Becoming an expat often means learning a new language as there is every possibility that the country your moving to has a different language than that of your native tongue. While English is universal, the extent to which it is in use and understood in Nicaragua will vary tremendously and sometimes you will quickly find that language barriers are a big obstacle in your day-to-day life here.
The official language of Nicaragua is Spanish, and is spoken by the vast majority of Nicaraguans. Although native tribes on the eastern coast speak native languages, such as Miskito, Sumo, Rama, as well as English Creole. Most Creoles speak, an English-based creole closely related to other creoles spoken in the Caribbean, such as in Belize and Jamaica. Unless you plan a move to that part of the country, one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for a move here is to learn Spanish. If you are able to attempt conversations with the locals you will have a much better chance of integrating and feeling more at home.
Cultural specialists throughout the world agree that gaining an understanding of your host country’s language will also enable you to better understand the culture and customs of the people. Furthermore, learning a foreign language will give you more confidence and help you to feel more at home. Having some knowledge of the local language before you arrive can help you to find a place for yourself in Nicaragua..
A basic level of communication can help you to deal with problems better and will also improve your chances of finding resources you’ll need for everyday life more easily. If you do have a basic knowledge of Spanish, continuing lessons while living here can offer an important social opportunity for you to meet new people who are in a similar position to you and make the whole process much more fun. In many parts of Nicaragua with cities heavily populated by foreigners, expats survive extremely well without any knowledge of the local language. However, having at least a little knowledge of the language before you arrive will assure you get the most out of your Nicaraguan experience.
Mix in with the locals
As an expat living in a foreign country the tendency will be to spend your time with fellow expats because it is easier and you feel more comfortable around people who speak your language with a similar background to your own. While this is normal it will do nothing to enhance your language skills and will take away from your local cultural experience. One of the biggest tips for learning a new language is to form friendships with your local neighbors. This will allow you to practice in a safe environment with someone you feel comfortable with.
Take classes from a local
Nicaragua has many language schools to choose from in just about every major city. These schools can offer an excellent opportunity to meet new people. You will quickly find out there are always large numbers of people who are looking to learn a new language. Many of the online expat forums contain details of language exchanges and you can often also find details of such groups in our expatriate city guides, or joining a social media group in FACEBOOK dedicated to expats.
Practice & Patience
The secret to learning Spanish is to practice speaking it. Although this may feel uncomfortable and you may make mistakes, and feel embarrassed at times be patient and keep trying. Nicaraguans are very friendly people and most of all understanding and will delight in the fact you are trying to communicate with them in their language. Nicaraguans also love to express themselves in an informal way. You may find it helpful to carry a notebook with you so that you can jot down any words or phrases that you hear that you are not already familiar with.
Nicaragüense – the language of Nicaragua
Learning a new language doesn’t necessarily mean learning a dictionary full of vocabulary. However in Latin America, you will find that Spanish terms and phrases can vary from country to country. Affectionately, Nicaraguan Spanish is often called Nicañol and is filled with slang, local expressions and other funny linguistic inventions, creating lots of possibilities to be completely misunderstood and for you to understand nothing! For example when passing someone on the street it is customary to say Adiós which means “goodbye” instead of saying hello.
Here is a great site to learn some Nicaraguan Spanish.
A combination of all the opportunities discussed above , and practicing your Español with locals as much as possible in your everyday life, will help you make great strides towards learning not only the language, but the culture of your new home when moving to Nicaragua.