February 3

Language Barriers for Immigrants

And how you can overcome them!

Are you new in a country, or a part of your country, where people speak another language than the one you master? Confronting language barriers for immigrants?

Then this article is perfect for you, you will be informed about:

  • Why living in a country does not mean you learn the language automatically
  • How immigrants reduce language barriers
  • On what you should focus first
  • What things can wait until later
  • Do’s and Dont’s
  • Step-by-step list for best results

Why living in a country does not mean you learn the language automatically

I name you two examples of what I experienced here in Switzerland.

As I went to school we got a new schoolmate, a guy from Ukraine. As he came here, he spoke zero German. But he found friends with whom he was spending his spare time. First, it was more communication with hands and feet or playing football, but after a year he spoke almost fluently!

Second example. As I went to a client, an old Italian guy, he lived in Switzerland for over 30 years and only spoke broken German. His wife on the other hand couldnt speak German at all.

What is the difference between these two?

The Ukrainian guy integrated himself quickly, was surrounded by Swiss guys and adopted the language effortlessly in about a year.

The Italian guy told me he was working on a construction site. With many other Italian guys. His wife was mostly at home and spoke almost solely to relatives… of course, in Italian.

It doesn’t mean Ukrainian guys learn faster obviously, but the environment decides how your progress will be. And the environment is clearly a language barrier for immigrants.

Success is not an accident


How immigrants reduce language barriers

It doesn’t matter what is your native language and what is the target language. The mechanism stays always the same.

When you finally moved, everything is new. Daily life things are different, people are, habits of them, culture, the food… you name it. It is a big shift in your life and costs energy.

But start right away! Embrace “the new” every day. Be curious and open-minded.

Maybe you live there alone, maybe with your family, it depends on the individual. In any case, what you should do is try to find new friends! So you will get surrounded by that new environment and you not only learn about the culture, characteristics of that new country but also adopt the language much faster.

If you have acquaintances with you, keep in mind to break through the comfort zone. I know it’s hard at the beginning, but it’s worth it.

Don’t “hide” behind your native language and speak in your native language all day long. The same applies to a possible second language you speak but differs from the target language.

Try to get surrounded by that new world. Here is how your progress will appear:

  • You know the sound of the language, you can name it, without understanding the meaning of the words
  • The most common will start to be your foundation, you start to understand and use them in a very simple way
  • In conversations, you start to understand and express yourself
  • Then you speak in a more advanced way
  • Fluent speaking and understanding most of the conversations
  • Understanding slang, idioms, very fast, or not clear spoken language
  • You start to think in that second language
Listening higher level

Your listening ability will be always superior to your speaking.


That’s natural. Use your ears to first learn to understand, and eventually speak fluently. That’s why the surrounding of that language is so important. You get tons of repetitions out of it for free.

On what you should focus first

Listening.

Simple as that, L I S T E N I N G.

Focus on the spoken word. Spoken word from the voice of native speakers. Watching TV shows is not a good idea in the beginning. Because the level is just way too high, idioms and slang words are used at a fast pace.

I don’t recommend it at all when the skills didn’t get developed yet. Later if you get the basics you totally benefit from it.

But the first thing you need is to learn the most common words. Learn them as you did as a child. Step by step, with many repetitions.

Click the link for more detail. Find in the text block below a guide for learning new words.

If you ask yourself who wants to spend time with somebody who has yet zero skills, read until the end, there will be a bonus.

What things can wait until later

You want to get along in the new country so you need to be able to have conversations. And for those, you don’t need any written words.

Of course, if there is a warning signal or traffic rules written, it is helpful to understand what they mean.

But my point is, you should not learn new words via the written form. This leads you to pronounce words with the sound of your own language more likely.

And even though you will recognize the word as you read it, you will struggle to understand it when you hear it.

Here you learn how to proper learn new words

In school, we learn grammar, what’s about that? I won’t say anything except THAT

Do’s and Dont’s

In a nutshell these are the do’s and dont’s:

Do’s:

  • Find friends fast
  • Be openminded
  • Let yourself be surrounded by the language
  • Break your comfort zone
  • Be curious
  • Be social
  • Make mistakes
  • Be the “Ukrainian Guy”

Dont’s

  • Expect results to show immediately
  • Overuse your mother tongue or another second language
  • Learn grammar rules
  • Focus on written content first
  • Watch tv if you can’t understand it yet
  • Stay at home and hide from the scary new environment
  • Try to be perfect
  • Be ashamed
  • Be the “old Italian guy” *

*sorry if you are an actual old Italian guy, then be an old Italian guy with the approach of the Ukrainian guy 😉

Bonus

I totally understand that jumping in the cold water with zero language skills is scary!

In German, we call “jumping in the cold water” if you do something unprepared and risk embarrassing yourself.


So nobody actually likes to be embarrassed obviously.

Some people are extroverts and find new friends quite easily, others are introverts that find that task more ambitious.

I dedicate that bonus to the introverts. What should not mean you won’t benefit as an extrovert as well!

To find new friends that possess master skills in your target language you can prepare yourself before you jump into the cold water.

And if the question is still open that “Who wants to speak with me when I have zero skills?” Here is the solution:

If you can give the other person the same value back as you take out from him/her. By that, I mean a person who wants to learn your native language in exchange.

This method is called language exchange and connects people that learn from each other.

Finding such persons, that have besides the language you want to learn, also have the same interests, increase the comfort zone. Because with friends, with like-minded people you feel good. And if you feel good and don’t stress you learn better and as a team!

I end this article with two links:

Find a fitting language partner

Why you find the best possible language partner there

With some luck you find such a language parter in the city you live, and if not the internet allows you to connect also over long distances.

That’s about it, this is the way to make the language barriers for immigrants as small as possible.


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