Back to all news
languages - Expat Info

Tips on how to learn a new language

by ExpatInfo
11 Apr 2019

Native English speakers, particularly Brits, tend to be gripped by a peculiar affliction when overseas that renders them incapable of conversing in the local lingo.

Around 360 million people speak English as their primary language and a further half a billion as a second language, so it’s hardly surprising that many of us expect to be understood in our native tongue. And luckily for us, this is often the case. Yet, this doesn’t mean that it is acceptable to rest on our laurels, preferring to rely on the tried and tested technique of asking the way to the beach in English in a very loud voice.

The answer seems patently obvious…to avoid the ignominy of a disinterested shrug or chilly stare from the locals, English speakers could make more of an effort to learn the language of their adopted country.

How can children learn a new language so easily?
Children’s brains are like sponges, constantly soaking up knowledge and they are delightfully free of inhibition in using foreign words. Kids brought up in an English-speaking home who are exposed to different languages in the classroom and playground, tend to grasp a new language without even realising it. Their need to socialise and be accepted is so great that, rather than be left out, they unconsciously start developing a vocabulary, without giving a thought to the fact that the word they have adopted is outside of the English they hear at home.

Whereas adults have to apply themselves to learn and are much more aware as they pass through the five stages of learning, from unconscious incompetence right through to conscious competence and finally mastery.

You want to learn a new language: Tips and tricks to help you achieve that.

First off, you have to be motivated to learn a new language, and what better reason than be able to converse with the locals and getting the most out of your expat experience.

Find a study buddy
There’s no need to learn alone. Join a language group or if you know someone who also wants to learn the lingo, why not join forces and practice. On the days when you’re tempted to miss your lesson or to skip ‘intercambio’ sessions, your study buddy can spur you on.

Practice makes perfect
Would-be rock gods think nothing of practicing their moves in front of a mirror with a hairbrush, so don’t feel shy about perfecting your pronunciation out load on your own. There’s no one around to hear you and if there are, they’ll applaud your efforts to progress.

Make it matter
If you find studying a chore, make sure you start by learning vocabulary that you need for everyday life, maybe how to get by in restaurants, socialising and shopping to start. Once you start seeing the benefits it will spur you on to expand your repertoire.

Make it fun
Who said learning the language needs to book based, you can learn just as much in social situations. Get out of your comfort zone and mingle. Everyone enjoys a laugh and light-hearted banter, so why not ask your language group or buddies to meet in a bar or coffee shop on the understanding that only the language you are learning should be spoken.

Cast off your inhibitions
Don’t be shy, so what if you get it wrong a few times! Not everyone finds pronunciation or conjunction easy, but give it a go.

Listen to the locals
Really listen to how others speak the language, so you can start to get to grips with their pronunciation and associate the words with objects and actions.

Watch how words are formed
Watch their faces closely. We’re not advocating staring, just being mindful of how they speak. Use the same technique as learning to lip read by watching how the words are formed will help with pronunciation.

Give it 100%
Get out there and be daring. Explore your surroundings, start conversations with strangers and develop the same disregard children have for making mistakes.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure, you’ll risk very little because most people will help you if they possibly can. Both native speakers and fellow English speakers who have been in your shoes and already learned the lingo will respect you for making the effort.

As with most of endeavours in your life, the more you give the more you’ll get out of it!

Tell us what you think

Suggested Stories

An expat’s guide to Singapore

Singapore was recently awarded the best country for expats to […]

Best countries in the world for expats

Want to move overseas but not sure where you should […]

How to adjust to a new culture

If you have ever moved overseas, you’ll undoubtedly have encountered […]

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter.

The ExpatInfo team

Thank you for contact us, will be in touch shortly .

The ExpatInfo team