IELTS Model Essay: Living In A Foreign Country, Languages and Problems


Here is another of my IELTS model essays for IELTS Writing Task 2. It’s an opinion essay question from the IELTS Academic Test:

Living in a country where you have to speak a foreign language can cause serious social problems, as well as practical problems.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Cambridge IELTS 13 Test 1 (Academic)

This is quite a tricky question. It seems to be asking you about the problems faced by someone who is not fluent in the language of the country in which they live; at least, that’s what I assume it means!

I think I agree with the statement, i.e. that someone not fluent in the local language will face serious social problems and practical problems. So I’ll argue that, and support it with some examples. However, I also think that smartphone apps like Google Translate can now help a lot, as can the widespread knowledge of English, so I’ll add this as a small caveat as a very short body paragraph.

My Plan

BP1: serious social problems
– social isolation – if not competent in local language, may avoid social contact, can -> depression
– harder to understand local culture so easy to offend (e.g. in Russia number of flowers)

BP2: practical problems
– getting a job – requires high level of fluency
– buying groceries, especially packaged goods – may be unclear what they are or how to cook


However problems reducing: Google Translate / English as common language

My Essay

Many people around the world are making the most of opportunities to live and work in foreign countries. However, this often requires the ability to speak the local language, and I do feel it’s true that failure to do this to a competent level can lead to a number of difficulties, although these are not as serious as they once were.

One of the most serious social problems is that an inability to speak the local language can lead to social isolation. If someone has not yet developed communicative competence in the language of the country in which they live, they may simply avoid any kind of social contact. Such self-imposed isolation can lead to depression. A related problem is that someone living in a foreign country with little social contact is less likely to understand the local culture, and may find themselves inadvertently causing offence. For example, in Russia, giving an even number of flowers to a woman is considered bad luck, but this might not be understood by someone who rarely comes into contact with local people due to a lack of competence in the local language.

There are also a couple of practical problems too. First of all, getting a job in a foreign country will almost certainly require some level of fluency in the local language, even in work as low paid and mundane as cleaning or cooking. So inability to speak the language can lead to financial difficulties. A second practical problem relates to grocery shopping. If you have little or no knowledge of the local language, it may be difficult to understand the contents of packaged goods, such as tins or cartons of food, or their cooking instructions, causing people to follow a limited diet.

That said, these problems can nowadays be eased using such tools as Google Translate, and as English continues to grow as a common language, people in foreign countries can often use this to help them overcome these more serious problems.

Nevertheless, lack of competence in that country’s language will still cause some difficulty socialising, understanding the local culture and navigating the practicalities of everyday life.

(356 words)

About the author

Charlie is a former IELTS Examiner with 25 years' teaching experience all over the world. His courses, for both English language learners and teachers, have been taken by over 100,000 students in over 160 countries around the world.

2 thoughts on “IELTS Model Essay: Living In A Foreign Country, Languages and Problems”

  1. As a fellow teacher who sometimes refers students to your website (because it is very good), can I ask you to comment here on the “to what extent do you agree or disagree” part of the question, as I don’t feel like your model answer “indicates this clearly”. I guess, this could be a criticism, but it’s as much for me to understand how important this part of the question is.

    • Reading the essay again, I can see why you might think that. My position is agreement, but that it’s not as serious as it once was because of tech tools. I’m probably overcomplicating things, and giving the examiner a bit of work to do so perhaps it’s a risky way of writing. Sometimes simpler is better! Thanks for referring your students to my site – much appreciated!

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