My feed

to access all these features


To move to a country where I don’t know the language?

55 replies

Ribrabrob · 17/11/2019 06:37

I want to move to a country that I love and have visited regularly. This country is fairly easy to get a visa for (although not in the EU) so that’s not really a problem. I will need to work there eventually, however fortunately this isn’t a main priority and I will be able to get by for a little while without.

The thing is, is that I don’t speak the language - at all!

Aibu to move to a country whose language I do not know? Will it be easier to pick up while I’m living there, rather than just using apps and books etc (like I’m doing now). The language is one famous for being hard to learn! And I can’t say I’ve ever been too great at learning languages, even at school. However, it’s my dream to live in this country and I don’t want this to hold me back.

OP posts:
Howdidido · 17/11/2019 09:59

Bearing in mind this is an anonymous forum why not just post what country and get some direct advice for that country? R even for an area/language. Loads of people living abroad on here who can give advice.
In general- if you're not leaving immediately start learning the langauge now. Get a teacher and knuckle down.
You can be an English speaking ex pat nearly anywhere, but if you love a country and want it to really be your home then you should make the effort.

Damntheman · 17/11/2019 10:20

I did this! It worked out ok. Took me 7 years to achieve a fluency where I pass for local but it wasn't easy! Easier though than learning from apps.

BlueJava · 17/11/2019 10:22

Yes - provided you are willing to put the effort in to learn the language!

AlexaShutUp · 17/11/2019 10:27

I have done this twice (both Asian countries, one with a language that is generally considered very difficult). It was absolutely fine on both occasions but I did work hard to learn the language prior to departure/post arrival and I'm very quick to learn new languages in any case. I don't think you will just pick it up as a result of living there - you will need to invest time and effort, but your progress will be quicker than it would if you were learning over here.

Many expats do manage without ever really learning the language of their host country, but frankly, I think it's really rude not to make an effort and it does make life more difficult.

MonaLisaDoesntSmile · 17/11/2019 10:30

@HulksPurplePanties There are hardly (none?) any countries out there where English is 'the business language' that don't have English as an official language. So unless you get a job beforehand in a company that knows you don't speak tha language and where you deal mainly with English speakign customers, in most countries you would not even be offered the most basic jobs if you cannot communicate in the language.

FizzyGreenWater · 17/11/2019 11:20

Go for it!

Look, if it doesn't work out... you come back.


Have an adventure.

You don't have to work immediately so it will be loads easier in that respect - you have a safety cushion.

Learning the language will be a lot faster once you are there in the deep end!

Just be careful about location. Try to be somewhere large enough where you could for example find a language teacher. And maybe the odd expat thing so you aren't completely isolated to start.

I know a couple of people who have immigrated to slightly odd choice countries, one has been there for 25 years now and speaks the language like a (slightly-oddly-accented) native.

Also, what is the country? You can say so quite safely I'm sure, and you'd probably get some great advice. I'm guessing Hungary. Grin

ForalltheSaints · 17/11/2019 11:23

You should be prepared to learn. Unlike those who moved to Spain in recent years and cannot be bothered to.

MyOtherProfile · 17/11/2019 17:37

Fizzy, Hungary is in the EU!

FizzyGreenWater · 17/11/2019 17:38

Oh sorry I missed the non-EU bit! Grin

FizzyGreenWater · 17/11/2019 17:39

I was focusing on the language being hard to learn bit and skim reading other bits!!!

redchocolatebutton · 17/11/2019 17:43

I did.
not lying it was hard.
it is entirely different being somewhere as a tourist and living there.
many people here speak excellent english, but you come across many work people (plumber, optician, parcel delivery, elderly neighbours...) who don't.
a combination of language classes and internet based learning helps, but still it takes ages to get confident.

MyOtherProfile · 17/11/2019 17:51
FizzyGreenWater · 17/11/2019 17:53

Lol. Maybe it's France? Spain? Wot ees thees EU of which you speeeek?


elmosducks · 17/11/2019 18:25

We did it! It's so easy to fall into the expats trap but we were determined. I am not fluent but DH and the 4 kids are.

It isn't easy, but can be doable. Find a social media group for expats first to help you navigate the starting blocks

thebadcop · 17/11/2019 18:31

you can learn the language!

based on your country description, I guess we may be talking Turkey. Turkish is linguistically a very, very easy language to learn. I lived there for a while, did some courses and picked it up quickly. It's much easier than other European languages such as French or German for example.

You said you will have to work 'eventually' - sounds like you have time to learn the language. I mean what is the point of moving to a country and not knowing or panning to learn the local language. I learned English when I came to the UK as a young adult and have now a professional role (and languages don't come easy to me). All doable with a bit of effort .

Joerev · 17/11/2019 18:32

My friends loved to Switzerland. Stuck their English speaking kids into a full Swiss school. Speaking only Swiss German at the age of 4 and 6! Said it was the best thing ever. All were fluent within two years.

thebadcop · 17/11/2019 18:32

harder than the language is living in another culture - it's very different from going into a holiday esp of the culture in the new country is quite different from where you are from. Don't underestimate this aspect.

Joerev · 17/11/2019 18:34

@Skysblue. Not true about Russian. I found Russian way easier than french. It’s phonetic. So as long as you know the 36 letters of the alphabet and how they sound. You’re good to go. It’s literally THAT easy! Love speaking russian .

haveuheard · 17/11/2019 18:40

I wouldn't choose to move somewhere without at least basic conversational language.

Dutch1e · 17/11/2019 18:40

Go for it on the understanding that unless you work for an English-speaking international business you will only ever get the lowest of low jobs (if you're lucky).

I've lived in 8 countries but have always worked for myself online. There is no way in hell I could compete with a local when job-hunting.

DotForShort · 17/11/2019 18:57

Learning a language as an adult requires considerable effort but it's certainly not impossible. Immersing yourself in the language will speed up the process, but just living in a country where the language is spoken will not automatically mean your language skills will improve. You have to be actively engaged in developing your proficiency.

My top pieces of advice would be:

  1. Make friends with locals who are happy to speak with you in the local language. Avoid the English-speaking community as much as possible.

  2. Do your best to lose the fear of making mistakes. You will make mistakes in any case, but the fear of failure can be very inhibiting. Once you lose that fear, you will speak more and as a result improve more quickly.

  3. If you are with people who speak English in addition to the other language, try to avoid asking "How do you say [such-and-such a word] in X language?" Relying on constant translations from English will hold you back. Learn the all-important skill of circumlocution.
HundredMilesAnHour · 17/11/2019 19:01

I think it can vary quite dramatically depending on your ability to pick up other languages, how immersed in the native language you are and how much effort you put in.

I have friends who/ve lived in another country for 8 years now and they're still just about at "restaurant ordering" level in the native language. But they mix almost exclusively with expats and even work with expats. They have very little understanding of the local culture but that's not helped by them spending their free time in "English/Irish/Scottish" pubs. It's their choice and they're very happy but I must admit that I'm always a little mortified by their lack of integration into the local life. I took a different approach when I lived there as I already had a degree in the local language and had lived there previously, and I was the only non-local where I worked so I was very integrated with the locals and spoke mainly the local language all the time. I ended up with two sets of friends - locals and expats - and the two didn't always mix well.

I've also lived and worked in a country where I was very much an expat and arrived not speaking a word of the local language which was notoriously difficult to learn. But the business language was English so you could easily live there speaking English the whole time. I was the only expat in my business area though so I had to do my best to understand the local culture very quickly and I learnt some fairly 'choice' phrases (and gestures!) But I have an ear for languages so I find it relatively easy to pick languages up and I enjoy doing it. It was hard though. It's not just the actual language. It's the not understanding how things work (especially official/govt things) down to things as simple as not knowing where to find a dry cleaner (or be able to communicate with them).If you're working long hours and trying to prove yourself at work, plus trying to find somewhere to live (and open bank accounts etc), as well as have an actual life, it can be exhausting. You don't realise how many things you take for granted until you move somewhere where you don't know a soul and you don't understand the language or culture. But it can be done. Just be kind to yourself and try not to let the culture shock hit you too hard (because it will at some point).


Don’t want to miss threads like this?


Sign up to our weekly round up and get all the best threads sent straight to your inbox!

Log in to update your newsletter preferences.

You've subscribed!

DotForShort · 17/11/2019 19:04

Joerev, Russian pronunciation isn't that simple. Many letters are pronounced differently depending on a variety of factors, e.g. pronunciation of vowels depends on where they are placed in a word relative to the stressed syllable, consonants can be palatalized, etc. Native speakers of English who learn Russian have to work very hard at phonetics. Most end up speaking with a heavy foreign accent.

bridgetreilly · 17/11/2019 19:18

My in-laws moved to France 15 years ago. FIL still can't speak French.

And I bet the locals just love him...

tillytrotter1 · 17/11/2019 23:22

Avoid the expat trap or you'll find it hard to learn. Immerse yourself in the language and you'll be surprised how quickly you learn. I recall a CHinese boy coming to our school without a word of English, after 18 months he left because of his father's job relocation, he wrote us a beautiful letter, excellent English, he said the first words he recalls learning were Don't run!

Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.