Archive for July, 2009

Language Learning: From Conversational To Fluent

Posted on 30. Jul, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation, Tools & Resources
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Congratulations! You’ve been studying diligently, and your language skills have tremendously improved. You can understand and be understood, hold a conversation, and go about most of your daily tasks without having to use English.

That’s already a pretty impressive achievement, and depending on your situation, this may be all you need to master. But if your goal is to become fluent, here are some tips that will help you get there faster:

French language products


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Take Your Foreign Language Skills To The Next Level

Posted on 28. Jul, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation, Tools & Resources

You’ve been practicing up a storm and you are now ready to take your language skills to the next level. You’re almost at the end of your lessons or self-study course and you’re not sure what the next step is.

Here are a few suggestions that will have you on your way to fluency fast:

Old-fashioned English method


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Language Learning: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Posted on 25. Jul, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation, Tools & Resources

“You don’t learn a language to speak it; you speak a language to learn it.” – John Rassias

Well said!

Even as a beginner, it is crucial to step away from your books and start practicing as soon as possible.

Of course, this is much easier if you are already living in your new host country – provided that you actually do go out and engage with native speakers, not just fellow expats.

But even if you are just studying in preparation for your move and haven’t relocated yet (which, as a side note, is exactly the way to go!), there are plenty of ways you can practice those new language skills of yours.

Language tutor


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Language Learning Strategies For Beginners

Posted on 23. Jul, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation, Tools & Resources

Learning a language as a beginner can sometimes feel like a long, arduous slog – especially if you are stuck with an old-fashioned method that is heavy on the grammar and the vocabulary lists.

Here are a few tricks that I like to use to keep language learning rewarding in the early stages:

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Language Learning: Getting Started

Posted on 21. Jul, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation, Tools & Resources

Disclaimer: I am not a language expert, nor am I a teacher. I am, however, an expat with a bad case of wanderlust and this had led me to learn several foreign languages.

What I offer here is based on my personal experience – since I have been at the beginner stage many times in my life, I’ve had the opportunity to test a lot of different methods so you don’t have to!

Language-learning: homework

Study consistently

Ideally, set aside a good chunk of time (45 minutes to 1 hour), and plan on studying every day. If you don’t have that kind of time, don’t let that stop you from getting started! Studying a little every day is tonnes better than not studying at all while waiting for “the right conditions”.

If you do have to take a break from studying, go back until you hit a lesson you master perfectly, then resume studying from there.

Get the right tools

If you are in the market for a language-learning product, your first stop is likely to be the bookstore. Rather than relying on the sales associate’s recommendations, I’d come prepared – you can ask a foreign language forum for recommendations, or you can browse product reviews on sites like Language Learning Advisor or Links 4 Languages.

Make sure that any product you purchase includes a lot of recorded dialogues and plenty of opportunities for you to practice repeating what you hear. Between a thick book with 2 CDs and a shorter book with 8 CDs, I would definitely go for the latter.

This goes for classes as well. Will you get enough practice in the classroom? How much time is devoted to conversation? Some teachers still favour a grammar-heavy, passive learning approach, so it is worth asking a few questions before signing up for classes at your local cultural centre.

What’s your learning style?

Do you learn best through listening? Download some podcasts, or carry your language CDs with you and listen to them whenever you have a few minutes

Are you a visual learner? Make flash cards or track down some language-learning videos on YouTube.

If you’d rather have a combination of text, audio and video, consider online and software-based methods, like and Rosetta Stone software.

If you tend to give up when things get more challenging, why not find yourself a penpal or join a conversation group? Knowing that someone expects you to write back or show up for a group meeting is a good incentive to keep studying consistently.

What are your main challenges as a beginner? If you are more advanced, what helped you get through the beginner stage more easily? Please share your language-learning tips with us!

Do you know that you can get even more expat tips by signing up for the free newsletter? No spam and no hassle, of course (because I’m not that kind of person!), just helpful expat resources sent directly to your inbox.


Image by Jasmic, via Flickr Creative Commons

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Language Learning: Staying Motivated

Posted on 18. Jul, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation, Tools & Resources

Staying motivated and focused can be a challenge in long-term projects, and learning a foreign language is no exception. Without measurable goals and a clear intention, you can easily end up overwhelmed and discouraged.

Even worse, you can find yourself stuck in procrastination mode, with all the layers of guilt and self-criticism that go with it. I don’t know about you, but that’s not my idea of fun.

Keep language learning fun!

Willpower and struggling


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Language Learning: Get An Early Start

Posted on 16. Jul, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation

There seems to be two schools of thought among expats when it comes to learning a new language:
– Some start hitting the books as soon as they learn that they will be moving soon
– Others choose to wait until they get to their destination to learn the new language.

I am in the first camp. While I entirely agree that immersing yourself in the language is the best way to become truly fluent, I would not recommend this strategy when you still have to learn the very basics.  Too overwhelming!

Basic Spanish vocabulary


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How To Ensure Your Language-Learning Efforts Go To Waste

Posted on 14. Jul, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation, Tools & Resources
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So you’ve rolled up your sleeves, broken out the flash cards and sharpened your pen. You’re serious about learning the language, and you’re ready to immerse yourself into your studies. Congratulations!

But before you dive too deep, I would like to give you a short list of the biggest mistakes I see eager language learners make over and over again.

Learning a new language


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Language Learning: How To Overcome A Block

Posted on 11. Jul, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation, Tools & Resources
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So, since it’s so easy to get stuck while learning a foreign language, here are a few pointers to get you, well, unstuck. Because after all, that’s what you came here for!

I'm bored!

Three steps to overcoming your language-learning block (more…)

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Learning A Foreign Language: When Good Resolutions Fall By The Wayside

Posted on 08. Jul, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation

So, you’ve decided that you were going to do the smart thing and learn the language of the country you’re moving to. Congratulations! Even a fairly basic command of the language will open many doors and make the adjustment period much easier.

You’ve bought a great “Spanish in 57 easy lessons” CD-Rom, or maybe you’ve signed up for German classes at your local Goethe-Institut. You’ve equipped yourself with a stack of flash cards and a good dose of determination.

And then… nothing much happens. Life gets in the way. You’re too busy and preoccupied with the impending move. The CD-Rom sits on your desk collecting dust, or you start skipping one German class, then another… before you know it, your motivation is gone, you’re not making any progress and you’re beating yourself up.

Studying at the desk

Good resolutions alone won’t get the work done


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