Is Language Training really needed for Expats? Who was better integrated: Mick, who did not take Turkey language lessons in Istanbul, or Clemencia, who took Portuguese language lessons in Rio de Janeiro?
An expatriate is defined as a person temporarily or permanently residing as an immigrant, in a country other than that of their citizenship
The actual origin of languages is still unknown, despite very precise studies for many years. However, today there are approximately 6,500 languages spoken in the world. Language and culture is what separates us from our primates, making it such an important part of our lives.
When you have made the decision, to up root your life and move to another county, to become an expat, because the opportunity is too great to miss out on, there is a lot of baggage that comes with the change, literally and metaphorically! You have decided that you will leave your home, your family and your friends, your familiar surroundings and your environment because this opportunity is just too good!
Moving day arrives, you have your literal and metaphorical baggage ready, you have said your goodbyes, and off you go, to start your new life. When you arrive, there is a sense of anxiety and excitement at the same time, to see what awaits. You leave the airport, and all you see are signs that say “çıkış” and “taksiler”. This is something you had not put too much emphasis on, the language. You thought everyone would communicate with you in your language; after all, the company you had moved to work with knew you cannot speak their language.
This is what happened with Michael, an expat currently residing in Istanbul, Turkey. Mick, a British national was living and working in London as a wooden boat builder, a carpenter by trade. He worked for a free body, where he learnt the trade. Whilst working in London, he met a man who was married to a Turkish woman and painted such an exotic, wonderful picture of Istanbul, a place where this man had been living for 15 years.
Work was slow in the UK and the trade was limited. This individual found Mick a job, where he would be working as a project manager for a VIP client in Istanbul! The opportunity was grand. He packed up his tools, one suitcase of clothes and went on his way. His English-speaking manager met him at the airport, it was snowing outside and they began the four-hour trip around Istanbul.
The thought; “where the hell am I?” Mick was dropped off at his complex where he would be living the coming months, his only companion, the English-speaking manager, lived an hour away. Now he was by himself.
The first day of work arrived, and he had to make his own way there. Filled with a sense of independence, he got on a bus only knowing one word, the location of the place he wanted to go. Mick recalled that due to his accent, he was not understood, there was moments of conversing, writing the name and the kind bus driver sent Mick in the right direction, needless to say, he got a taxi home that night.
Time started to pass, Mick started to move into apartments that were closer to his work than the apartment he had been provided. Six weeks past very slowly for Mick, until one day he heard a Canadian accent, Mick recalls that he nearly jumped on top of this person and “asked her to adopt him”. Little by little, Mick began to join a network of Expats.
Mick never learnt the language, because he thought he would only be there 18 months, this was in 2008. Even to this day, Mick finds the place intense, and struggles with the language. When he moved to Istanbul, he was learning French as he was hoping to move to France for work, and therefore never fully committed to Turkey. Mick recalled that he has a German friend who has immersed himself in Turkish language lessons, and in his short period of time in the county, has already overtaken Mick in his ability.
Mick has learnt words to get by, and openly admits that just one word can open an array of possibilities for communicating. He finds work complicated and frustrating, he attempts to communicate in his broken Turkish, however he reports that the responses he receives are too complex to understand. He has thought of returning to the UK, however the opportunities are much more unique, and the salary more desirable, furthermore his projects last for large periods of time, and he has never felt as though he could leave mid-project.
In his personal life, Mick mostly socialises with other expatriates, however there are many areas where the language is needed. There was a rather unfortunate event involving some “dodgy” Turkish food, which did not agree with him. In his rather panicked rush into a supermarket, he attempted to ask for (and gesticulate)“toilet paper”, to which he was shown the “adult nappies”, although in hindsight the event is rather amusing, Mick recalls that it certainly was not in the moment!
Although Mick struggles with the language, and the intensity of the place, he speaks about the sense of community in Istanbul, and how he misses that when he comes back to the UK, the relationship is extremely love-hate.
At the same time that our friend Mick is struggling in Istanbul, at approximately 10,278 km of distance, lives Clemencia.
Clemencia moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from Colombia in 2015 with her husband and son as her husband was relocated there. Before arriving in Brazil, Clemencia was very nervous because she did not know the language or the country. She was aware that everyday tasks would become more complicated, such as finding a school for her son and a nice place they could call home. She was apprehensive to create a life that could compensate for her leaving her country, family and friends.
When Clemencia first arrived in Brazil, she felt very alone. She was unable to communicate and she did not understand anyone or anything. In order to communicate she found herself relying on hand gestures and pointing! It was very difficult for her to communicate herself well, and this in itself she was sad for her. Clemencia decided that enough was enough and after twenty days, when she was settled in her apartment after weeks in a hotel, and her son started in a new school, she started Portuguese language classes with BiCortex Languages (former Eszett Business Language Services). Clemencia recalls that the process was easy with BiCortex. She received an answer immediately, in which a schedule was established and a native teacher was found for her.
Clemencia learnt the basic language skills pretty quickly, and soon after, her son also started language lessons. She recalled that her son learnt much more quickly than she did; however, she quickly became more able to communicate with more fluency. The course lasted only four months, but this was enough for her to feel more secure in communicating in general, such as carrying out everyday tasks like going to the market, school, meeting people, or asking basic questions. Although this was enough for Clemencia to feel more secure in her everyday life, she would like to study more to improve further in writing.
Clemencia finds herself able to communicate, understand perfectly both people and the television, which has opened her social life to much more, such as going to the cinema! Perhaps a social activity many expats miss when they travel to a new location. She now feels adapted to the new country, happy and secure.
No one wants to feel like an outcast, especially in a place they call home. It is likely that many expatriates reading this will be able to relate to both Mick’s and Clemencia’s stories. We are honoured at BiCortex Languages (former Eszett Business Language Services) to be able to help Expats and their families to find a place in their new home by offering qualified native and bilingual teachers anywhere in the world in less than five working days. We understand the importance of an appropriate teacher, therefore we guarantee a replacement teacher by the next lesson if you are not happy with the assigned one. All of our teachers have the backup of a trained and experienced pedagogue. We encourage flexibility, adaptability and creativity with the lessons. We are proud to be able to find unusual combinations of teachers in locations in order to ensure that all of our students are over the moon with their teacher, and the result in being able to call their new location ‘home’, ‘casa’, ‘domicile’, ‘zu hause’, ‘chez moi’ or any other way!
Read full article published at Worldwide ERC Mobility magazine