Sunday, September 27, 2015

Why speaking the local language as an expat is awesome

As an expat living in Germany, I'm keen to fully experience German life and culture. Part of that involves learning German and I'm finally starting to see some tangible fruits of my language learning labor.

Learning the local language affords one the following benefits:

  •  Conducting your day to day responsibilities is so much easier. Even if one's job is in her primary language, she is still confronted by the realities of day to day living. Even in Germany, where many people know English, it's not always possible to conduct business in English. For example, when I call my internet provider, staff will not speak English. 
  • It deepens communication with people who already speak fluent English. For example, I have friends who are very fluent in English but once in a while aren't familiar with some of the concepts or vocabulary that I use. At this point, I can often supply the German word for it and we both have the "ah-ha" moment. It's awesome!
  • It gives one an opportunity to meet people that one might not have had the chance before. For example, I'm able to have a conversation with a Tunisian woman because we both can speak German together; she doesn't speak English.
  • It allows one to join community events. For example, I joined a meeting of a local organization and could basically understand what was going on.
  • It takes some of the stress out of traveling. I can (usually) decipher the announcements on the train when service is disrupted. If I can't catch the message the first time, I can ask another passenger.
  • It allows one a less touristy experience. For example, I don't have to eat at restaurants where there are pictures of the food or menus in English. I can go to the more local restaurants and translate the menu and order for myself, in hopes of avoiding the tourist traps.  
  • It gives a person a new way of seeing things. The German language, for example, has words that express concepts really well. The English language doesn't have such words as Schadenfreude or Kummerspeck but we could certainly use them to talk about taking pleasure from someone else's misfortunes or gaining weight from sorrowful eating.


  1. Greetings!
    I was surfing the web looking for some indepth details about living in KTown and here You are!.
    As we ( my wife and I) are moving soon to start the VHS courses and to accommodate with my work in the "german style"
    I searched for a community of my "natives" in KT but it appears that no one is really interested in the city (maybe lucky me).
    Anyway, i wonder if we move there can we contact you for some helpful advise and "tips&tricks" ?
    if you think that you might have some time for hinting us please let me know and tell me where to PM my email ( idk if it shows here hehe)or any contact detail.
    Many thanks in advance, great useful blog!

    1. Welcome to the town! A big hint I have for the VHS is to register early. This semester saw the lower level classes fill up quickly (if that's what you're seeking).

      As far as further hints, I can recommend looking at the tags in my blog - especially ones like "Living in Kaiserslautern," "Germany," "Cultural Differences," etc. I've covered a lot of ground in those categories :)

    2. Thank You!
      Sadly we are waiting for some paper work to be done and we can't just jump in yet.
      I will keep an eye on the blog and hopefully it would help out!
      Many thanks! hope you hear from us soon in KTown :)

  2. Good points! Another benefit of learning the local language is to be able to have a better idea of what's going on locally. I live in a very small community, and there is no English in the Stadtinfo office or in the newspaper or community newsletter. I'd miss important community announcements and reminders ("Remember to honor the noon quiet time from 12:30 to 14:00!") if I didn't understand German.

    There are so many reasons to learn the local language where you live!

    1. Great reasons! It really fills in one's daily life.