying tapes as these will assist you with pronunciataion.

One of the best ways of teaching yourself a new language is through immersion. Once you arrive in your host country you should attempt to surround yourself with the language. Watch the local news and television programs, listen to the radio and listen to people talking in shops and restaurants; try to translate what they are saying. See our Tips for language learning for more information.


How to Learn a Language by Attending a Course:

If you decide to invest in formal language training then you should choose the course you enroll for very carefully. Make sure you research all the schools available before making a decision, as selecting the course that is right for you could mean the difference between success and failure. Here’s some of the things you should consider when researching schools.

1) If you have basic language ability already and the school offers to test you in order to determine your level make sure that an appropriate test is administered. Many schools test their student’s abilities via multiple choice tests and these are not very effective in establishing a student’s real ability; if you have a basic knowledge of the language and grammatical constructions then the chances are that you can guess a lot of the answers. While you may be flattered by being placed in a higher level class, the truth is that you will struggle in this class and it is far better to share learning experiences with people who have roughly the same level of listening and speaking ability as you do. The best schools will conduct oral and written tests to determine your real level.

2) Ensure that there is a comprehensive syllabus for the school. If the school is able to produce one this demonstrates that they are planned and organized and that your language learning will follow a clearly determined route. In addition to this, a syllabus can help you to prepare for classes in advance and get the most out of the time you spend with your teacher.

3) Find out how the lessons are actually taught and structured. Question the school about their teaching methods and the types of learning experiences you will get. Look for schools that utilize a variety of different teaching methods; you will quickly grow bored if you simply repeat phrases parrot style with your teacher. The best schools will offer a range of activities including role play, modeling, oral participation, written participation and field trips.

4) Find out who is teaching the class. If you are paying a high amount of money for a language course make sure that it is taught by a qualified teacher. Many schools use teaching staff that consist of local people who are trying to earn extra money, this is fine if you opt for a lower priced option. However, if you are looking to access the best courses you need people who are training both in what to teach and how to teach it.

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