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How to Make Language Barriers Easier as an Expat

Whilst English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, expats should not assume that it has been adopted everywhere. Living and working in a location where you know none of the local lingo can have you feeling like a fish out of water and heighten anxiety. Feeling lost and unable to communicate is extremely debilitating so take on board our tips below to ensure your new life begins without a hitch.

Learn the Local Language

As an expat, you will need to develop into a quick learner as you become accustomed to new cultures and social norms. Whilst these can be read and understood without the need for verbal communication there will come a time when you want to order a coffee, explain your symptoms to a doctor, or enroll your child into a school. This will all be hindered by lack of vocabulary.

It goes without saying that learning the local language will improve your life in a new country immensely. Whilst some expats stick to international circles and live in areas which are English-heavy, this can leave some feeling extremely secluded and as if they aren’t living overseas at all.

Learning the local language, albeit at your own pace, will also place you in better favour with locals. Not even trying to pronounce keywords and phrases will often be considered rude and citizens of the country will go out of their way to help you, even if you are stuttering from a phrase book.

Learning the local language will make life much easier and also put you above the rest of your fellow expats when it comes to job hunting.

However, being a non-native speaker can have its challenges, such as nuances and slang. This can be intimidating and, in some circumstances, lead to language anxiety.

What is Language Anxiety?

Also known as xenoglossophobia, language anxiety is the feeling of unease, apprehension, and nervousness when learning or using a foreign language. It is completely normal. However, it affects some expats more than others. Below are some great ways to not only learn the new language but develop your confidence as an expat:

  • Mistakes are completely normal and nobody will judge you so allow yourself to make them
  • If you feel uncomfortable don’t panic, just accept that it is okay to feel this way initially
  • Understand you will not be perfect or fluent overnight
  • Remember that locals will respect you for trying and will find lingo attempts charming
  • Remember that there are countless people in your shoes
  • Practice really does make perfect
  • Joining language lessons will allow you to meet more people and gain confidence
  • Take advantage of apps and computer programmes
  • Watch movies, television and listen to radio stations in the language of your new country
  • Utilise local friends who will be able to teach you colloquialisms
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