你會說英語嗎? (Can you speak English?)
By Malgorzata Tekgoz, Work and Travel Market Research Analyst
If we weren’t lucky to be born to a multilingual family, most of us at some point in our lives took attempt to learn a foreign language. Everyone has a different experience, but for many people, living in a country and learning from its native speakers is be the best way to master a foreign language.
But simply living abroad does not automatically make us speak the country’s language. Looking at an example of immigrants who often stay within their community and do not make too much effort to learn the local language, often do not speak the language of the country they reside in.
First and foremost we need to WANT to learn the language and IMMERSE OURSELVES in it. Stepping out of our comfort zone and spending more time with native speakers is a great way to start. Participants of cultural exchange and volunteer programs abroad have one of a kind opportunity to be really immersed with locals: host families, co-workers, and roommates. Being away from home and familiar words and phrases can motivate to familiarize the new and the undiscovered: the new language, new culture and customs. Let’s remember that a language is not only words and phrases, there is a meaning behind it that derives from the country’s history, culture, music, politics and art.
Another tip that helped me personally was to FORGET DIRECT TRANSLATION from your native language, as often times it may make no sense, and focus on listening and repeating new phrases. It’s imitating in a way, but this is how babies learn the language and it seems to work for them!
Exploring LITERATURE, MUSIC AND MEDIA in general is also a great way to enrich our vocabulary, learn idioms and useful everyday words that we might otherwise never hear in a classroom.
Let’s also not forget also about the NON-VERBAL CUES and EMOTIONS expressed in the conversation. While there is a universal body language, every country has gestures that should be learned to add an appropriate dimension to our interactions with locals and often save us from oblivious faux pas. Giving someone thumbs up in U.S. or Europe is a positive gesture, but would it mean the same in Iran or several other Middle Eastern countries? These are the details we should be aware of, as they inseparable from the language.
Becoming fluent in another language undisputedly opens door for a different point of view. It enables us to look at similar cultural phenomenons from another perspective. But on our way to the fluency, BE OPEN MINDED, DO NOT judge other cultures and people, and you may become fluent faster!
POWODZENIA! (Good Luck)