Breaking through language barrier: 7 practical steps

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As mentioned in a previous post, language barrier is one of the most frustrating challenges for immigrants. However, breaking through this hurdle is achievable in a short period of time, if you believe in yourself and acknowledge there is no limitation to human capabilities. Below is a list of 7 practical steps to help you with overcoming language barriers.

1. Don’t isolate yourself

The first and most important step is to not separate yourself from your new society, just because you don’t understand their language. It might be more convenient to live in a bubble and surround yourself with people, who speak your native language. That’s actually one of the biggest mistakes many immigrants make, as delaying learning the language will only bring you disadvantage and disappointment. You have to blend in, integrate, and interact with the community as much as you can, to be able to achieve your greatest dreams in your new home. Don’t be shy and embarrassed if you can’t communicate clearly yet. Just be persistent, invest in yourself and be determined to learn the language. Start communicating with everyone, and don’t worry about what others may think about your language proficiency. With a little bit of persistence you will get better and better every day.

2. Find out about free language support programs

Don’t get disappointed if for any reason you can’t afford paying for language classes. In many countries, community support organisations, such as churches, mosques, libraries, community centres, etc.  provide free language and conversation classes for refugees and new immigrants. Make the effort to find out about what is on offer in your area, and ensure you regularly attend the classes.

3. Establish a support network

Practising the language with other people like you can be fun and rewarding. Try to get to know the people in your neighbourhood or language classes, who would love to share their learning experience with others. Building a network of language learners gives everyone in the group, a huge motivator to interact with others and practice speaking and hearing the language.  This would be more efficient if the members in your group, don’t  speak your native language. This will enforce everyone to use the second language to communicate.

4. Watch kids programs on TV

This might sound silly, but watching kids programs is among the most efficient ways of learning a new language for beginners. If you are still struggling with differentiating the words just by listening, turn on the subtitles so you can read the words while they are being spoken. Kids programs are usually designed to improve and develop children’s linguistic skills. This gives you a great opportunity to expose yourself to a fun learning platform. After all, if you have kids, you have to watch them anyway, so try to make the most out of your screen time 🙂

5. Don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation

You have to break through your fears to become comfortable with the new language. Don’t be afraid of starting a conversation with strangers in a park or bus stop or people in your workplace or neighbourhood. They would usually ask you to repeat yourself if they don’t understand you, and you can always ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. Especially if you live in multicultural societies like Canada or Australia, people are aware of language limitations and different accents and they won’t get offended if you don’t speak your language confidently yet.

6. Ask for interpreter

If you need any critical support such as medical or legal services, be aware of your rights and ask for an interpreter. In most countries, government organisations like public hospitals, borders custom services, courts, immigration departments, police stations etc., provide free interpretation services for people who don’t speak the official language of the country. Not being able to communicate clearly, when you need medical assistance or dealing with immigration authorities to discuss your visa status, can have negative consequences on your well being and the future of yourself and your family. So, don’t take the risk and learn the word “Interpreter” in the most spoken language in your new country and ask for interpretation services.

7. Set a deadline for yourself

Last but not least, set a definitive time-frame for yourself  to reach a comfortable level with the language you are trying to learn (e.g. 6 months, 1 year). Learning a second language is an ongoing process and for most people it takes up to 10 years to develop advanced fluency. However, you need to commit to a deadline to be efficient in getting to a comfortable level, that enables you to communicate and express yourself clearly.  After that, the key to developing proficiency is persistence and grasping every opportunity to improve your linguistic and communication skills.

See the books below for further reading:


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