One of the best ways to quickly settle in into your new home country is by getting to grips with the language – the sooner you can understand more about what’s happening around you, and converse with the locals, the sooner you will start to feel less ‘foreign’. Here are Overseas Guides Company’s top tips for getting to grips with a local language, and finding your feet!
Take a few classes before you go
Many colleges will offer basic classes for beginners in several languages, and having a basic understanding before you make the move will be a tremendous help as you begin your life there.
Even taking a few minutes every day can be advantageous. Make some flashcards and say them aloud to yourself, or find someone to have a conversation with.
Take some more classes in your new country
Sign up for evening classes at the local college or adult education centre. It can be easier to learn if you are around other people in the same position, and by having a fixed time to study every week you are more likely to stick to it.
Listen to the television or radio
This can help you get used to pronunciation and rhythms of language. Watching/listening to the news can be quite helpful as this tends to be spoken more slowly. Listening to songs will also assist you – and you can even look up the lyrics.
Try and speak to the locals
If you attempt to speak in the local language, they will respect you a lot more than if you don’t try at all – even if you get it wrong! They will forgive you the odd mistake and even try to help you – and you may find that they love hearing you attempting to speak their language in an English accent. Try and use your skills as often as possible, even if you are limited at first to simple greetings and ordering food and drinks. Try and learn a phrase to let those you are speaking to understand that your knowledge of the language is limited. You may also find that locals are interested in helping you in exchange for you teaching them English.
Read magazines and newspapers
Attempting to read the newspaper or magazines (with the help of a dictionary at first, perhaps) will help to improve your reading, and you could even try out the crosswords or puzzles.
Carry a pocket-sized dictionary
Any words you hear that you don’t know, you can look up and make a note of for next time.
Be aware of local dialects and even different languages
Just as in the UK someone from Norfolk will speak completely differently to someone from Newcastle, you will find that different people in different countries speak differently! In Portugal’s Algarve, you will find that Algarvians have a tendency to chop off the beginning, and occasionally the end, of plenty of words. In Spain, you will need to decide what the best language to learn is for your area – Spanish, Catalan, Galician or another, depending on your location – but having the basics of Spanish understood before you move should help you on your way.
Words by Overseas Guides Company.com, publishers of buying guides in over 15 countries, 0207 898 0549.