Many learners believe that living in an English-speaking country automatically makes you fluent in English. However, this isn't true.
In fact, there are people who have lived in English-speaking countries for a long time who don't speak the language very well. In this post, we will explain why this happens.
Reason 1: You might not have a chance to meet locals
Learners often think that moving to an English-speaking country means being surrounded by English speakers at all times. However, this is not guaranteed for the following reasons.
- Because living abroad is difficult, you may rely on other people from your own country for help. As a result, you may spend more time with people from your country than with locals.
- Your situation may make it difficult to meet new people. For example, if your work does not involve interacting with people (e.g. you work on a farm or in a factory), you probably won't make many new friends.
- If you attend a language school, the only native speaker you might meet is your teacher.
So contrary to popular belief, moving abroad does not mean you automatically meet locals and master their language.
Reason 2: Even if you meet locals, your English might not improve
Unfortunately, even if you interact with English speakers every day, you still may not improve. There are a few main reasons this happens.
- You may not have many chances to talk to the locals around you. For example, if you don't have the same interests or hobbies as the locals you meet (e.g. sports), it will be hard to have a conversation.
- You might end up talking to locals about the same topics all the time (e.g. the weather). One study on learners who lived with local families found that their speaking and listening did not improve, because they talked about the same things every day.
- Most people are too polite to correct your English, so you may keep making the same mistakes instead of learning from them.
- You may encounter locals who are interested in learning your language. They may only want to speak to you in that language instead of in English.
So you cannot expect to improve just because you are surrounded by English speakers every day.
Reason 3: You need to already speak English to benefit from living abroad
Many people think that living in an English-speaking country is enough to turn an absolute beginner into a fluent speaker of English. However, moving abroad too early in the learning process can actually hurt your English.
This is because low-level learners who are forced to speak English say things that are incorrect (e.g. "Where bus stop?" "Credit card OK?"), and over time, they get used to speaking this way. As a result, they often struggle to speak correctly later on.
So when is the best time to move to an English-speaking country? As one linguist explains, intermediate learners benefit the most from living in the country. Advanced learners improve too but more slowly.
So what do you actually need to master a language?
Mastering a language isn't about where you live. It's about how determined you are to reach your goals. If you're determined to become fluent in English, you will find ways to do that, no matter the obstacles. For example:
- If you want to immerse yourself in English but can't move abroad, you will find ways to immerse yourself at home.
- If you want to practice speaking English but there are no native speakers near you, you will find other non-native speakers to practice with or look online for language exchange partners or tutors.
In fact, some of our students turned to our service after they had moved to an English-speaking country and realized that they were not learning much.
So if you want to learn English, start today from the comfort of your own home.