Just for a moment, imagine you work behind the counter in a shop or behind the bar in a pub and someone from another country comes in.

They obviously want something and they spend a bit of time looking before turning to you and addressing you in a foreign language. There’s a good chance you’re not going to understand and you may say so – only for them to become increasingly impatient, repeating their question slowly and perhaps in a slightly louder voice.

Of course, the language is still strange to you and, even spoken slowly, it means little so the look of incomprehension is likely to remain on your face. Finally, with a gesture of exasperation, the would-be customer huffs and stomps out.

It’s a scenario familiar the world over; the language barrier can be a significant one to overcome, even in countries familiar with tourists – but more particularly when it comes to dealing with officialdom.

If you learn the local language a little, your stay in your lovely new home abroad will be all the more successful for your efforts.

Learning The Lingo

In our experience, if you have your heart set on starting a new life abroad, knowing even a smattering of the local language can make a significant difference not just to how well you’re understood but to how you’re perceived. Make an effort and you’re more likely to be greeted with a smile. Make none at all, and you may be deemed arrogant or presumptuous.

There are plenty of self-help books, phone apps and internet courses available to help these days. Of course, if you prefer you might be able to enrol in lessons in some of the more common foreign languages with a teacher at your local adult education centre before you begin your new life overseas.

But, even for those who have invested time and effort in picking up the basics, the next obstacle is confidence.

Chatting With Confidence

Let’s say you head to the local market armed with a few sentences you’ve learned in advance only to encounter puzzled looks when you try them out. It’s easy to feel defeated.

But it’s not because you’ve wasted time and money; it may be that your pronunciation wasn’t quite right or was too accented and you may need further practice.

Persevere and the rewards will come; don’t take any initial difficulties as a failure. It isn’t; it’s a start. And the more time you invest, the quicker the results will come.

Whether you’re heading for Spain, Portugal, Greece or Turkey, you are bound to make friends with locals as part of your daily routine. Try to encourage them to speak to you in their native language as often as possible; the more you immerse yourself, the quicker your own vocabulary will expand. In fact, some may even suggest a trade-off where you help them with their English in return.

But if we had one key piece of advice when it comes to learning a local language, it would be to try to ensure it’s fun. Too much classroom drudgery can make it a chore and, if it isn’t enjoyable, there’s less chance of you sticking with it.

Good luck with the adventure though – and, don’t forget, if you need any help with finding property and the logistics of moving house, we’re here to help

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