Is Expat Living for Me? (Part 6: Language)

After taking a break from our series “Is Expat Living for Me?” for some special holiday posts, we return to this important question.

photo-1468429496510-236edfeeed4dOne important factor in making your overseas life experience successful and enjoyable will be the ease with which you can communicate in your new country.  Of course, there are countries where you can live relatively easily without learning the language due to the number of people who speak your language.  In other countries, you will need to learn the language to survive.  So, let’s take a look at some questions that will help you clarify how this aspect will play out for you.

How do I feel about learning a new language?

This question is crucial.  If you are dead set against learning the language from the onset, you will struggle in your new life.  If you are eager or at least open to the idea, your transition and life will be much smoother.  Language is an integral part of the culture of a place.  Embrace it.  Begin learning it even before you leave your home country.  You will never really have a full experience unless you learn to speak the local language at some level, even if it’s very basic.  Relationships and experiences will be so much deeper and richer if you can communicate.  Make plans now to begin learning the language of the place you choose for your part-time expat experience.


Does it frustrate me when trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English?

Communication is always a challenge when parties don’t share the language.  But that challenge doesn’t have to be a negative experience.  My wife and I used to laugh often when we first moved to Honduras years ago.  As we were learning the language, we often didn’t quite catch or understand a phrase or sentence in Spanish.  So, our Spanish-speaking friends would repeat the same thing again, but in a louder voice.  Somehow, they had the idea that if they just upped the volume, we would understand!  We learned to laugh and ask them to repeat or say it in a different way.

Learning a language is a lot of work, and going in with a positive attitude and a “can do” spirit will keep communication open and flowing, even through the challenges.  Don’t let the frustration of momentary language setbacks color the invigorating experience of learning a new language and being able to communicate with locals.


What are my options for learning the language?

In nearly every city or town in the world, you will find language tutors or schools, eager to help you learn the local language.  As we’ve suggested in earlier blogs, join expat forums online about your chosen country, and start asking questions.  What are the best language schools?  Are there good private tutors?  How much should I expect to pay for language learning?  Can I begin learning it now even before I arrive?  What advice to experienced language learners have?

For sure, your experience will be enhanced and, in many cases, made successful to the extent that you engage with and learn the local language.  Don’t be fearful of it.  Embrace it.  Jump into it.  And soon you’ll find yourself speaking………



So, is part-time expat living for you?  Keep dreaming . . .



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