Why you should learn the local language when living abroad
If you are living abroad, whether you are a student, an au-pair, or an expat, you will indeed have had to face the age-old dilemma of language learning. It’s true that in most countries chosen by expats, the English language is enough to at least survive. For many expats however, learning the language of your host country is not just a necessity, but also an opportunity for personal development.
One of the main reasons for laziness about studying a foreign language is undoubtedly the absence of a pressing motivation. You may think that surviving using only English will be easier than embarking on a comprehensive language study course. To this, many add the not-so-unfounded idea that learning a foreign language is a somewhat stressful experience, full of obstacles, and, in some cases, frustrating. This depends a lot on the type of learning path you choose. Many language schools now adopt cutting-edge teaching methods and tailor their language course to make the student’s experience pleasant and stimulating – and easier.
Therefore, before embarking on your own learning path, you need to work on your motivation. Why should you learn the language of your host country?
6 reasons an expat should learn the local language
1) To get in touch with locals and with the local culture
English is not spoken fluently everywhere. In many countries the local population is not always inclined to put foreigners at ease by communicating in a language they perceive as a lingua franca. It makes little sense to live in a foreign country if you can’t get in genuine contact with the local population and culture! Locals tend to appreciate expats that at least make an effort to learn the local language, and they are more willing to come into intimate contact with them. With English, you can only integrate indirectly and partially which will make your experience ‘flatter’ and less exciting.
2) To meet other expats and build up a culturally aware community
When you live abroad, you will have an immediate need for a reliable social network. While it’s essential to be able to get into direct contact with the locals, it is also crucial to be able to rely on a solid network of expats, just like you. And there is no better way to establish relationships than by studying a language together! If nothing else, you’ll be sure to forge relationships with curious and culturally stimulating people, as well as have the opportunity to practice your target language together with people who have the same interests as you.
3) Surviving is not the same as living!
Yes, it’s true. Throughout the Western hemisphere, and in most other countries of the world, English is sufficient to survive. But, do you really want your experience abroad to be simply a survival game? Learning a foreign language is like wearing a pair of glasses that allow you to see new colours and shades that you simply couldn’t notice before. And this is what living abroad means!
4) Bureaucracy doesn’t speak English
Just surviving can be challenging when you’re dealing with local bureaucracy. Even in Western countries, the bureaucracy hardly speaks English. And you, as a resident (even temporary), will surely have to deal with application forms, fines, and identity documents written in the local language. In this sense, having even minimal linguistic competence is simply essential.
5) To make your stay abroad an opportunity for personal growth
The world is a beautiful place – it is, literally, the outside, but it allows us to learn a lot about ourselves as we discover its fantastic variety. Language is the means by which humans describe, and in some ways, build up their world, and each language does it in a peculiar way. Recent studies have shown that learning a new language changes our neural pathways, opening our minds to world views that are new to us. Why should you deprive yourself of your personal ‘third eye’?
6) Understand more, understand better
Inadequate language proficiency does not allow you to read in sufficient detail what is happening around you. This can be a problem, both in everyday situations when a linguistic nuance can make the difference between a compliment and a mockery (and puns are always around the corner), and in emergency cases.
Your goal, when you live abroad, should be to understand as much as possible because much of the ‘communication material’ around you is new and potentially full of surprises, good or bad.
Now that you’ve considered just a few of the benefits of learning the language as an expat, I’m sure you’ll be motivated enough to look for a language course that suits you!
Sponsored article from Kappa Language School
About the author: Enrico Piciarelli has 10-year experience in teaching Italian as a second language. He is the School Director at Kappa Language School and a certified examiner for the PLIDA Certificate. He hosts a punk radio show and spins vinyl records at local underground clubs in his spare time.