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Working abroad

Which do you think is more important for a person who is working abroad?

  1. Knowledge of local language
  2. Knowledge of local culture

Total votes: 1107

Figures do not represent public opinion as a whole

Teaching materials


Do you think it is possible to prepare somebody properly for the experience of working abroad, or are culture shock and language problems inevitable? How can you as an English teacher help your learners with this?

Thank you for sending your comments. This topic is now closed.

Ernesto Gutierrez Pino, Cuba
Although language and culture go together the knowledge of language is more important, because it apens all the doors to any person.

Nour, France
I think that it's quite important to know the culture of the country one is living studying or working in.Before coming to france I've spent two years learning french language and culture.I've been here for only a month but thanks to the cultural background I have, I feel I've been here for years.As a teacher of English I always make sure that English culture is delivered as well as the language.

Anca, Romania
I strongly believe that working or travelling abroad is an exciting experienece for everybody. but let`s not forget we have to really prepare ourselves both linguistically and culturally. how could we separate the two parts of the same necessity? we couldn`t, in my opinion. knowing the language is the first step in order to be able to adapt somewhere else. The language of the place allows us to know the culture, to fully understand the "other".

Sateesh Padmanabhan, India
I'm a trainer and focus on culture sensitisation and language enhancement (accent and grammar). I believe that the language of a place is hugely influenced by the culture of that place. For example, people from the U.K. tend to use a lot of humour in their speech and this impacts their intonation.It's important to sensitise your audience about the geography they are going to be working with both in terms of language and culture. Yes, it's definitely possible !!

Lisa, Philippines
I believe that it's fundamental for a person who will work abroad to be acquainted of the culture of the country he will travel to.At least to be aware of the norms and behaviour of the people so that he/she will be prepared on how to deal with them on different circumstances.Moreover, it will be more beneficial if the person is knowledgeable with the language of the visiting country. In this manner he/she can easily communicate with local people and gradually adapt the culture which people have.Language can break the barriers between two individual with different cultures.It is the most effective way of understanding cultural upbringing.

Chantal, South Korea
I find it difficult to separate language from culture. Language and culture are relections of one another.Before coming to South Korea, I read a lot about the culture, but I didn't really internalize my learning until I came here and starting learning the language. I've found that knowing some Korean has made me a much better teacher of Korean students. A good teacher SHOULD understand the students. I can show them how direct translation isn't always culturally appropriate, and no longer feel irritated when they make those mistakes while using English with me.

Tony, Philippines
I specialise in english for business and know how many difficulties students face in the world outside learning.Knowledge of culture is essential for them outside their own countries when dealing with businesses from other cultures they need to be prepared for some of the ways that are expected of them .The other main problem most will face is "listening speed" they all seem to think, even though we all speak slower when teaching, we are fast, they need to be prepared for english in the business world, fast, complex and full of errors

Do Phuc Huong, Viet Nam
I take the point that language is more inportant. Also, teachers should raise the awareness about culture differences during lessons.

Lina, Italy
hello,I think, it's possible to help somebody to go or work at other country, but not at all. Because, depends on anyone our own caracter. In my opinion, my personal example I live in other country and nobody told me how was this new life. It's very hard to arrive and confront the new situations, the new culture. So, for me to understand and live the new culture is a heavy task to go on. It's not impossible but depends on everyone how to solve the new life.I'm lina and live in Italy, Sardegna, i'm from Mexico city. Thank you, good bye.

Christa Hamilton, Germany
Although I decided for knowledge of culture, the question how far culture is embedded in language use seems to be important to address. Without language knowledge it is difficult to learn about different cultures. On the other hand, when somebody learns a language to prepare for working abroad, he or she engages in cultural aspects of that language almost simultaneously. Whether it is possible to prepare somebody properly for the experience of working abroad depends on the individual learner's readiness to engage with that culture. Moreover, previous learnt language knowledge does not guarantee the possibility of culture clashes when entering a different country. However, it does help to develop an understanding of a divers culture and its accompanied language prior to living abroad. Considering my own experiences, I would suggest that a proper understanding of cultural diversities comes with experiences and further language learning processes in real life context.

Siegfried, Tanzania
Language stands before one nears the door of any culture.One needs to communicate first through language in order to know and master a local culture.So the most important thing is language

Luminita, Romania
Language is very important when working abroad. However, we cannot ignore culture, because we might have integration problems. Language is not enough. It's the beginning of integration!As an English teacher, I would encourage all the other teachers to teach language and culture at the same time.

Bex, UK
You can stumble by and get along generally (outside work) with only a little language, but can cause huge offence if you don't know a little about the culture.

Marie, France
It is important to know a minimum of language and culture. To prepare somebody : - you can teach some basic vocabulary and grammar. Basic phrases, how to introduce yourself, to buy some meal, to ask questions such as "find your way"..- you can read about the country, the habits, in order not to make mistakes !!I think really that not to speak language is a problem. For exemple, if you don't understand , you can't answer at the frontier.

Sophorn Kray, Cambodia
Language is very important in communication, We can not miss it. In order to work abroad we do need language in priority. Culture is also important, but we can adapt when we meet it. As you know not only in our country but also in another country have different culture.So the most important thing is language.

Claudie Lesieur, France
I think it is a wonderful discovery. You have to be ready to meet new people, new landscapes , a new way of life. When I was younger I used to travel a lot but I could not stay a long time. If you are lucky enough to spend eventually a year, you have to change yourself and to communicate a lot. Proud to be french but proud to discover different ideas. Don't miss that experience!

Dela, Indonesia
In my opinion, knowledge of local language is the most important thing to make us close to the environment where we live. It will be easier to us to interact with other and make much friend to give us a lesson how to live in their location..

Francis, Russian Federation
In joining this debate, I would like to state that I have chosen the most Important of the two factors due to the fact that I have to, otherwise, from my experience as a naturalized citizen of the Russian Federation and having gone through the process of living and studying to the process of living and working as well as nurturing a family of three, including myself, my wife, a local Russian and my son, who is 12, I think both factors are quite important and are like two parts of the same coin, so they are very important when dealing with your raw materials - the pupils or students you are going to teach - and the environment in which you are going to find yourself. I think anyone who wants to teach effectively in any strange environment should at least have a working knowledge of the language of this environment because culture is partly language itself and is essential when giving examples. You can create a very conducive language environment without learning about the culture but on the other hand it is almost impossible to create a cultural environment for your lessons without a simple knowledge of the language. By the way, I'm from the West African state of Sierra Leone.

Rosario Mejía, Perú - Costa Rica
I think that the most important thing for a person who wants to work abroad is learning the language.If you Know the language, you can learn about the culture, because you can interact well with people, and it will not be a shock.And also, learning a language means learning a culture because the culture reflects the language that how people communicate.

Ramesh, India
I think the most important thing for a person who is working abroad is Language because without language no one can communicate properly. Even if he has a thorough knowledge of that particular culture he can't express his ideas without having a strong language base. So the foremost thing is Language as is evident in all cases.

Ngo Quoc Tuan, Viet Nam
As for me, knowlege of local language is more significant than local culture because of the following reason: If you are good at local language, it will be like a versatile key to assist us in solving culture problems easily.On contrary, if you dont comprehend local language, you can't learn local culture. However, local culture is very important. It helps us understand and make more suitable methods.

Rafid, Iraq
culture shock and language problems are inevitable..As I think it's something important to keep living properly with the society He/she is going to live & work.but this will be supported by preparing himself/herself to know about the country(culture, holidays, habits, ..etc.)by learning the target language as a primary procedures....the main problem of students that they are being taught by teachers they don't have any idea about the country or we can say rarely we find teachers have experiments or have a full idea about the country he/she teaches its language...Thanks alot.

Akmal, Afghanistan
Actually working and living abroad aren't tasks easy for everybody.I do believe that culture is important but to know the language is also realy important

Thanh Hai, VietNam
I suppose that the greatest difficuty when a person want to work in a foreign country is language and culture difference rather than experience of working. Firstly if you are not good at the language of the country, you have difficulties in communicating with your boss and your colleages. This surely affects on finishing your job. you can misunderstand the tasks assigned, for example, or you can not explain your tasks truely as it is when you work in team . Besides, you will have a shock if you can not adapt with definitely new environment and people with different behaviors. Sequently you feel alone and strange to everything around you. And constantly this makes you fatigue and finally you plan to come back your home. AS an English teacher, I will prepare my learners language competence to communicate basically and also background knowledge of culture of the Bristish. I will introduce to them magazines, websites about Britian.Moreover I will warn them of differece they have to face if they move to a foreign country. So that they will not be too shocked when it comes to them.

Marìa Elena Valladares
I think is extremely important to know first the local language, and after we know a 50% of the language, simulteanously we can search the local culture.As an english teacher we must know the culture of the country where our student or students are going to live in, in order to prepare rightly the traveller.

Mabu Doula Sab, India
What is required to work in a new place is an adjustment with the local language especially the local dialect in a foreign country.Knowledge of local language a primary requirment and local culture is a secondary one to work abroad.

Violeta Crespo, Brazil
The culture shock and language problems are inevitable. However, who decide to work or study abroad may be well prepared to face these issue.That means be engaged in research about the country and spend time learn the local language before. Anyway, the one who decide to live abroad will be surprised some time.

Worou Noé, Benin
It is wise to take steps in order to avoid culture shock and language problems but it is good to be aware that these preparations are only going to attenuate the scale of difficulties, not stop them. As an English teacher,I must try to create conditions closer to american's or british's cultural context or other English speaking. For this, I could use some multimedia materials.Moreover it is important to put emphasis on the great value of the opened mind.

Danijela Tasic, Serbia
In my opinion it depends very much on the attitudes that the person has about the other countries and the other people, but it is clear that the shock will be not significant if someone learns about the culture and of course, learning language is the most important thing.

Hadi Ganji, Iran
I do believe that language works in its context, so if someone wants to do his/her best in new context,not only knowing a good deal of foreign language structures/lexics and other linguistics-related issues is important but also having appropreiate knowlege about the context and nuance cultural diffrences of target situation is in paramount importance. therefore, in my opinion native-speaker teachers can provide learners with these two in cases which non-native speaker teachers are handicap.finally,cultural shock for immigrants is the matter of degree and should be considered in continuum in that quality of instruction would affect on the degree.

K Jambulingam, India
He must identify himself with the community in which he lives. He must always remember that the people in the new country is not so bad after all. He must reserve his comments when talking about local issues.He must learn to give one of his smiles whenever he meets a stranger.He must show that he is happy to work with the other people.

Mann Htet Naing, Myanmar
It is obvious that knowledge of local language is more important than knowledge of local culture for a person who is working abroad because nowadays people do not have much different cultures all over the world. It might be hard for someone to fit in a new community for the first time but if he has enough knowledge of language, he will be able to learn culture later on. On the other hand, i think people are convinced about culture by learning language. For example, when they learn basic contexts, they also learn the culture like the way how people live and communicate.To my opinion, learning a language means learning a culture because the culture reflects the language that how people communicate. No matter how bad you are at one's culture, as soon as you start to learn the language you are taught it's culture as well.

Kishore Karnad, USA
"If you want to teach maths to Johnny, you must know maths and also Johnny" truly said. To live and work in a foreign country it helps if one knows the local language so that one can interact with the natives to learn more about culture and also learn by experiencing life first hand. A teacher can simulate the local conditions and teach students how to use her skills in local language. However as a 'link language' English is priceless and one who knows English, will certainly find the going easier.

Abe, Philippines
Yes, knowing the language of a country to whom a person is going to work for is very important. It's the easiest way to get along with the local people, understanding such culture needs proper communication and in order to have a proper communication is knowing what to say and understanding what they say.

Carmen Rhor, Peru
Indeed, it is possible to prepare someone properly for the experience of working abroad and, of course, both culture shock and language problems are inevitable. The question is how to survive in a new environment struggling with a totally new communicative system of different structure, phonetics, use and the like.Most of us have had this experience and we managed to cope with the language we had acquiered during our academic training as students; however, the real language we were exposed at while visiting an English speaking country was completely different, wasn't it?. Cultural awareness is a must if we do not want to put our foot in it while interacting with native speakers. Haven't we ever said the wrong expression/word and felt totally awkward or misunderstood? Books,videos, methods, trainers are not enough to transmit the fantastic contact mingling with the natives represents and being able to encounter both worlds (the foreign and the resident ones.) Forums like this one, actually help people like you and I to succeed in our quest to improve our language skills and learn more about culture and language as well.

Cote d'Ivoire
The most important thing here I think is language. It would be very difficult for someone to work abroad without learning the local language of where he like to go. Culture would come after all things. I mean after you have learnt local language. So language is, I think, the most important before culture.

Prabir Kumar Sarkarkolkata, India
Yes, absolutely true. Language and culture are just like twin sisters - inseperable. To know a country better is to penetrate in to the heart of the people and it is only possible by knowing their native language. The more we know their language, the more we come closer gradually, irrespective of caste, creed and religion.

Cécile, France
It is always possible to give directions to somebody and it can help even if noone can predict what will happen on the field ! However where the person comes from makes a difference too, possibilities for culture shock are obviously greater when the person comes from a totally different world, ie: A Japanese person in Spain will find more opportunities for culture shock than a swedish person in the UK!

Sekou, Liberia
well it is possible to prepare somebody somewhat but not preperly because what every be the case culture shock and language problems are if not inevitable, obsticle to the majorityto be sincere, let us be precise , i in particular as an english teacher would advice learners who have the intention of going to work abroad to first of all notbe hypersensitive to making fun of,criticism and provocation because when learning a language, you subject to making mistakes and surely some people can't correct with laughing at you; in so doing if you are not patient-minded, you'll always be at your nerves which may prevent you from knowing or getting what you supposed to, thus resulting to failure.

Meeyoung Jeong, Korea
Working abroad is a very exciting thing, I guess.To experience this, one has to be patient, understanding and study about the country where one goes. It's much better if one prepares the language and culture before leaving.So tell your students, if you dream it, you can do it.If I really choose only one, I'd say that language will be more important than the culture.That's why I did.

Prabha Muthukrishnan, India
It is vital that a person going abroad for work do some homework . Knowledge of the language, history, geography and culture of the country are all mandatory.This will aid in better understanding of the country and help in adjustment.

Praveen Paul Joseph, India
Yes, of course, one has to be well versed in the art of conversing well with people. Spoken communication is an art that one has to master it. Only when one communicates with others he or she will be able to know the essence of culture and subsequently, will adapt it accordingly.Working abroad is an easy task when you posses a good command of language to outmanouvre anybody in the world. Regards.

Tuyanh, Vietnam
Although culture shock and language problems are inevitable,we can help our learners avoid these issues as much as possible, for example, we can organise quizzes whose topics are about culture and language for learners to take part in. Watching films and reading stories of different countries can also help.

Elaine Virmond, Brazil
Actually working and living abroad aren't tasks easy for everybody! Studying the language and a little a bit about the culture before going abroad will make the difference when you'll be there. That's my opinion.

Said, Lebanon
Language helps immensly in understading the culture. Actually, it's the essential foundation for communication that leads to the result of real and perceived understanding of the nature of the country's culture.

Gurpreet, Italy
I think the knowledge of language is more important than local culture without language it is not possible to understand nothing. without knowledge of local culture the person can live and do morething those he not can do with knowledge of local culture.

Liddy, Kuwait
Yes, its important that we know the local language whichever country we live in.Also the culture should be followed as in the country.

Tinzar, Myanmar
It is obvious that knowledge of local language is more important than knowledge of local culture for a person who is working abroad because nowadays people do not have much different cultures all over the world. It might be hard for someone to fit in a new community for the first time but if he has enough knowledge of language, he will be able to learn culture later on. On the other hand, i think people are convinced about culture by learning language. For example, when they learn basic contexts, they also learn the culture like the way how people live and communicate.To my opinion, learning a language means learning a culture because the culture reflects the language that how people communicate. No matter how bad you are at one's culture, as soon as you start to learn the language you are taught it's culture as well.

Duong Hoang Phuc, Vietnam
In my opinon, the teachers' help is necessary, but the students' effort is essential. He or she must attempt to get to know the place where they are going to work for. Cultural issues are very subtle. It is not only from books or any internet-based materials, but also authentic interpersonal contacts. Good observation and imitation are helpful.

Ichiro Saito, Japan
In my opinion, it is important to learn the culture of the country where they want to work in advance. Body language will do in cases where it is needed to communicate, if only they are sincere.I believe in the proverb : Do in Rome as the Romans do.

Rawisuth K, Thailand
One who is going to study or work in aboard must prepare himself. First, it is langauge that we should know. When he goes to there, he can understand and speak. Second, it is a culture which we must deal with. They are food, the way of thinking, and so on; for example, McDonald. Most of them are junk food. Therefore, you should know and adapt yourself if you want to work or study aboard.

Martin, Argentina
Working abroad is not so easy. People might think that it is like working in their own country but with a different language and of course, it's wrong.There are more things in game apart from the language such as culture, people itself, the weather, missing friends and so on.

Tom, Japan
yes, i do. i will suggest learners to learn culture of what he or she gonna go to. For instance, gestures mean different mean up to countries. Some countries regard a certain gesture as a good, the other countries regard it as a bad. it can cause misunderstanding between resident and foreigner. so, what leaners should prepare for culture shock is to learn the national culture up to a point.

Gyo, Japan
It is difficult to adapt oneself to local life soon because there is few friends and relatives in abroad. Threfore, I will have to introduce my friends, who can support my learners in aboad, to my learners. If they have friends, they can ask their friends for help when they have troubles about culture shock and so on.

Sudha, India
"Proper" preparation and "culture shock" are relative as each of us have different thresholds. Knowledge of factual basic information & the general dos & donts of a particular region helps as you build your own knowledge base of the region based on your individual experiences & thresholds.

Khawajah, Afghanistan
I think culture is important rather than languge because if you don't know the culture you are not able to understand them and behave as they do, in fact, culture represents the language...Khawajah

Angela, China
I think that for anyone going to work abroad an open mind is essential - an awareness that customs may be different but not better or worse than those of the home country. This will help students pick up appropriate language rather than trying to translate from phrases used in their own culture. For instance a common greeting in China is "Have you eaten yet?" In the UK this would be interpreted as an invitation to eat out together, which wouldn't be the intention of the speaker.

Reza, Iran
in my idea both of them can be important. but knowing about the culture is more this condition the person can make a better relationship by knowing the habits and the culture of people who live there.

Mahsa, Iran
Well, I think it is possible to reduce culture shock even though it is inevitable. As a language teacher we can help our students in learning the culture of the target language by introducing some good books and, as Jolanta believes, by reliable websites ... However, I do believe that we need to make the students aware of the cultural differences in different countries, such as differences in politeness values, in general and teach them how to be tolerant towards other cultures and more importantly how to respect them. Also the responsibility of teaching them some universal social skills falls on us especially when it comes to teaching younger learners. Cheers

Loan, VietNam
In my opinion, the culture shock is very important. When you work abroad, you have to behave suitably. Therefore, I'll give my students the materials about manners and custom of the country where they want to come. Morever, when I teach language, I also introduce them about that country.

Alaa, Saudia Arabia
I think the knowledge of local culture is more important, simply because knowing the culture leads to knowing the language.

Hafiz Ahmad, Pakistan
According to my point of view,language is most important for a person who is working abroad, with out knowledge of local language you can not work efficiently and effectively. Even you can not better understand the culture, heritage and history of any country without knowing her language.

Atrous Arbia, Tunisia
I think it is an inevitable problem to face. Yet,as an English teacher who has the opportunity to live for a little while abroad, I find that the best way is to teach them how to be tolerant,how to accept differences and to try to be open and learn the maximum from the others.

Paul Kim, Korea
I think both has to be working together because when we know culture of a country where i want to go abroad and we are able to know what they want and what they do and language studies would be easier to study . If we go abroad withot any knowleadge of culture you have to be used to the country's culture where you go

Luis Steve, Mexico
Well, I think the key is to know the culture where we are going to work, and then start to feel empathy sort of identification in it , and finally when we arrive there be open mind to accept the culture itself , rules behaviours etc. on the top of that is the fact that we can not learn everything from a culture only in books and videos, of course is a good start, but the real understanding is experience what we learnt in home before we landed in a new culture, here is another factor, since a country is not a uniform culture where in every part is the same, we can have the familiarity or knowledge or a certain region of the country but not for the entire country or culture, so then is so important to be prepare to learn and welcome the new one.About helping the learners is important to encourage them to have a contact with the language, culture, behaviours etc. they are studying, that way they will have empathy and the acquiring process should be wishes

Manal, Egypt
Really ,thinking of dealing with others in other cultures is considered the first step towards breaking the ice berg among the two cultures.Knowing more frome the Media,also meetings face to face and everyday life teach the person more about the others.Besides first hanf acknowledgement about the nature of the country you r going to work in.Cultural shock differs from one person to another based on the previous knowledge you have get whether it is true or worng as mostly there are those who are professionals at giving wrong information to the person who is going to work abroad but the real experience the person get through dealing with the othes face to face.

Marcos, Brazil
Well, I try to explain them what is most commom, I mean in terms of saying and not to say. We have to take into consideration that we are dealing with other culture, other way of doing things and that explanation is quite necessary to give them.

Denise, France
Cultural shocks are inevitable but then, unless you are completely close-minded, it is an elating experience even when you come to disagree or criticise a cultural practise or habbit in the end. You travel to get to know people's ways of life primarily. Language comes in handy to deepen your experience, enrich your understanding but is meaningless without cultural interest in the people you meet!

María Elena, México,
I would dare say that providing sources for our students to be in touch with the courrent language of the places where they will be working is vital since it builds their confidence. Nowadays they can even get in touch through internet with people who are native to the desired places to ask about cultural differences to be better prepared.

Manuel Cazorla
Well, every language has got inevitably traces of the culture it belongs to. Think for example "curse words", there are terms in the dialect of the spanish of Argentina that would not make the least of reactions in a native speaker of spain. Language IS culture, and before you go abroad either to teach or study you should be very aware of this and prepared in advanced. I am a teacher of EFL in Argentina and have worked in many regions of my country. Even here there are cultural diferences related to the language "regionalisms". Let alone when you are inmerse in the linguistic and social context of another country.

Ricardo, Brazil
I have already had this experience in working abroad. For sure culture shock and language were the main problems. But I was able to manage this issues and could live well there. I think you have to prepare your student for it and always tell him/her your own experience.

Jolanta, Poland
In my opinion, it is rather impossible to learn everything about the given country, its culture, etc. The culture shock is inevitable and you have to experience all the stages of acculturation.An English teacher should provide as much knowledge as possible about the given culture, mainly by reading English magazines and websites.

Ricardo Gomez, México
It is very important to know in advance the culture in which it wants to work. To the people that was what it has. Ricardo Gomez

Tommy, Japan
Language and culture are the core of human activities. Therefore you can't live or work together as one of the members of the community in which you are being involved in without ample knowledge of their langauge and culture. Culture learning comes first, then follows the target language learning. This order of learning is crucial, which means whether or not bowing or shaking hands, for example, should be a target task to learn before learning "Good morning."

Agustin, Peru
Well, I help my students telling them the truth about my abroad experience, of course I give them a class about goals, because if you are strongly focused in your goals, the shock is minimal

Claudia, Spain
Problems are always inevitable but if students have a good knowledge of the cultural background makes going abroad easy going,the language will easily flow if the person is motivated.

Leila Costa, Brazil
For sure the culture shock and language problems will bother anyone at the beginning but everybody can be prepared to work abroad.

Manju, India
Yes definitely it is possible.Working abroad demands the usage of the local language for keeping up good interpersonal relationship and of course to give the feeling or sense of belonging!!!!culture shock can be reduced if a detailed study of the place we are going to is planned well in advance.language problems are inevitable however it can be reduced with a good homework abt the target language and of course its linguistic implications.As an English teachers i would provide my students opporunties to get maximum exposure in the targeted language.Besides i would also try to develop a love for the concerned language in the minds of the learners.only then an effective communication takes place to the satisfaction of the user and the listener.