Could I have moved abroad if I didn’t speak the language?

Put simply, yes. Would it have been so easy? Probably not. But it all depends where you go and what you actually want from the experience.

Maybe languages aren’t your thing?

Remember my first night out when I arrived in Frankfurt, the one I went to on my own? It was an English speaking event for expats. It was great; I could easily speak to everyone without any miscommunications and whilst laughing, wasn’t concerned that I might not have actually understood the joke properly.

Lingua Franca– a common language spoken between speakers with different mother tongues. 

English is the global lingua franca (this is my favourite word btw) and I really don’t think that fluency in the native language is a must in major European cities. English is used daily in international companies, major cities have English restaurant menus and even screen cinema films in English too. It’s always useful to know the basics to help you get from A to B but the locals are usually patient and appreciate your efforts.

Thing is, speaking English all the time just isn’t for me. I love that I use my creative English language skills at work and I do have friends who I speak to in English, but I didn’t study German for 11 years, to move to Germany and not speak the language at all.

So I purposely surrounded myself with German speakers (who I get on with). Even though most of my friends speak fluent English, I’ve never had an English conversation with some of the people I know. I speak to my colleagues in German, I read German, I write German and I watch German films, but this is because I want to, it doesn’t mean that you would have to.

What if you don’t speak the language but want to learn?

If this is the case then there is no better time to learn a language than whilst living in the country. Taking a class is the most logical step, but you will naturally speak the language every day whilst food shopping, buying cinema tickets and ordering drinks. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your language skills improve, it may just take a bit of hard work to begin with. For example, getting into the habit of listening to the radio in the morning is the perfect way to improve your language skills, as well as reading news articles or blogs. You don’t have to move abroad to learn a language, but if you’re going to move abroad anyway, then being immersed into the language and culture is the perfect opportunity.
Just for the record, language learning doesn’t ever stop. I definitely wasn’t aware of this when I took up GCSE German, and especially when I started Spanish from beginners level at university. If like me, you weren’t brought up bilingual or didn’t live abroad as a young child, then you’ve just got to keep going. It’s a challenge but the experience becomes ever more enriching.

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