5 Things I Learned From Working In A Country Where I Couldn’t Speak The Language

When I moved to Spain last October, my knowledge of Spanish was limited to “Hola, que tal?” (“Hey, how are you?”).

Seven months later, I can say that I’m today able to carry on a conversation in Spanish, but I also have to admit that the first month was quite rough: I was living with a French girl who spoke next to no English, working with people who weren’t used to my Spanish accent whenever I tried to say at least something and when meeting new people, I found it hard to introduce myself due to my limited vocabulary.

A friend I met that month likes to say, “Sometimes in life you win and sometimes you learn” – and that definitely applies to my first month in Spain! To help you adjust a tiny bit better to your first month in a foreign country, I collected five things for you that I learned from working in a country where I couldn’t speak the language.

#1 Speak.

Especially in countries where not everyone is able to speak English well, most people are delighted when you at least try to say some phrases in their language. Try to learn at least basic phrases such as how to introduce yourself and don’t be shy – just give it a try!

#2 Listen.
The first four months in Madrid, I had no access to a Spanish course and so I noticed how much you can just learn through listening. Whether it’s by listening to how natives apply grammar or by picking up new phrases or specific sayings, try to concentrate and listen!

#3 Learn.
There’s a lot you can learn just by listening and try to speak, but sooner or later you will get to a point where you will need to learn the grammar in order to apply it properly. After three months in Spain, I had the feeling that just by “living Spanish” I could not advance more, I needed a Spanish course. By the way, you need to do more than just a course, though, reading grammar rules, doing exercises and noting down new vocabulary is what it takes. Check out our list of the best courses for learning online.

#4 Accept.
Personally, I consider this the greatest challenge I had to face: I was working together with people whose native language was Spanish and had no difficulties speaking it. Soon, I felt like I had to do at least as well as they were doing, but while this was certainly not possible, I was just putting myself under pressure. It may be difficult to accept, but you need to understand that it’s necessary for you to take some time to learn the language and that’s not your fault. “An accent is a sign of bravery”, is a saying I deeply believe in – and you should, too!

#5 Smile.
There’s one thing we can all communicate with whenever words don’t do it: a smile!

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