10 Tips to Quickly Improve Your Language Skills While Living Abroad
Immerse Yourself in the Language and Culture

You might move to a totally different country for all sorts of reasons. Ideally, you’ll have had plenty of time to plan and prepare, but it doesn’t always work out that way. If you’ve moved quickly for work, spotted an unmissable opportunity or otherwise had to up and leave without delay, you might have to integrate into a new way of life immediately. Even if it wasn’t that fast, you might have left the language until later as it’s so much easier to pick up what you need while you’re immersed in it. No matter your planned approach, these 10 tips will speed up the process and have you speaking like a local in no time.

1. Always Keep an Ear Out for Common Spoken Phrases

While this tip depends on who you encounter from day to day, there’s a good chance that if the locals around you use specific phrases regularly, they could be useful to you too. It could be anything from ordering a coffee to greeting strangers. You can also improve on this as you learn more, as you’ll start to understand some parts of conversations and can focus heavily on the words you don’t know. This will naturally expand your useful vocabulary further.

2. Befriend a Local Employee

It doesn’t matter the country you’re in – most employees would rather stop to chat than do work. If you find a favourite local restaurant or shop and show up often enough, you stand a chance of befriending someone who works there. Not only do you have the opportunity to put the first tip to work in these situations, but you’ll have a native speaker to consult if you run into any issues.

At the same time, you have to remember that while these people are paid, it’s not by you and they are not your personal tutors. Indeed, friendships based on what you can get out of it rarely work out, so take a natural approach to learning in this context.

3. Always Keep a Dictionary or Translation App on You

Regardless of your progress, until you become fluent, you’ll encounter situations where you can’t say what you’d like to. Here, you have no option but to consult your trusty mobile app to achieve what you need to.

4. Avoid Using Translation Apps unless it’s an Emergency

If you rely on apps to help you out in everyday situations, it’s easy to forget the desire to learn and to focus instead on whipping out the app to see you through. The longer you do this for, the longer you’ll need to keep on doing it. Unless you’re completely stuck, try to save these aids for after a conversation to look up specific words and phrases you didn’t understand or couldn’t put together yourself.

5. Take an Online Course

While it’s great to pick up a language through immersion, there’s no structure to it, and this can affect your mastery of the language. It is easier to learn a language when you don’t just know what to say, but why it is said that way. Online learning, either in the form of a course or one to one tuition, will enable you to enjoy a focused, structured approach to the basics while those around you help with nuance.

6. Make Use of Those with Multilingual Experience

If you haven’t yet moved into permanent accommodation and still live in a hotel, the team members there are a great way to learn the specifics of your surroundings. Those at the front desk and throughout the establishment will have plenty of experience with those that don’t necessarily know the language, and they’ll also know the best places to go nearby for those that want to practice. If you’re still in the early stages of learning, you can also ask about situations where people also speak your native language. It’s not always possible, but certainly worth the ask.

7. Practice at Every Opportunity

If you decide to seek out places where you might speak in your own language, you need to phase them out sooner rather than later. Remember that immersion is the key, and if you want to pick up a language quickly, you need to use it. Whether you go to a shop or a bar, bring out your inner extrovert and use the language as exclusively as you can.

8. Find Local People with a Similar Mindset

There are plenty of apps and online tools that can help you to find like-minded people. As long as you know enough of the native language to explain that you’re not yet fully proficient and hopeful to learn, you’ll make new connections and have the opportunity to practice in real-life scenarios.

9. Try to Avoid being Someone Else’s Tutor Early On

It is not uncommon for the tables to turn and for people you want to practice with instead taking the opportunity to practice their English with you. While selfish, it is best to try to avoid this until you’re comfortable holding a conversation. They have the benefit of speaking the same language as everyone else around you. You don’t, so it’s fair to say your need is more significant right now.

10. Trade Services as You Get More Comfortable

Note that we mentioned timing in the previous tip. Once you have the basics down and want to learn more, a practice partner with the same goals but the other way around can be invaluable. The main thing here is that you both need to accept that this is a mutual agreement. Split the load, conversing in your native language one day and theirs another. You want to keep pace with each other. Fortunately, the friendship you can build throughout this process should see you both pulling for each other with your respective best interests at heart.