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.
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
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.