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Living Overseas? 10 Tips To Help You Easily Learn Your New Language

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Living Overseas? 10 Tips To Help You Easily Learn Your New Language

Living abroad is one of the best ways to truly experience a different culture. It’s an amazing feeling to wake up in a new timezone with new food options, scenery, people, and a completely different way of looking at the world. When you move to a new country it can be a little frightening, and very intimidating–especially at first. However, after you learn the ropes and get adjusted to the differences, the experience takes on a completely new feel.

When you move to another country, everything is fresh and new. It feels great to learn and explore unfamiliar territory. However, the terrain is the only thing that should be completely new to you. This is because having a preliminary sense of the culture and knowing a bit of the language is expected.

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If you’re thinking of going to a new country, or are looking to learn how to speak a foreign language while you are in a different country, the tips in this article will help you to find the support you need. Below are 10 tips to help you learn new languages easily, just in time for your next global adventure.

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  • Listen for phrases that get said in passing conversation throughout your day. Keep a notebook or cell phone with you to make and maintain list of words that you aren’t familiar with and need to learn.
  • Try to find an employee at a local restaurant or department store to help you with languages. When restaurants or stores aren’t busy, employees are being paid to make sure that you are finding everything you need. When it’s slow or there aren’t many other customers, it may be appropriate to ask a few questions about the language, or brush up on a few verb tenses. However, don’t abuse this privilege. While most employees are polite, they aren’t paid tutors. This is a great technique for learning a phrase or two, and having someone who is a native speaker correct your pronunciation.
  • Carry a pocket dictionary with you. This is one of the most important things that you can do because it will program you to listen for words you aren’t familiar with. Always wait until after your conversation to look up words–unless it is an emergency. You don’t want to spend five minutes thumbing through a dictionary while having a conversation about the weather.
  • Work with a language teacher online. This option doesn’t require you to wait until you arrive at a new place, since you can do it anywhere in the world. The good news is, you can continue to learn with your language teacher even if you move to a new location. Check out websites like Rype, which offer unlimited access to handpicked professional language teachers for 1-on-1 language lessons.
  • Speak to the hotel/hostel staff about friendly areas that speak the place’s native tongue. Usually the staff on-hand are trained to work with people from multiple countries and have a process to assist them. However, you shouldn’t count on it in every country you visit. Before you leave to go on an adventure, make sure to ask the front desk if they have any recommendations for places that will speak the place’s native language.
  • Join Facebook Groups, online forums, or other virtual places. You can learn more about people living in your intended destination who are from your home country. More and more frequently, groups of people all around the world are sharing their travel tips thanks to a boom in what is known as digital nomadism.
  • Practice with the bartender. It’s the best way to feel like you’re the one calling all the shots! Plus, you can lose your inhibitions over mispronouncing a word or two and in the meantime, develop a confidence for a language you might not be very comfortable using.
  • Look for Meetup groups. If you are new to a location or looking for new things to do, Meetup.com has organized meeting groups all around the world. Meetups occur at coffee shops, bars, and other public places every week for just about every passion, interest, hobby, or activity that you can think of. It is very likely that you can either find or start a local meetup group that is devoted to learning your chosen language.
  • Live with a host family. There are certain advantages to staying with locals. Whether it’s getting home-cooked cuisine or learning the local slang, it’s always great to meet other people in a new country, rather than journeying alone. Local host families may be free, but working out those arrangements is up to you. If you want paid accommodations that are guaranteed, try Airbnb.com or homestay.com.
  • Find someone who needs to learn your language. This is by far one of the most rewarding aspects of going to a new country: meeting new people and forming new relationships. When you form a friendship with someone who needs to learn your native tongue, you can bond at a deeper level and help them while they help you.

Language learning is a lifelong skill and ideally is something that happens before you visit a country. However, if you really want to go somewhere don’t let a lack of language knowledge stop you. Cut down the barrier by expressing yourself more amicably and make sure to smile a lot–at least until you get a better handle of what everyone else is saying.

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Most importantly, use your lack of knowledge to your advantage. In many cases, people will be willing to lend a helping hand. Who knows? It could become a fantastic way to make new friends.

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More by this author

Sean Kim

Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

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How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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