Language Training Helps the Careers of Expat Spouses

Cross-cultural connection
(Photo by *** Harold R ***)

An expat assignment can derail a spouse’s career path making the whole family unhappy.  In a recent study described in this article, expat spouses have expressed that training to help their career during the expat assignment would have helped.  On the one hand, many spouses accompany the employee as a support.  The spouse runs the household and directs the education of the children.  On the other hand, other spouses have invested professional and emotional energy into a career they enjoy.  In an earlier post, I explained how language-training would help spouses of the former group.  Employers could do more to support spouses in the latter group.  Expat spouses desired employment assistance, and this article presented a few different areas of assistance.  Among the responses given, spouses most desired networking assistance.  Here I will present ways in which language-training lays the groundwork for networking, and so enables spouses hoping to continue–even enhance–their careers.

Networking requires the ability to make a good impression and carry on a pleasant conversation, and language plays an essential role in communicating.  Even if I speak mostly in English when I network, the fact that I try to speak and display my willingness to learn, I leave a great impression.  I spent a few days of my honeymoon in a small town in Morocco, called Laarache.  After I spoke to a few people in the local Arabic dialect, people approach me as the “guy who spoke Arabic.”  Networking happened without any effort for the next several days.

Communicating in the local language will help any career.  The above study showed that some spouses wanted to find a job, while others wanted to start a business.  You will need to network to find a job with an existing company.  Finding a job, though not easy, poses fewer problems than starting a business.  Entrepreneurship involves more paperwork and laws in some countries.  The bureaucracies of some countries baffle Americans.  Navigating these without a “native informant,” can end one’s hope to start a business.  When you can speak the language, you can speak more easily with government offices and more widely with locals who understand the process.  Often, knowing the rules does not help as much as knowing the individuals who enforce those rules.  In these cases, starting a business requires networking.

Companies who relocate employees, ought to provide training for their employees and their spouses that includes learning the local language.  Expats will make better, deeper, and more meaningful connections if they attempt to learn the local language.  These connections will help their career and personal fulfilment.  Spouses, whether they are functioning as support for an employee, or pursuing their own career, will flourish with this training.  Ultimately, as I mentioned in my earlier post, the company saves money if the expat family is happy and enjoying their overseas adventure.

5 thoughts on “Language Training Helps the Careers of Expat Spouses

  1. I could not agree more! I’ve received some language training from my husband’s university, and it’s been one of the only social connections provided by the school. It’s been a great opportunity, but I think that there are a lot more areas where they could give support as well.


      1. Even just more social options would be great. I was also expecting that it would be a snap to find a part-time job at the university, since there are so many international families there and spouses are looking for something to fill the time, even if it’s just shelving books at the library. However, there isn’t any kind of a “spousal referral” program like that here. All that aside, I am part of an art collective (not affiliated with the university) called “Trailing Spouses” that is designed for, well, trailing spouses 🙂 We talk about a lot of these issues – they tend to go beyond just needing to learn the language! Glad to have found your blog!


  2. Pingback: Learning the Language Aids the Expat Spouse « Loving Language

  3. Pingback: What I learned about language-learning: 2012 « Loving Language

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.