Have you ever been to a new country where you did not speak the language? I’m sure most of us have, especially for traveling and on a short vacation. But what if you were moving to a new country? Not having any language skills would definitely be a hassle and a struggle to your everyday life.
I never realized how important it is to speak the local language until I moved abroad by myself to France. Suddenly, I was on my own and needed to learn how to survive with some essential vocabulary around the city. Mundane tasks, such as reading labels at a grocery store, or asking directions, became difficult.
This is why I created a guide of the essential vocabulary you need to know to survive in a new country based on my own experiences. Are you ready?
The 5W’s and How
English lessons always teach us that answering the 5W’s and How is essential for story writing, but it is also important to clarifying information. It is perfect for asking questions especially when you need help and need answers! When I did not understand much French in the beginning, I used to always ask a lot of questions until I got the information I needed.
Here are some questions that you may need to ask quite frequently in your daily life:
- Who… should I contact?
- What… does this mean?
- When… do I need to pick up this document?
- Where… is the bank?
- Why… do I need this document?
- How… do I get there?
Personal information is vital as you probably would be asked on a daily basis, either in conversation or when filling in documents.
For example, on a late night, you might call a taxi to go home. Be prepared to tell him where do you live and possibly even directions on how to get there or landmarks near your house. If you had to ace one thing to say perfectly, I’ll pick the address! Another way is to write it down and to show the taxi driver to ensure they understand you and to get you to where you need to go.
For filling in documents, I would say know how to read the “box” instructions such as your first name, last name, address, phone number, etc. This is key because moving to a new country requires you to sign a lot of documents and you definitely do not want to fill them incorrectly!
The third most important thing I would say is to learn your numbers! Numbers are especially useful when making purchases at the supermarket and knowing how much to pay for your item. When traveling, numbers are probably useful as well for bargaining and asking for the vendor to lower the price!
What about meeting friends and exchanging contacts? Yes, you need to know your numbers to tell them your phone number! Depending on the language, usually after mastering 1-20, you are pretty good for the rest, as it repeats. Then make sure you can count to 100!
The main point of having a language is the ability to communicate and getting a point across, such as what you want and need. If you can convey that using words, that is great, but sometimes we can also convey meaning using gestures and pictures as well. Sometimes, I don’t know what the item is called, but I want to learn it, so I point to it and ask. Having basic phrases to start your sentences are very useful to acquiring new words and vocabulary.
Here are some everyday phrases you may find useful:
- Can you speak English?
- What do you call *points finger*?
- Can you repeat slower? I don’t speak ________ very well.
- Sorry, I don’t understand.
- Sorry, I don’t know.
- I need / want *points finger*
Lastly, you have to try local food when living in a new city/ country! If you don’t live in the downtown, touristy areas, chances are there will be no English menus and you won’t be able to read it. Learning to read basic food items was definitely a goal for me because I feel capable of ordering food on my own.
Here are the main foods you should know in your desired language:
- Meats (chicken, pork, beef, steak)
- Seafood (fish, scallop, snails, mussels)
- Pasta and Rice + different types of sauces
- Drinks + Desserts
- The local dishes and how to say them correctly (that is dependent on where you live)
I think that if you are able to master these five things, that will go a long way in surviving in the country. Of course, the more you can speak and converse, the more integrated you are in. I really found language learning a great learning experience, because you feel instant gratification when people understand you and you get from point A to point B. You definitely see your hard work pay off!
Have you ever learnt a language? Are there any tips you would recommend in addition to mine? I’d love to know!
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