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How Expat Entrepreneurs Can Learn a Language Quickly and Effectively

How Expat Entrepreneurs Can Learn a Language Quickly and Effectively

Did you know that several million people each year come to the U.S. to open a business and give Americans more jobs?

Just to provide some context – the United States welcomed 3.2 million expat entrepreneurs in 2019. The number might be lower in 2020 due to the pandemic. And it doesn’t matter, considering the general impact expat entrepreneurs have on the U.S. economy.

The idea of opening a business in a different country seems glamorous. But the reality has nothing to do with glamour. You’ll have to face many obstacles, the majority of which aren’t connected to your business.

One key obstacle is learning the language of the country where you’re going to live.

You might be thinking now – what’s so hard about learning a language?

It’s true – there are plenty of language courses out there that you could enroll in and master the basic language level in no time.

But be honest with yourself, will you have time for that? Is it possible for an entrepreneur who’s about to launch a company to juggle work and language courses?


But even the busiest entrepreneurs can find at least an hour a day and learn a language quickly and effectively. Today, we’re going to see how you can do that.

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1. Set your language learning goals

I’m not going to lie – learning a language requires your dedication and effort. Think about it: on average, it takes a person 480 hours to reach a basic level of language fluency. Yes, it’s about 20 days, but nobody can learn for 24 hours straight, and definitely not every day.

Ideally, you should divide this number of hours proportionately. For instance, you can dedicate two hours a day, and then you’ll reach the basic fluency level in about eight months.

What I’m trying to say here is that before you start learning a language you need to set your goals.

First, decide how much time daily or weekly you can allocate to your language practice.

Next, set your learning goals. For that, you can use the Gridlocks technique.

The idea is to set very specific small goals. For instance:

  • I want to learn 20 new words today
  • I will apply my knowledge of new vocabulary at the shop today
  • I will write 30 sentences using the new vocabulary by the end of the week

A gridlock goal is something that challenges but doesn’t overwhelm.

For instance, finding time to learn 20 words in one day may be challenging, but it’s definitely not overwhelming – you can do it on the go or during a lunch break.

You can write your goals every week or month and adjust them depending on how fast you improve. But make them exciting – these goals should keep your motivation high.

Pro tip: Come up with different situations for each goal in which you can’t avoid practicing the language. This way, you’ll also overcome the language barrier faster.

2. Pay attention to pronunciation

It’s super hard to get rid of an accent when learning a foreign language. That’s why most learners just disregard it. After all, it doesn’t really get in the way when you’re talking to someone.

In reality, a strong accent impacts how people perceive you. Studies have shown that people tend to trust the speaker less if they talk with an accent. And, as an entrepreneur planning to open a business abroad, you can’t let that happen.

So, start your journey with a foreign language by learning the pronunciation.

You cannot learn some languages without mastering phonetics first. For instance, if you decide to learn French step-by-step, you won’t be able to do anything until you master all the sounds, even though it’s the same Latin alphabet.

How can you practice the sounds?

Listen and repeat!

Find a few videos on YouTube and listen closely to the way natives pronounce the words. You can find specific videos where a teacher pronounces certain sounds and repeat after them:

Also, it’s always a good idea to ask natives to correct your pronunciation. There’s nothing embarrassing about it – most of them will be excited to help you. Besides, it’s a cool ice breaker to start a conversation.

3. Learn the list of 100 essential verbs

You already know from your mother tongue that verbs help form sentences. Sometimes, just by saying a verb, you can already let a person know what you need.

It’s a known concept in the language learning circles that every language level has a list of 100 basic verbs needed for fluent communication.

Consider the verbs for the German beginner level, for example. It has basic auxiliary verbs (to be, to become, to get), modal verbs (can, must, have to, need), and regular verbs connected to everyday activities. All in all, you have all the verbs to express yourself on the beginner’s level.

You can find the list of 100 verbs for every language in open access. These lists often come with translations and examples of use.

4. Practice vocabulary and grammar together

Having a list of verbs is great, but what can you do with them without proper practice?

Vocabulary tends to stay in our passive memory if we don’t put it to use often enough. But if we practice, it becomes our active vocabulary, though it will take some time before you can use these words without thinking too much.

That’s why, once you’ve learned your list of 100 verbs (or other words), practice them right away. And the easiest and most accessible way to do it is to combine these words with grammatical rules you’ve just learned.

Let’s say you’ve memorized a list of 100 French verbs for a basic level. Now, take them and write a few sentences conjugating these verbs in le présent or present simple tense in French.

In other words, you kill two birds with one stone. You make your passive vocabulary active while also improving your grammar.

Practice is key

World-famous interpreter Kato Lomb knew 27 languages. No, she wasn’t superhuman. She just followed a structured practice when it came to learning languages – one hour a day of active learning.

If one hour seems too much for you, make it 15-20 minutes. Use this time to revise what you’ve already learned if you have no time to get into something new. Just make it regular.

In general, with the right language learning goals, a smart approach to learning pronunciation, and practicing basic vocabulary and grammar, even the busiest entrepreneur can learn a language quickly and effectively.

But the practice is crucial. So, set your mind on the right wave and get to learning.

Guest author: Ryan is a passionate writer who likes sharing his thoughts and experience with the readers. Currently, he works as a digital marketing specialist at Preply.com. He likes everything related to traveling and new countries.

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