Is your Country Expat Friendly Language wise?

At times the language in a host country of an expat happens to be his mother tongue or one he speaks as well even if it’s not their mother tongue. For example American expats in East Africa are set for a great start in their new country because English is not only their native language but also an official language in countries there like in Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan.

The exact number of expats in Africa is not known however, it is estimated that Africa has the largest number of expats with Nigeria leading with the highest paid expats when it comes to the African continent with an ever increasing surge in this direction. This thought to be so because of the natural resources that most of these African countries are blessed with e.g. coal, oil,

Languages and expats in Africa

Then there are those expats who are sent to countries where there is no common language but still have to bear for work purposes with the help of other professionals like interpreters and translators.

In both cases though, a new language/languages are acquired whether by only learning a few of the beginners’ words like greeting phrases, goodbyes or asking for directions and so forth. Even for the ones where their mother tongue happens to be an official language in their African host country, there is still influence from indigenous languages especially through interaction with locals.

For example, at the source of the Nile in Uganda, T-Shirts with a “I am not Mzungu” slogan targeting expats are sold at such a strategic point where they usually flock to admire the source of the world’s longest river; the river Nile. This phrase Mzungu refers to a white person when loosely translated and is usually belted out by kids when they see an expat, tourist or native with a white complexion.

When Expats are faced with foreign languages

If it is about the casual stuff like hanging out with the locals at the bars, cinemas, music festivals, tour trips or the beach, then haggling with natives in a foreign language maybe harmless and such scenes are usually accompanied by bouts of hearty laughter as both sides try to understand what the other is saying.

However, on a serious note, if it is work related then professionalism should be a priority and in cases where there is no mutual language then professional translation services ought to be hired. This is because communication is vital and more importantly if it has to do with anything professional.

There are so many translation related services and can be chosen according to the nature of an expat’s work.

Translation services to be chosen from may include;

Interpreting services

Document translation services

Medical document translation services

Online marketing translation services

Financial translations

Legal document translation

Immigration translation services

Legal aid translations

Other problems that expats may encounter include;

Security breaches

Poor infrastructure



Lack of proper medical care

Cultural shock