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Why Should You Learn the Local Language When You Expat?

By Internationalcouples @icouples

DictionariesA question that you might have asked yourselves many times is: 'Why should my children learn the local language?' And the other question that follows suit is: 'Why should I learn the local language?'

Why should you and your children master a foreign language in the first place?

The answer is all but complex. And that is the issue since, in life, when something simple dawns on us, then we start wondering why we have lost so much time thinking it over.

The benefits of learning a language are enormous. If you are an international couple or simply an expat family, the benefits of learning the local language are simply innumerable. Moreover, like every major investment, the newly learned language will give its fruits for a long time sometimes making your children and nephews benefit from it.

The article 10 Proven Brain Benefits of Being Bilingual provides 10 good reasons why attaining fluency and mastership in one or more additional languages brings a number of benefits. For example:

It delays dementia

Researchers from the St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto have found that bilingualism delays the onset of dementia. Keeping their brain more active, bilingual people delay the advance of the illness.

It improves cognitive skills

The ability of being able to switch between languages helps your brain keep in good shape and that reflects also on the results that bilingual people obtain, on average, on tests and on sorting puzzles.

It boosts social problem-solving skills

Bilingualism nurtures the 'think out-of-the-box' mindset which translates into higher social problem-solving abilities.  Researchers at the Fordham University used the Raven's Progressive Matrices and found that out of 84 Hispanic children proficient in English the majority outperformed their monolingual counterparts.

It creates a higher environmental awareness and a faster response time

Researchers at the University Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain) have observed that bilingual persons possess a higher sense of perception to external stimuli and also an easier and faster switching-time between non-language tasks.

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Are you sure that you do not need to know the local language?

I understand people who find it difficult to learn the local language since it is difficult to learn a language as an adult. Since the need is the mother of all inventions, why not to invent yourself as a language speaker?

It is not merely a matter of details since speaking or even only understanding the local language might prove a life - saving experience. Culture and a broader mindset aside, have you ever thought of the daily benefits that you can gain?

Emergency situations

Can you imagine handling a car accident, going to the dentist or to the hospital for an emergency and hardly speak the local language?

Shops and grocery stores

As the saying goes, 'They see you coming'. Being the average tourist-like person who does not speak a word of the local language may fit people on holiday but surely does not help international couples and expats. Furthermore, many people can eve end up into trouble because people give them wrong information taking advantage of the fact that they cannot communicate properly.

Understanding the local language is a huge support for shopping, for haggling in the markets, for negotiating the price of your car.

Grow your network of friends

Every place is packed with interesting people and spending time abroad is a wonderful occasion to make new friends. Growing your network of acquaintances will also help your children make new friend s and benefit from both cultures. In turn, making local friends and spend time with them will stave off homesickness.

Boost your career and business chances

No matter if you expatriated for a short period of time or for years, living in foreign country is the best possible way to master a language as soon as possible. Is it just for the sake of it? Of course, not. Being knowledgeable about a foreign language can greatly boost your career possibilities and open many doors. While working for your current organization, being singled out as someone who can carry out tasks in both languages, may lead to promotions or to further periods to spend abroad. Moreover, if you have your own business, you will be able to access new markets, get in touch with business owners, do negotiations and pitch in their own language. That would really change the perception that customers and business partners have of you and your business.

How to start and, most importantly, when to start?

Learning languages takes time and needs steadiness. The good news is that nowadays we can access a number of media that were simply unheard of up till 20 years ago. Internet, Smartphone apps can all be used, sometimes simultaneously, to learn languages. Lately, a number of online language schools have also appeared. Ever thought of learning through Skype for instance?

Start learning before relocation begins

If your personal life allows you to do so, it is paramount to get the basics of your language before the relocation process begins. Twice a week will do in order to acquire the first language-survival-kit. When your relocation actually begins, then you could use the first weeks to immerse yourselves in the new environment totally. For your children, that means extra language hours, watching movies, going to the local store and listening to music and radio.

How to start?

There is not a one-fit-all solution. Some solutions are more costly or time-consuming than others but on the overall, I would judge the results and benefits altogether.

Language schools are the first choice for a number of international couples and expats. You can choose the frequency and the day of the week when to study, whether to go for a class or individual lessons. The main advantage is you choosing the school. The main con is that it represents just another item on the to-do list and see to upon relocation.

Others prefer to let their first periods abroad be organized by relocation companies or by their company HR. The main advantage, in this case, is that you would have to speak with one organization only. They would sort out, in addition to the housing and nursery, your desired arrangements to attend classes.

Are you still convinced that you do not need to study the local language?


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