Learn the language of my new expat country : why ? How ?

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The decision is made : you are moving to Latin America ! But there is one problem : you don’t speak spanish/or portuguese. Don’t worry, I didn’t know a word of spanish when we first moved to Panama, and I was even less familiar with portuguese when we decided to go to Brazil, and guess what ? I’m now totally fluent in both languages. Does that make me an expert ? Not necessarily, but I currently speak 6 languages fluently, understand a couple more, and I have learned them in different circumstances, tried out several methods. I also teach languages, which gave me the opportunity to find out what part of learning depends on the person and/or situation, and what can be applied to the majority.

Do I need to learn the local language ?

Yes ! A thousand times yes ! First of all, many latin americans do not speak english fluently. Although they learn it at school, most of them do not use it, and you will soon find out that a language learned but not used, is almost the same as a language not learned.

The second – and probably most important – reason is respect. When you move to another country, you should want to integrate, to be accepted by a new country and its culture, i.e. you need to adapt. Of course, people are very welcoming and will be interested in you and your story, but that’s just one more reason for you to show interested in them, in their culture, in their language. Learning a language can be hard, but people do not expect you to speak fluently overnight, don’t worry ! Showing that you try, starting with a local « Holà » or « Tudo bem ? » will be greatly appreciated. It doesn’t matter if it is followed by a « do you speak english ?/ Sorry I don’t speak spanish/portuguese » : people will be happy you tried, and will be more willing to help you out.

Finally : do you really want to live in a country without understanding what’s going on around you ? Whether it is general politics, current news, or a discussing between neighbors, you will want (and feel the need) to understand the world you are living in. And learning the language will open up a wide door to not only that, but also the culture, the habits, typical expressions, and the jokes !

So no, you probably won’t become fluent from one day to another, but you will learn everyday slang and before you know it, you will be totally integrated to your new community !

What is keeping me from learning my new language efficiently ?

Usually, fear. Fear of the difficulties, fear to fail, fear to look silly. It is natural. But it shouldn’t hold you back, just try ! Like I said earlier, people will greatly appreciate your efforts, they won’t make fun of you for trying. And don’t forget that the more you try, the more you practice, and the better you get.

Another difficulty comes from the fact that, as adults, we are used to our own ways and we are generally no longer used to learning intensively. Our school years are already way behind us and we lost the habit to concentrate on learning. Especially since we have so many other worries to think about… Learning a language to actually speak it can be a very demanding task to our brain. Try and organize a time slot dedicated to learning the language, a time when you are not interrupted and can really focus on it.

That being said, are you convinced you need to start learning a new language ? You feel ready to go for it ? But when is the best moment to start and what is the best method to learn quickly and efficiently ? Find out right here !

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