A PCS (Permanent Change of Station) move opens up a variety of opportunities for Americans to travel, see more of the world and immerse themselves in a foreign culture that they have never experienced before. But is it necessary to learn the language after you PCS to Europe?
Not Knowing the Local Language Can Isolate Families
It sometimes comes as a huge surprise to military families moving to Europe to learn that not everyone speaks English. Even though English is taught to children in many non English-speaking countries throughout Europe, that does not mean to say that once you arrive in Germany or Italy, everyone from your next door neighbour to your baker down the road will be able to speak English.
Not knowing the local language can be very isolating for couples and families. Can you imagine only having your spouse to converse with on a day-to-day basis for the next three years? Learning the local language can help you to avoid social isolation.
If You Live on the Military Installation You May Miss Out
Many military families who PCS to Europe prefer to live on the military installation so that they can deal with shopping, eating and transacting business in English rather than having to learn the local language, get used to the local currency and immerse themselves more fully in the local culture. While there are benefits to using your on-base privileges when you live on-base such as not having to venture too far, you may be missing out if you rarely travel off-base. If you feel that you can get by without learning the local language, you most probably will never grasp the local language.
Do You Want to Make Friends?
It is virtually impossible to make friends when you cannot communicate with a person. But when you make the effort to learn just a few simple phrases, this can spur you on even further to perfect the language or at least learn how to get by.
Military personnel can get by with using English on the military installation, which makes settling into a new base easier to cope with. However, although it is not necessary to become fluent in the local language after you PCS to Europe during down-time, the rewards are boundless for families who make the effort to learn more about their host country, such as lessening social isolation, and making new friends with locals.