Getting over language barrier in Scandinavia 

To travel the world is to learn-and visiting or living in Scandinavia could just be another perfect opportunity for anyone who dares to look outwards for opportunities. The region may not be such a popular destination for people planning to live abroad but those who’ve been there will confess that it’s a hidden gem. Possibilities to visit on a tourist visa, accompanying family, studies, research cultural exchange and more other options exist.

The biggest problem that not so many people get warned about beforehand is the language barrier in Scandinavia and smart ways to overcome it. As an English speaker, available public information and even recommendations from those you know may be like you can easily cope with English. Bad news is that English will be fine for short visits but for longer stays, local languages are a must learn. 

For those who have applied to study abroad, a requirement for English proficiency always comes up. This requirement that an applicant have valid TOEFL, IELTS, Cambridge or other English proficiency test scores has made us believe that with English, life will always be smooth anywhere in the world. Check around and know that English may be so useful for your life in the USA, parts of Australia, the UK, parts of Canada and Anglophone Africa. As much as it’s a popular language, proper integration in Scandinavia and larger parts of Europe requires you to learn local languages.  

Limits to English in Scandinavia/Europe

The popular thinking among so many internationals is that the English language is superior and automatically makes one’s life easy as an expat. This reasoning can be partly true and also false. For day to day interactions, you may be lucky to use English in many places but sooner it dawns on you that official communications, workplaces, social events all embrace the local languages. For a moment, you will likely feel out of place and have to make a choice to start learning the language. 

While the ability to speak and actually improving one’s English abilities counts, more will be needed in terms of language in Scandinavia. Each of the Scandinavian countries has its own language and they cherish and selfishly promote it. This being the reality, so many foreigners get shocked from day one and have to go back to the drawing board. 

If no one ever told you this as part of the long list of things to do when preparing to move to Scandimabia, you must learn the language. It doesn’t matter much about how good you can speak English. Of course the Scandimabians speak and understand English but as soon as you settle down to living there, more so in small cities,  you’ll notice that life becomes uneasy without the ability to interact in the local languages. 

Language matters on your long journey to entering Scandinavia

If you have already made the decision to start a new life in any of the Scandinavian countries, you might be a little curious to know the new culture. Definitely, your worries may include finding a right place to stay in your new location as well as a solid career and acclimating to the Scandinavian culture. 

Many times, the challenge of overcoming language barriers becomes one of the main concerns that you may encounter when relocating to this part of the world. Interestingly, further, you might have made efforts to learn Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, Swedish  or Icelandic before you arrive in the respective Scandinavian country. However, there are chances that your efforts to communicate might be troubled occasionally. Because you cannot communicate with people and no one understands you, language obstacles might be frustrating. 

If you get lost because you cannot read the roadside signs and directions, the issue could get even worse and you might find yourself walking on a perilous path coupled with myriad confusion. While avoiding these circumstances may not be simple, there are strategies to deal with them. Additionally, foreigners would typically receive better treatment if they at least attempt to communicate in native tongue in their destination country. Walk with me in the following sections to learn more. 

How to reduce language barrier as an Expat

Here are some of the vital strategies that will help you maneuver language barrier in the Scandinavian countries and live a rewarding expatriate life:

Try as much as possible to learn the local language and its colloquial

You should start looking for techniques to learn the local language right away. To ensure that you have a hassle-free expat way of living, it is crucial to become adjusted to the new social standards and way of life.

Language is a fundamental tool of communication among the Scandinavian folks. For you to speak with your curb driver, your neighbor, the cashier at the grocery store, or even your brand-new coworkers at the office, you must first grasp the basics of the language with an instructor. 

Although a limited vocabulary may make it difficult for you to interact socially, you will eventually be fully capable of conversing in the new language in public settings. Engaging with the language you encounter every day: on signs, in railway advertisements, and in little snippets of conversation can assist you in learning. Eventually, you will begin expanding your vocabulary if you look up everything that you do not understand with interest. 

Make friends who speak the native language

No doubt, building friendship through contact is the surest way to learn the native language fast. You can do this through establishing regular contacts at your workplace, school, or even the outdoor and indoor parties.

The first thing that you should do in such cases is to eliminate any inhibitions, and meet as many people as you can. Once you feel at ease around your new friends, you can inquire with them about particular expressions, cultural customs, idioms, or well-known slang words in their native tongue. 

Many expats have been able to attest to the fact that in-person interactions are desirable in hastening one’s learning abilities. However, it may also be practical to sign up for a number of Facebook groups or online forums for expats where you may post questions regarding frequent issues with language barriers that you encounter.

Freely mingle with and pick/ learn common words from the locals

You may have known some of the basics like saying, “Hello”, “thank you”, and “Excuse me” in native language before arriving at your destination. However, you may improve and increase your vocabulary through learning from the local people in the market, restaurants, and the bus. 

Do not also forget that there are plethora of online resources and language apps that can further help understand language. You should however note that learning the language through the local language is best if you want to master it quickly. 

If you are learning Danish, Swedish, Finnish or Norsk with the local instructor for example, you will get to learn its purest form with the slight nuances and accent. It is also possible that your instructor will get better context of the situation and endeavor to assist you wholeheartedly.

Take notes for future reference

You will realize that in your daily life, many of your interactions with the locals might end up being repeated. You will frequently use words like “hello,” “thank you,” “goodbye,” as well as the names of the readily available food and drinks. It is important that when you come across one of these, write it down on your phone or in a notebook along with the details of the circumstance to assist you remember it in the future.

Be positive and realistic

Lastly, it is important that you demonstrate a high level of positivity. I hope you are aware that moving into a new country, especially those in the Scandinavian region is not a walk in the park. It is associated with many challenges. 

Despite the fact that it could seem burdensome, know that it is a necessary step and does not undermine your abilities to learn new languages. Keep a record of everything that happens, but always remember to have patience with both yourself and other people, particularly when dealing with difficult people. 

Final Tips 

Language barrier is a big challenge in Scandinavian  countries. The only way you can make sense out of the situation is to regularly use the language of the country you are living in. If you have a busy schedule, set aside an hour each day to study the language. 

Numerous language-learning apps are also available to aid in the enjoyable and speedy acquisition of new languages. Some will even help you in translation! I hope that this list has been able to provide you with a few pointers on how best to deal with language challenges while living abroad.