While speaking the language of your destination is not a requirement for teaching English (in fact we recommend sticking to English in the classroom), living and working abroad presents you with a great opportunity to learn a new language, and will really enhance your time away. Here are some tips for doing so.
Take a course
If you really want to get to grips with the language of your new home, taking a course is a great way to do so. You could do this by travelling a few weeks before you start work to take a full time course. This will give you the essentials to get by from the start, and also give you a bit of confidence to practice the language from the very start. Alternately, you could take evening/weekend classes while you are working, to improve your language while you are living there. Many schools offer free classes to their teachers, so this is something to look out for if you’re interested.
Practice, practice, practice!
Living in a foreign country is the best way to learn a language because it gives you the opportunity to practice all the time – so take it! Once you’ve learned a few basic words you can start to use them in your everyday life, and that way they will be cemented in your memory and you will pick up others as you go. Good phrases to start with are hello, thank you, how much is it?, directions and food items – these are things you will likely say a lot so if you use them from the beginning you will gain confidence in using the language. Even if you are living in a place where English is widely spoken, try to use the local language as much as possible, it will be really appreciated that you are making the effort. Despite being challenging, you will quickly learn how far you can get with very few words and your vocabulary will grow by the day if you keep trying. For example, when in Cambodia I wanted to order an iced coffee but didn’t know the word for ice, so instead I said ‘no hot’: I managed to get my point across and the woman serving me taught me the word for ice for future reference! It really is a case of throwing away your inhibitions and giving it a go.
Set up a language exchange
A good way to improve your language skills is to set up a language exchange. You could meet, for example, twice a week, and speak English at one meeting and the language you are learning at the next. This is a great way to learn basic conversational vocab and practice speaking in a relaxed environment, not to mention giving you a good opportunity to make friends. You can also do this online using a site like InterPals.
Even when you are living abroad, learning a language is challenging, but with a little hard work, enthusiasm and ability to laugh at yourself as you stumble your way through, you will be surprised at what you achieve.
Language learning blogs and articles
There are so many resources available online to help you learn a language. Duolingo is one of the most popular and can be a great – and fun! – introduction for some people (although there are experienced language learners who do have their criticisms of it). Be aware that if you’re looking to learn either Spanish or Portuguese for use in Europe Duolingo only offers Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese!
One site we love for language learning is Lindsay Does Languages, which is full of helpful tips and ideas to help keep you motivated throughout the language learning process.
Below are a few more useful articles and sites to check out: