Moving overseas for a career, relationship or just an adventure can be daunting, but moving to a country where you have limited or even zero grasp of the local language can cause others to question your sanity. While you might have the good fortune of your company speaking English on a daily basis and English may well remain your language spoken at home, limiting yourself will make it harder to assimilate, navigate the local landscape and cause barriers in making friends or setting up bank and utility accounts. It’s well known that the older you are, the more difficult it is to learn a language (especially if you’re monolingual), but there are also many stories of people defying the odds and we absolutely reckon you can do it!
Start classes as soon as possible
Don’t wait until you’ve arrived in your new foreign home to pick up language lessons, start them from the moment you decide to move. All major cities in Australia have adult language classes, so hit Google and find something close to your home or work and make time for at least one night a week. Before you know it, you’ll be spouting phrases in a foreign tongue!
Download language apps
There are lots of fast language apps on the market that you can play with in your spare time, to keep what you’ve learned in class fresh. Duolingo is free and very popular. It’s clean interface and games-style learning activities make it a fun way to brush up.
Hit the kid’s section
Listening and reading in your chosen language are two things you’ll definitely encounter daily, so reading and hearing it regularly can help. While it’d be nice to just go and pick up your favourite author translated, you’re far better off starting with books and television shows aimed at children who are already native in the language. These will have simple phrases across the most important tenses (past, present, future, conditional) that you can follow along with, without the brain strain that would come with trying to decode Jane Austen or Mission Impossible. It’s also a great idea to start listening to bands who sing in your chosen language and learn children’s songs.
Practice, practice, practice!
Talk to your pet, talk to babies, talk to the wall, talk to yourself in the mirror. Print out key phrases and words and post them around the house, force yourself to recite them every time you pass by. Learn the names of items in your home and when you use them, say their name out loud . Find native speakers who will speak slowly with you and correct you. Languages are like any other skill: the more you practice, the better you’ll be.
Don’t fear mistakes
When you reach your new foreign home, get out and start talking – even if it’s just to buy bread at the bakery. Insist they speak in their language, albeit slowly (memorise the phrase ‘Can you please speak more slowly?’) and try to respond. Encourage them to correct you when you make mistakes. The fastest way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it, even the embarrassing or awkward moments – you’ll come to laugh at them eventually.