I draw upon my own experiences when writing this in the hope that it will help some of you understand that moving abroad and having to learn a new language isn’t as bad as you might think. Lot’s of British people shy away from moving somewhere that means you might find it hard to communicate.
Obviously, there are many of us who have partners that are native to the country you’re moving to so speaking a foreign tongue shouldn’t be that hard. After all, in the beginning you can rely on your other half to help you.
Ashamed as I am to say it, there is also a good deal of people that move to other countries and never learn to speak the local language, (well not enough to have a conversation anyway). I actually fall into the bracket of people that thought it wouldn’t be that hard to learn once I arrived in my chosen country. Little did I know what was to lie ahead of me!
I actually spent some time in Uruguay, a tiny but beautiful country bordering both Argentina and Brazil. This is a Spanish speaking country and whilst I didn’t take lessons before arriving, I had armed myself with some rules that would help me make the transition.
It wasn’t until I got there that I realised all the “rules” I had learnt were only going to make people smirk. You see, in this part of the world they have their own dialect of Spanish and whilst you will get away with speaking the European version, you’ll often find yourself being corrected. The differences are subtle, but do make you stand out.
I actually ended up having a lot of fun (once I managed to stop turning something not unlike crimson every-time I opened my mouth)! I was fortunate enough to have made friends with a local family who spoke little to know English. After all, why should they?
So how did I learn?
Here are some tips for you:
- Buy as many phrase books as you can lay your hands on.
- Take some lessons before you arrive in your chosen country. (I wish I had taken my own advice on this one)!
- If you can, when it comes to television get programs in your own language with local subtitles, I ended up surprising my husband with what I knew just by reading and listening at the same time.
- Get involved with your neighbours. Mine were just great! We started off with a laptop and a website that would translate for us (believe me this will give you all some laughs along the way).
Above all ENJOY yourself. Everyone makes mistakes when they’re learning a new language, and you shouldn’t be shy. The locals will thank you for at least making the effort and you’ll be surprised at how helpful they will be. This is just one part of what’s so exciting about starting a new life abroad and you should embrace it!
Author: Julie Coburn