English is the most commonly spoken second language in the world and is regarded by many as the universal language. In many countries a knowledge of English will enable you to get along. However, even where English is spoken there may be significant variations in the level of proficiency and reliance on your native language rarely allows you to fully integrate into the social and business life of countries where English is not the first language.
Benefits of Learning a Language
Learning a foreign language can give you a real advantage when working in a non-English speaking community. In some cases it is not possible to carry out your duties without learning the local language. The accompanying partner and family can also benefit from learning at least enough of the language to get around. An understanding of the language helps to understand the customs and culture of the country. The act of attempting to speak the language with the local people can help you to feel at home and integrate into the community.
For the family learning the language can help them to get around and to take full advantage of the opportunities in their new community. It can be a great opportunity to develop language skills early in life that can be a great advantage in future years. The accompanying partner will improve their chances of finding work with a knowledge of the local language and it will also give them the opportunity to meet new people in the process.
How to Learn a Language
There are many options for learning a language. It is very much an individual choice to identify which is the best approach for you. Options include:
- Teach Yourself – It is possible to teach yourself with the help of instructional tapes and books together with an organized and determined approach to practice. There is no substitute for time (one and a half to two hours a day) and effort. Total immersion is the best approach by surrounding yourself with the language by listening to radio and TV, reading magazines and journals (especially to learn the technical language connected with your industry) as well as listening to and engaging local people in conversation.
- Structured Courses – A number of the leading language tuition companies provide structured courses on discs, DVDs or online that provide vision and sound to support you in your efforts to learn a language.
- Attending a Course - Formal training can be a very good way to learn a language, especially where they can accurately assess your ability through oral and written tests and adapt their training to your proficiency level if you have a level of existing knowledge. You should be sure that the school is well organized with a clear syllabus and teaching plan as well as suitably qualified teachers. You should also ensure that it uses a variety of teaching methods to keep interest levels high and play to the strengths of different learning approaches.