skip to main content

Learn about our Virtual Internship Program.

Apply now

How to intern when there is a language barrier

You will be faced with many difficulties when you intern in a new country, and one of the toughest could be the language barrier. It can be hard trying to settle into your new apartment and make new friends, but dealing with a new workplace can have added pressure. To help you succeed in your internship and settle into your work quickly, here is The Intern Group’s guide to interning with a language barrier.

Learn The Language – This point may sound obvious, but putting effort into learning as much as possible will have a great payoff. To prepare yourself for this task, you should simply try and learn as much vocabulary related to your area of work as possible in addition to everyday conversational items. To find the words you might need to know, go on your company’s website and see which terms or phrases occur frequently. This is not just important before you start your internship, but also during. When you learn a new word, write it down! Writing down vocabulary will help you learn it, and you can always refer back to it quickly if you forget it. There are also many apps you can download or websites you can use to help you learn vocabulary. For example Quizlet offers a cue card system which allows you to create your cards you can test yourself in a variety of ways.

Make Sure You Know What You Are Doing – One of the most important pieces of advice you will hear is make sure you know exactly what your boss wants you to do. Not knowing the language slows down the speed at which you can communicate and therefore the speed at which you can work. Knowing your tasks in detail will limit the number of mistakes you could potentially make and increases your efficiency. This is sometimes a hard thing to do at the start of your internship. It can be easy to be intimated when working in a new office as everyone else seems to just get on with their work with ease. But you should never be afraid to ask questions! Your boss will prefer you to ask questions and get exactly what he needs done than you doing the wrong thing and wasting valuable working time.

Do Your Work To The Best Of Your Ability – The difficulties of the language barrier can immediately put you at a disadvantage. Therefore, the best way to make a good impression is to do all of your work to the absolute best of your ability. If you can excel in your work, then the language barrier will slowly become less of an issue, as you will be a valued member of the team. It will also give you more confidence, which can give you the boost you need to improve your communication with your colleagues.

Interning when there is a language barrier can be very challenging, but future employers will know and respect this. It takes a lot of patience and perseverance, but your language skills will improve surprisingly quickly. Stick with it! Apply now to intern abroad and perfect your language skills!

Photo 1. The Intern Group

Photos and blog by John Monahan

Subscribe to our global newsletters


The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!