How to learn a language fast when moving abroad

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Many expats will be put off learning the language of their newly adopted home country because they think it too great a task. The more you stave off getting your teeth into it, the worse the fear of learning even the basics becomes. But the path to proficiency is less rocky than you think. In fact, we think you can be exchanging witty repartees with the locals in a matter of weeks if you just put the effort in and follow these simple rules.

Learner

Find out what kind of learner you are

You may think you know what kind of learner you are, and that visual representations help you, say, far more than aural ones. That said, it’s good to try all forms of learning to truly see whether you are firmly in one camp, or if a mixture of learning styles can aid you in your language-learning journey. Purchase and try a few varying resources and see which one works best.


Have the right tools

Once you’ve determined what kind of learner you are, make sure you utilise it. You can get apps, as we will mention later, that can test you in many different ways, audio discs if aural learning is your thing or you can even go down traditional route of getting a text book if that helps.

Tools

Grammar

Don’t sweat the grammar

It would be foolish to say that grammar doesn’t matter. It really does. But the last thing a beginner needs is a thousand different rules on conjugation and placement of adverbs in their head. Instead, focus on stringing some words together and the grammar can come later.


Learn the basics first

No matter how bad your language skills are, the first thing most people learn is how to order a beer in that language, because that’s life and death stuff. Focus on learning all of the pleasantries as soon as possible – the key 100-200 words and phrases to get by in everyday conversation and show you are making an effort to learn the lingo. You’ll be amazed just how far learning the basics gets you.

Basics

Stretch

Now it’s time to stretch yourself

Once you’ve got your 100 or so words and phrases sorted, keep stretching it out. Having a knowledge of around 1,000 words can get you by in daily communication in most languages. Within this vocabulary set you will be able to connect words to make sentences, and once you begin down that journey, your language skills will only get better.


Find someone, or something, to help you

Trying to learn a language fast and on your own can be daunting. Get someone to test you, even if they are not fluent in the language themselves, to make it fun, rather than a chore. This can be through the use of language cards, app games and more. Get an app to do the same job of testing you, so you don’t need to pester your friend every minute of the day.

Help

Practise

Practise little and often

If your brain’s a muscle, then your language lessons are the squat rack. Make sure you visit them regularly to avoid getting linguistically flabby. Before you move on to a new topic, go over what you’ve learnt previously. And remember to give yourself a break; thinking in another language is exhausting. Don’t treat this like a job – do that and you’ll become disillusioned. Short, sharp bursts of learning are more effective than long, drawn out attempts.


Be a language adrenaline junkie

Learning a language is a lot like skiing down a mountain; it’s as much about getting over your fear of failing as it is about technical ability. Many expats will shy away from difficult situations where their language skills might come up short – opening a bank account in person, chatting with your neighbours, attending a dinner party. But don’t – the more times you’re stretched out of your linguistic comfort zone, the faster you’ll improve, and the quicker you will be able to form complete sentences.

Adrenaline

Head

Have a conversation with yourself in your head

Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting that you lose the plot (though some of the best conversations you ever have do tend to be with yourself). Speaking in the language you are trying to learn in your head is a good way of repeating key phrases which you may otherwise forget, as well as identifying areas where you need to develop. When you don’t know a word or how to properly connect a sentence, you can just look it up when you have time.


Learn online and on your phone

As we stated earlier, the most important ingredient for learning a language fast is having the right tools. Why slog away with a textbook from the Stone Age (unless that’s your thing), when you could be using an app on your phone or on your tablet? There are numerous apps available, but we suggest Babbel; you’ll learn through bitesize interactive lessons, be able to choose exactly what you want to know about and even have conversations with native speakers. Apps in general are a very effective tool for learning and fitting around your daily life. You can use them when travelling on that tedious bus route, when that Netflix programme is dragging on, or even on the toilet. It’s there for when you want to use it, and many apps do offer numerous teaching styles.

Phone

We realise that learning a language is a huge part of the expat experience

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