7 ways to learn a foreign language when you’re working abroad
You are working overseas and you intend to become fluent in a foreign language?
You’re very lucky, because language immersion (or living in the country whose language you are learning) is one of the best methods for improving your language skills, and it’s particularly recommended to adults. Other people are paying for expensive language courses or move abroad for a while just to brush up their Spanish or Italian, while all you have to do is listen to people around you, pluck up your heart, and start communicating in the language you are learning. However, we know that language immersion may not be the main reason why you have moved abroad and most of your energy is probably going to work. This is why we have gathered some tips for you so you learn a new language while working abroad more easily.
1. Spend time with native speakers
You may be tempted to stay around fellow countrymen because you’re feeling homesick, but you’ll become fluent much faster if you spend time with locals. Living with native speakers is even better as you’ll spend more time using your foreign language skills. Look for a family with a spare room and even choose someone who doesn’t speak any English at all – this way you’ll be forced to learn faster. You’ll practice your new language in the most unexpected moments and even when you don’t feel like doing it. It may sound scary, but the benefits of doing this are huge.
2. Keep a vocabulary book with you
You’ve heard a word you didn’t understand in the middle of a work meeting? Write it down and find out later what it means. Don’t worry if you can’t spell the word correctly, just use a phonetic guess if you don’t like the idea of asking other people about the spelling and meaning right on the spot. When you have a spare moment, open up your vocabulary book, review some of the words you have learnt recently, and feel happy about your progress.
3. Stop using English
English is extremely popular and you’ll find someone able to speak it almost everywhere you go. However, don’t fall into the temptation of using this language with locals. Some of them may be extremely willing to practice their English, but don’t cave into their desire. Keep on using the local language, even if people reply to you in English.
4. Don’t be shy
Those who are learning a foreign language know very well how it feels to be afraid or ashamed to talk to a native speaker. You are wondering all the time if you are making mistakes and sometimes you need long seconds and lots of “Aaaahs” and “Uhms” just to ask for directions or to make an order at the restaurant. Consider the following exercise – a foreigner comes to your home country and tries to speak in your native language. What is your attitude? You’d probably be thrilled and happy to see someone trying to fit in, especially when your native language is not English. You wouldn’t care about their mistakes and you would be happy to instruct them on the right pronunciation. So, if someone laughs at your clumsiness, it’s their problem, not yours!
5. Be open to opportunities
A friend from work has invited you to the flea market next Saturday and you’re not sure if you want to go? If you are not going there to find a bargain, at least accept the invitation for the sake of expanding your vocabulary. Never miss an opportunity to learn new words and talk to locals. Moreover, learning how to negotiate in a foreign language is always a nice skill to have. If you are feeling safe about going out to a specific place and you are not pressured, the right thing to do is to say “Yes”.
6. Learn by yourself as well
Just living and working in a foreign country is not a guarantee that you’ll achieve fluency in a few months. You’ll still need to use formal learning methods, such as practicing grammar, maintaining a vocabulary book, and listening to audiobooks. The important thing afterwards is to practice what you’ve learned with the locals.
7. Don’t give up
When learning a foreign language, you’ll have your ups and downs. One day you’ll find it very easy to chat with your neighbours and the next day you’ll have a headache reading an email at work. Keep in mind that when you acquire knowledge it takes time for the information to accumulate and sometimes you may need a break or some rest before being able to string sentences together. Whenever you’re having a difficult moment, think of what you have achieved so far and give yourself a pat on the shoulder – you deserve it! In the end, the best piece of advice when learning a new language is practicing A LOT. Speak as often as you can and before you know it you’ll become fluent. Try any possible method and arm yourself with tons of confidence.