Is learning your host country’s language really necessary?

Is learning your host country’s language really necessary?

Is learning your host country’s language really necessary?

Depending on the expat involved, learning a new language can be a delightful challenge or the world’s worst nightmare.

Learning the language of your destination country if you’re on reassignment from your home-based company may well be compulsory, but for retirees or those planning to start an expat-based service it’s a chore which may or may not be necessary. Either way, once you’ve hit adulthood, it isn’t easy and can be extremely time-consuming. It’s true to say the vast majority of expats learn a few basics to get them through an average day without embarrassment or worse, but the glow of mastering a strange tongue is a reward given only to a determined few.

The plus points of making a serious attempt to learn the local lingo start with the fact that the effort involved shows respect for the local culture and helps to build friendships. In the workplace, it can be a barometer for your success in a new job, as it encourages colleagues to like you even if you’re not word-perfect. Once you are fluent, adding the language to your CV gives another string to your bow when the next career move beckons. However, the most important reason for learning a new language is that it gives an inroad to a new culture and stops you being lonely and feeling excluded.

If you’ve decided to take language-learning seriously, formal lesson are, unfortunately, the only way to go as they provide written accuracy as well as fluency. Both are important in the workplace, although the more fluent you become the more there’s a risk of losing the ability to correctly speak in your own language! If you’re working for a major company, resources to help with the cost of private lessons may well be available, and fluency in a second language can add up to 15 per cent to the average salary.

Using a smartphone app helps new learners pick up a language almost by osmosis, and watching local TV can have the same effect. Expat learners are encouraged to start speaking as soon as they can, as it boosts confidence and increases new learners’ proficiency. Many expat destinations now have groups where a teacher encourages new arrivals to speak in the local language, even if they can only manage a few words or a short sentence. This can be a good way to forget about feeling embarrassed and start to enjoy diverse aspects of the new language. The world of languages is a fascinating place, no matter how fluent you are, as it links you to your new country’s culture and history as well as helping you in your work and everyday life.

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