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Advice

Moving to a Country Where You Don’t Know the Language

From the perspective of someone who has done it

It’s 100% doable.

Some people might think moving to a country where they don’t speak the language is a deal-breaker. Well, it definitely isn’t! I know that when I was considering my move to Paris, I was nervous about how I would be received as someone who did not speak French. Would people judge me? Would it be difficult to get by? Everybody I was talking to kept telling me that the French are the worst when it comes to communicating in English… Thanks for the support guys ;).

Luckily, my eagerness to explore a new city outweighed any doubts I had.

And guess what?

Living here without speaking French has not been difficult at all.

My native language is English. And most days of the week, I do have to communicate with people who do not entirely understand what I’m saying, but this has not been a roadblock. In fact, you would be surprised at how easy it is. It’s not rocket science for you and the supermarket employee to mutually understand how to purchase groceries- it’s obvious without my broken French being at all necessary. And luckily, this will be the case with most daily errands you run.

More importantly, however, it’s important to note that big cities like Paris are bound to be very international, with more than one common language. The majority of people I meet here do speak English, even if not completely fluent. So, chances are you’re going to meet plenty of people who speak your language!

It’s a great opportunity to learn a new language.

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Try not to view this as a challenge, but rather as an opportunity.

While there admittedly have been moments where I wished my French was better, trying to understand what someone’s saying, or being able to read signs, became fun.

I was delighted at how much I was learning and in such little time! Every day I left my apartment, I’d learn something new. It’s a very exciting and gratifying feeling to experience yourself growing in a new area of knowledge. You’re acquiring a new talent, essentially, and the more you start to understand the more motivated you become to excel at it.

Aside from all the fun of exploring a new country, learning a new language is one of the most rewarding feelings. The best thing is being able to call your family and friends and show off all those fun new sentences you can say. They will be impressed and you will feel super cool, trust me.

Forget sitting in a classroom and memorizing from a whiteboard. Being immersed in a new language is the best way to learn. You don’t have the option of being lazy or not doing your homework- you’re living it, which is way more fun than essays and quizzes, if you ask me. Immersion in a new language also teaches you cultural, linguistic elements that a classroom isn’t equally capable of- such as innuendoes, jokes, slang or just the mere style of conversing.

You’re not alone.

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There are more people in your shoes than you would think. After all, you’re not the only one who has decided to move to a country where they don’t speak the language.

There are so many expats doing this.

As said previously, big cities are going to be multinational, so expect to meet almost as many internationals as you do people from the country itself. There are plenty of opportunities to meet people coming from all over the world. You’ll meet them at work, through friends, even at the supermarket or the local cafe. They’re everywhere! Because of this, you shouldn’t feel like an outsider.

They,too, had to go through the process of moving, settling, and adjusting to a new place, culture, and language.

All of this means that if you’re craving the company of other expats, or people who speak your native language, it won’t be difficult to meet them. And hey, maybe once you have befriended other internationals, you can even support each other by taking language classes together! I have friends who have done this and they find it to be lots of fun.

Ways to learn

If you're interested in learning a new language, there are plenty of resources to do so. There are fantastic apps such as Duolingo, or Babbel, which allow you to teach yourself! Both of these platforms guide you level by level through the language, introducing different categories along the way, such as 'greetings' or 'ordering at a restaurant.' Duolingo and Babbel are great for visual or auditory learners, as they include both speaking and listening exercises.

Or, if you'd rather learn from a tutor, websites such as Preply are great for this. Preply offers a wide range of online tutors based on what you're looking for. You can filter your search for tutors based on their country, languages spoken, and their rate. It's a really convenient way to learn a new language, from the comfort of your own room!

All in all, don't let language hold you back from what could be one of the greatest adventures of your life! There's always the time and chance to learn, if you're motivated enough. And in the meantime, you'll do just fine getting around, just like all the other expats. And if you have any questions about moving abroad, our team is always here to help.

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