Learning a language takes a lifetime of practice to master. Although theoretical study using books and classrooms is a good way to start, at some point you have to use what you learn if you’re serious about developing your language skills.
One of the best ways to take your language studies to the next level is by immersing yourself through living in a country where people speak the language. Living and working in a foreign country may be your best bet to improve your French, German, Chinese, or whichever language you choose.
You’ll not only develop your language skills but also open the door to making new friends from different cultures. Additionally, living abroad provides the opportunity to try new experiences that will create memories that will last a lifetime. Learning a new language is well worth the investment. Here’s more on how you could prepare to live and work in a foreign country to learn a new language.
If you’re wondering how much time you’ll need to spend overseas to sharpen your conversational skills, consider the following. The State Department’s Foreign Service Institute breaks down languages into four categories according to difficulty. It recommends 600-750 class hours for easier, Category I languages similar to English, such as Spanish, Italian, and French. The most difficult Category IV languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese require at least 2,200 class hours.
How does this translate into living and working in a foreign country? Studying the language while living abroad may be better if you’re interested in accelerating your mastery. But it all depends on your willingness to learn and your commitment level. If you work in a foreign country and speak the language exclusively at least eight hours per day, you could achieve basic fluency in the easier languages in three or four months. Best of all, it’s fun. You may also pick up on cultural nuances and idioms you wouldn’t necessarily learn in school.
Foreigners with limited language skills may have some challenges working in a foreign country. Fortunately, English speakers are sought after worldwide. Nevertheless, finding work could take time and effort. It’s best to network and apply for openings before you go.
One of the first things you should do is to update your resume and adapt it to the foreign country of choice. Keep your CV short, to the point, and professional. Be sure to emphasize your willingness to learn and adapt to a foreign culture by highlighting your language studies and interest in cultural learning.
Once your resume is ready, start looking for work with multinational companies in your home country. A multinational may be your best chance at entering the world of working abroad. You may start at your home office and have the opportunity after a year or two to transfer to an overseas office.
Besides multinationals, check the target country’s online job classifieds. Indeed.com operates in more than 60 countries so you can get a feel for the country’s job market and where you could fit in.
Besides looking at multinationals and the local job market, another option to living abroad to expand your language skills may be working remotely with your existing employer. As long as you have a good internet connection and the discipline to get your work done, your company may be open to the possibility.
If you’re able to transition from home office to working from home anywhere in the world, you’ll need to take extra steps to make the transition healthy and positive. You may be spending a large part of your day working from home alone and need to schedule activities and social opportunities to speak the local language and improve your fluency. Creating a routine that balances work with social activities is not only good for your language skills but also your mental health.
Some language-fostering activities you should add to your daily routine include:
● Continuing regular classes with a language tutor.
● Meeting with friends after work each day and speaking only in the language you’re learning for practice.
● Joining local clubs of activities you’re interested in such as hiking, swimming, or chess clubs.
Many countries have successfully managed to flatten the curve, but the coronavirus risk is still present. In many countries, safety measures include avoiding large group meetings or reunions, as well as restricted classroom and workplace settings. Some countries require masks to be worn in public, which may create an obstacle for someone who is learning a language and is dependent on watching a speaker’s mouth for how words or phrases are pronounced.
The challenges can be overcome by choosing smaller groups or one-on-one meetings and developing your listening skills without relying on watching a person’s mouth forming words. To create a safe experience for all involved, ensure you’re in good health before you go by visiting your physician and be sure to respect a country’s rules around COVID-19 measures, which may be stricter than your home country’s.
Living and working abroad is a sure way to learn a language faster, but it has many other unspoken benefits. Being able to add a section to your CV about your international work experience and language skills could set you apart from the competition. And in a competitive job market, your stint overseas could prove valuable in the future.