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Overcoming Language Barriers in a New Country

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One of the most common difficulties of living in a new country is overcoming the language barrier. Despite the advanced technology and readily available online tools, learning a foreign language can often be quite overwhelming. If you are planning an international move, read on to learn about the challenges of learning a foreign language and how to overcome the language barrier as an expat.

Overcoming Language Barriers in a New Country

Challenges of learning a foreign language

  • Resistance to assimilating into another culture: One of the most common challenges of learning a foreign language is struggling to adapt to cultural change. If you are too skeptical to assimilate with people from a different culture, you won't be able to enjoy living in a new country.

    Once you move abroad, don't stick to your old hobbies and lifestyle. Meet new people, attend festive occasions, and integrate yourself into the new environment. Otherwise, you'll always feel like an outsider in the country no matter how long you stay there. Eventually, you may also feel left out when others around you engage in conversation and crack jokes in their local language.
  • Being surrounded by other English-speaking expats: When you are trying to fit in, it's important to surround yourself with other expats to prevent homesickness. However, if all those expats are English speaking, you may find it difficult to learn the local language as you may not want to step out of your comfort zone.

    Finding expats in a new country should not be your only aim. You will still need to socialize and work with the locals, and to do so you must know their language. To overcome these linguistic differences, you'll be required to interact with everyone and not just your expat friends.
  • Living in a foreign country isn't enough: Many people think that they will learn the language just by living in the country, but that's not necessarily the case. Learning a foreign language isn't that easy. You won't be able to get a grip on the local vernacular and slang unless you dive into the process. Moreover, don't wait for your overseas move to start learning the language. You can even start using apps and online tools at your home to prepare yourself for the move.
  • Locals wishing to learn English from you: Although English is widely spoken around the world, many people are not fluent in the language. Some locals may even be interested in you teaching them English.

    Although that will make you feel good, you'll end up speaking only English and so you won't be able to brush up on your local language skills. So, don't merely focus on teaching; exchange your linguistic knowledge and help each other gain fluency.
  • Fear of making mistakes or being mocked: A common difficulty in learning a new language after moving overseas is the fear of being mocked. However, learning anything new requires confidence and one can't expect to acquire new skills without making mistakes.

    So, if you are having self-doubt or fear that people will laugh at you or worry about your accent falling flat, get over it. You'll never know where you are going wrong unless someone corrects you. The best lessons are learned from mistakes.

Tips to overcome the language barrier in a new country

  • Immerse yourself in the new culture: Learning a language is easier when you enjoy it by making it a part of your routine. When you move to a foreign country, you need to blend in with the locals to overcome the culture shock and feel at home.

    When learning a foreign language, make the process a part of your daily life. For example, watch movies and shows with subtitles and order local food using the native language. Take part in the local cultural festivities and activities so you can learn the common phrases and slang. It's the best way to learn a language without feeling overwhelmed by the process.
  • Treat it as an adventure: To enjoy living in a foreign country, you must treat everything as an adventure. Have fun with your experiences instead of feeling burdened by having to learn something new. After moving to a new country, it won't be easy to overcome the language barrier at work or opening yourself to your neighbors; but don't be hesitant. It doesn't have to be challenging or emotionally exhausting if you are doing it right.
  • Use online learning tools: Talking to the locals and googling the common phrases aren't enough to learn a foreign language. Use online tools like tutorials, apps, or even full on language courses. There is an endless number of platforms that will teach you any foreign language.

    Once you've taken the time to use some of these online tools, you'll be ready to converse with your local friends so they can correct your accent and pronunciation. This is the most effective way to overcome language barriers when moving abroad.
  • Set small goals: When learning a language don't focus on becoming fluent. Set small goals and then work to achieve them accordingly. You can start with common phrases, numerals, or names of daily objects. Thus, you will be able to learn a lot of new things almost every day without feeling overwhelmed by the daunting task of learning an entire new language.
  • Be patient and keep practicing: If you ever find yourself failing in the process, remember that patience is key. Take your time and never skip practice sessions. Use what you learn in your conversations as much as possible. This will eventually help you become fluent.

    Learning a foreign language may seem like an insurmountable task but there are many ways to make it easier if you follow the above tips. Moving to a new country is a big opportunity and it shouldn't be hindered by struggling to overcome language barriers.

Robert Moreschi  Posted by Robert Moreschi on November 21, 2013

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