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Learning the language of your country - some top tips

When moving overseas, one of the biggest concerns for prospective expats is likely to be how easy it will be to fit in with the locals. Moving to a foreign country can be intimidating, especially when travelling to a place with a culture which is vastly different from home.

So, it's understandable to want to make a good impression in the community, and there are several ways this can be achieved. One of the most effective ways is to learn the native tongue.

It's true that you can get by in many countries with little or no words of the language. But even in places where learning the language isn't much of a necessity, such as in Spain, where the British expat community is so large that it's perfectly easy to fit in without ever knowing a word of Spanish, making the effort can still be a worthwhile venture.

For one thing, it can open up new opportunities – if you've moved for work, competent language skills will be great for furthering your career. Recently, we looked at how speaking a bit of Dutch is one of the best ways to ensure a smooth transition into the workplace in the Netherlands (aside from receiving guidance from our experienced advisers based in the Netherlands, of course).

Possessing good language skills can also help expand your social circles and can generally be a fantastic way to occupy your time, allowing you to immerse yourself in the culture and fend off any feelings of isolation – something that commonly causes expat stress.

And while it's easy to talk about the benefits of learning the language of your chosen destination, actually doing it is another story entirely. It might feel like an insurmountable challenge, but there are plenty of ways you can simplify the process and have fun at the same time. And the sooner you start, the better.

Be properly equipped

A notebook and a pocket dictionary are a language-learner's best friend. You will continuously be picking up new things from the world around you, so when someone speaks a phrase that you've never heard before, it's good to have somewhere to write it down, so you can investigate in your own time.

Making a habit of looking up unknown words and phrases every time you hear or see them is a great way of slowly expanding your vocabulary.

Be realistic with your time

Learning a new language is usually a gradual, time-consuming process. Sometimes, students spend years on language courses so they can become fluent. While it's understandable that you'll have other time commitments, you may need to give more than an hour or two a week if you want to progress quickly.

Ideally, you should try to spend some time studying every day. However, trying to take on too much information in one session can also be counter-productive, and it could become tricky to memorise all you've learnt. Bite-size might be the right size for you, so do what feels comfortable.

Absorb media

Television, films, the radio – these are all great resources for immersing yourself in the culture and language. You'll eventually find yourself understanding more and more. For films, try watching with subtitles and then switching the subtitles off to see how much you recognise.

Join a course

You may find that you get along fine by teaching yourself with your own resources, such as self-help books and online language sessions, but sometimes getting help from a professional tutor is an effective option. Joining a class can be a good idea if you lose focus easily when learning by yourself and it could also be a great way of meeting people who are in a similar situation to you.

You can also choose a course that suits your particular skill level. So if you're a complete novice, a beginner's class will be a great way of learning the basics, such as grammar and pronunciation, in a structured manner.

Practise in real-world situations

A classroom is great for confidence building, of course, but practising in real life conversational experiences is essential if you really want to take your learning experience to the next level.

After all, the whole reason for becoming acquainted with the language is so you can interact with the locals in everyday situations. If you have a friend in your new country who can speak English as well as the native tongue, they can be a good starting point. Let them know you're in the process of trying to learn and ask if they can spare some time to have some practice conversations with you.

Don't be put off by mistakes

It's understandable that you may have some anxiety over looking and sounding foolish when attempting to hold a conversation with new people, but making mistakes is a likely –in fact, necessary – part of the process.

Be realistic. If you ever find yourself getting frustrated, remember that it's always going to be a while before you get the hang of it, and that's OK. Be patient and forgiving with yourself, and, just with any other large undertaking, don't let any small slip-ups put you off from achieving your goal.

Even if languages are not your strong point, we're sure that using these tips could help you vastly improve your skills.

Happy learning, and good luck/bonne chance/veel succes/buena suerta/viel glück!

Financial advice in a language you understand

Although we encourage making the effort to learn the language of your new home country, it's not something you have to worry about if you need expert and technical financial advice.

Blacktower can help you if you are looking for quality expat financial services in various locations across Europe and further afield. We have expat financial advisers in the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, France, and many other popular expat locations to help you with all your wealth management needs.

Contact one of Blacktower's expat financial advisers today for bespoke advice on your savings in a language you'll understand..

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