Practical Advice for Achieving the Expat Life in Portugal.

Move Me Abroad

Do you speak question in different languagesOne of the main fears of an expat (or future expat) is learning the language. This is especially true for those people whose native language is English.  

Why do I say this? Traditionally, Brits and probably Americans too, do not learn other languages well because they are not pushed to do so in school and have little chance to put it into action. It’s OK to do French for a few years a couple of times a week but unless you actually put it into practice it will all be for nothing.

Continental Europeans tend to be much better at languages than we are. The reasons for this are:

  1. They travel abroad a lot more than Brits do – it’s much easier to do so and there is a greater culture of doing so
  2. English is one of the easiest languages to learn so other nationalities pick it up easily to add to their repertoire
  3. Romance languages speakers -such as French, Spanish (and think about how many people in the Americas also speak Spanish), Portuguese (again Brazil and some African nations), Italian and Romanian – are all related by a common Latin base and so they find it easier to learn these
  4. They aren’t as insular as we are and want to learn

But, if we English-speakers which to move to a country where the main language is not English then we are going to have to make an effort to learn. Now, I know that you can probably get by in most places without doing so and plenty of people do, but really is this what you are going abroad for? To just live the same life but in a warmer climate?

So, why should you learn the language when ‘everyone speaks English now anyway‘.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s polite – have many times have you heard people say of immigrants to your own country – ‘why don’t they try to integrate and learn the language’.  Well, it’s true, you go abroad and you have to fit in, not the other way around.  Also, there is a big difference when you go into a shop and ask for something in their language rather than yours – try it and see.
  2. It’s easier to make new friends and experience a new culture – if you don’t learn the language you won’t know what is going on around you and what you are missing.
  3. It’s good for your brain – not only is learning a language fun and interesting, but it also helps keep your brain active – and won’t everyone think you’re clever if you can speak another language?
  4. You’re less likely to get ripped off – if you don’t know what people are saying or what the paperwork in front of you means, how do you know everything is above board?  Sure, you’re not going to understand everything straight away but it’s a good idea to know the basics.
  5. It’ll expand your horizons – this one is a bit difficult to quantify but when you find yourself speaking another language you start seeing things a little differently and start to see the world in new ways!

So, there’s 5 reasons to learn the language of the country you are moving to. There’s plenty of more but these should give you food for thought. Of course, it’s a lot easier said than done. Look out for future articles about how to go about it!

What about you? Have you learnt the language, has it helped? How did you do it? Are you trying to learn or have you just decided not to bother? Let us know.