Willing to go the extra mile: Understanding work engagement among expats

In recent years, many companies have been focusing on work engagement as a more positive way of working with employees towards business success. Work engagement has proven to be very valuable for organisations, but it has hardly been investigated in an international setting[i]. With a new study I’m conducting together with Mette Strange Noesgaard of Ålborg University, we would like to learn more about how expats experience work engagement while living abroad.

What is work engagement?
Work engagement is defined as “a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption”[ii]. In other words, engaged employees tend to exhibit high level of energy, being completely immersed in their work and show high level dedication to their work they perceive as meaningful. Engaged employees have been associated with important organizational level outcomes. Among others, work engagement is often reflected in lower turnover intentions[iii], better business-unit performance[iv], organizational citizenship behavior[v] and higher levels of profit[vi].

Why this focus on work engagement of expatriates?
Expats are ‘expensive people in crucial positions’[vii]. They are often at strategically important positions, and there are high direct and indirect costs associated with their assignments. A multinational depends in a high degree on expats’ willingness to invest themselves in their work, be active and perform their best on their own initiative due to the distance between headquarters and the location where the expat is posted. Expats need to be engaged to be successful, and, thereby, contribute to the success of the organization.

Would you like to participate?
We are currently looking for expats who would like to participate in an interview via e-mail about work engagement while working abroad. We are looking for expats who are sent abroad by an organization on a temporary assignment. We are particularly looking for Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Icelandic and Dutch expatriates, who can be based anywhere in the world.

The interview will take place through an e-mail correspondence in the space of about a month. Each week you will receive an e-mail with 3 open ended questions to which you reply when is convenient to you, and then we will continue with the next round. There are three rounds in total.

We would really appreciate your participation. Your answers will be confidential, and we will, of course, inform you about the results of this study (through this blog and through e-mail). You can contact us at msvb[at]sdu.dk.

Picture of the walking man by David Reid and of the pavement by Ann Lusch, via Flickr.



[i] Lauring, J., & Selmer, J. (2015). Job engagement and work outcomes in a cognitively demanding context: The case of expatriate academics. Personnel Review, 44(4), 629-647

[ii] Schaufeli, W. B., Salanova, M., González-Romá, V., & Bakker, A. B. (2002). The measurement of engagement and burnout: A two sample confirmatory factor analytic approach. Journal of Happiness Studies, 3(1), p. 74

[iii] Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 397-422. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.397

[iv] Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Hayes, T. L. (2002). Business-unit-level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(2), 268-279.

[v] Rich, B. L., Lepine, J. A., & Crawford, E. R. (2010). Job engagement: Antecedents and effects on job performance. Academy of Management Journal, 53(3), 617-635.

[vi] Xanthopoulou, D., Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2009). Work engagement and financial returns: A diary study on the role of job and personal resources. Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, 82(1), 183-200

[vii] Brewster, C., Bonache, J., Cerdin, J.-L., & Suutari, V. (2014). Exploring expatriate outcomes. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(14), p. 1921. doi:10.1080/09585192.2013.870284

The performance management revolution in Denmark

In 2016 Harvard Business Review published an article entitled The Performance Management Revolution that showed how more and more companies are moving away from the traditional annual review towards a system which favours giving people instant feedback. Companies in Denmark are also rethinking their performance management – as the NOCA meeting on the 28th of November showed, where Nets talked us through how they have been changing their performance management system in the past two years.

Informal check-ins between manager and employee
The core of the new performance management system at Nets are the regular check-ins between managers and employees. A check-in is a forward-focused dialogue where the employee sits in the driver’s seat. The focus is on helping the employee perform as well as further develop. These check-ins are facilitated by several one-page guides for both the leader and the employee about how to set priorities, give feedback, and talk about development. A key difference with the former process is that it is no longer dictated top-down; instead, it is the employee who takes the initiative.

How to ‘formalize the informal process’
Since the check-ins are key to this new approach it is essential that the employees have a high-quality dialogue with their manager. Managers need to be able to ask the right questions and employees need to be able to drive the process. So, Nets trained both parties – in some cases together. Other factors that contributed to the success of the new approach is that Nets first did a pilot study in one part of the organisation. This also helped them convince top management of the value of this new approach. When the new approach was then rolled out in the organisation, HR focused on communicating the new approach – something you can never do enough of. Finally, Nets recommends learning from others (e.g. Adobe) and see what would work for your own organisation – after all, context is important!

Going abroad to play: Motivations, challenges, and support of sports expatriates

With the world becoming more and more interconnected, many professional athletes also spend a part of their career abroad. As they move abroad, they encounter many of the challenges that business expatriates face, as well as some that are unique to the sport industry. A paper written by myself and Susan Salzbrenner from Implement Consulting Group has just been published by Thunderbird International Business Review [1]. In this blog post I give a short summary of this article, which is based on data collected by Susan in her work for Fit Across Cultures.

Why a focus on sports expatriates?
Professional athletes who move abroad are a vulnerable group; they are young, under high performance pressure from the day they arrive in the host country, and face a career with a short life-span, that can end from one day to the next. This emphasizes the importance of supporting this group of self-initiated expatriates. Better support of sports expatriates would not only benefit the professional athletes themselves, but also their clubs who are facing increasing competition for the best talent.

Why do sports expatriates move abroad?
The main motivations to move abroad were an interest to experience life abroad, followed by the search for new challenges. Financial motives are not the most important motives to move abroad; the emphasis instead is with personal and career development.

“And the best way to [prepare for a professional league] was to go overseas. But on top of it, not only was it a good way to propel my basketball career, but it also gives me a chance to travel”. Marissa K.

What challenges do sports expatriates experience?
The most commonly mentioned challenges were the different coaching style and communication, both within the team and outside work. This includes language, which can complicate things if you have to attend practice in a language you do not speak.

“A lot of it was just trying to get by, and figure it out on my own, which is not an ideal way to do it. But I definitely got the hang of it, after a few weeks.” Ryan

How were sports expatriates supported?
Support was mainly informal; the most common sources of support were colleagues, club management, and coaches. Very few were supported by external professional providers such as a relocation agency or an agent. When asked about the areas they felt they needed the most help, the athletes would like to be better integrated. Almost half of respondents wished to receive more help with translation and language skills and learn more about cultural differences. In light of the challenges that sports expatriates face both with regard to playing and living abroad, it could be worthwhile for clubs to offer more support to their expatriates, especially since they would like their athletes to perform at their highest level the day after arrival.

“I hate the first couple of weeks. Everyone already knows everyone, and you’re usually just thrown in.” Marisa F.

Picture of the basketball hoop by Eddie Welker and of the volleyball player by Farmington Strength, via Flickr.

[1] This paper (Van Bakel, M. & Salzbrenner, S. (in press). Going abroad to play: Motivations, challenges, and support of sports expatriates. Thunderbird International Business Review) is included in a special issue on “Opportunities and Challenges in International HRM” which came out of the third Global Conference on International Human Resource Management in New York in 2017.

Highlights of the European Academy of Management 2018

Last week I attended the European Academy of Management conference in ‘cold but beautiful’ Reykjavik. This year was the 10th year that the Expatriate Management Track was part of EURAM, and it was again filled with many interesting presentations. Here are three highlights.

Breaking out of the expat bubble
David Guttormsen from BI Norwegian Business School examined the concept of expatriate failure, asking Scandinavian expatriates in Hong Kong what, in their opinion, constituted ‘expatriate failure’ [1]. There has been a lot of discussion about this concept in the literature, especially on how organisations have defined this in the past (e.g. early return from the assignment, which is not a very accurate criterion). One thing that I found very interesting was that 60% of the interviewed expatriates found it a failure not to be exposed to multicultural environments. This highlights the importance of breaking out of the expat bubble and connecting not only with other expatriates but also with host country nationals.

Research on the expatriate family
Several papers focused on the expatriate family which is one of the most important factors that influence the success of the expatriate assignment. Julia Goede from the University of Hamburg reviewed methodological issues with the research focusing on this topic [2] and one of the conclusions she drew was that much research on spouses does not actually ask the spouses themselves. Another conclusion is that there is still very little research on the children; they should not be forgotten. A final aspect to take into account when researching the expatriate family is that the contemporary family is much more diverse than in the past, and that research should take different configurations (e.g. gay couples) into account.

Expatriate IBTs: an extreme form of global work
Yvonne McNulty from Singapore University of Social Sciences drew attention to the specific group of expatriate international business travelers [3] . These are people who are sent abroad on an international assignment but because they take up a regional role, they also have to travel much when they are abroad. For example, an expatriate might be stationed in Singapore but have a regional role for South-East Asia – or even Asia-Pacific – so that he or she has to travel extensively. This means that while living abroad, the expatriate is also away for many days of the year, making life more difficult for the spouse who has to keep family life running.


[1]  David S. A. Guttormsen, Anne Marie Francesco & Malcolm K. Chapman: “Revisiting the Expatriate Failure Concept: A Qualitative Study of Scandinavian Expatriates in Hong Kong.”

[2] Julia Goede & Dirk Holtbruegge: ”Methodological issues in family expatriation studies and future directions.”

[3] Yvonne McNulty: “ Expatriate International Business Travel: An Extreme Form of Global Work.”

It takes two to tango: a review of the empirical research on expatriate-local interactions

Recently, my literature review on expatriate-local (E-L) interactions was published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management. In this blog post I give a short summary of this article.

Why a literature review on E-L interactions?

Much of the research on expatriates has had the expat as sole focal point. While this seems quite obvious, it has also become clear that there are other stakeholders that are important for expat success. One example is the partner or family, another example are host country nationals (HCNs). The first calls for research on the role of HCNs date from the early nineties, and, gradually, research has started to take the HCN perspective into account. While some work has been done, much still needs to be explored. This literature review gives an overview of what has been done in terms of empirical research, and outlines various possibilities for future research.

What can we learn about E-L interactions?

Contact with HCNs is generally seen as having positive effects for expats, especially with regard to adjustment but also with regard to culture learning and competence development. Instrumental ties with HCNs seem to be beneficial for performance. Attitudinal aspects are a key aspect in E-L interactions: those who are open to learning and willing to seek support from others establish connections with HCNs more easily, and benefit more from them.

Several factors can help develop the intercultural relationship between expats and HCNs. The most important factor is whether the expat and the HCN have something in common, which can provide a basis on which the relationship can be built. There are also some barriers to the development of E-L interactions, such as (lack of) language skills and cultural differences, but also the geographical location of the expat (for example, whether there is a large expat community). These studies increase our understanding of how contact between an expat and a HCN could develop.

Future research

The article highlights various ideas for future research. Much of the research, for example, focuses on outcomes on the side of the expat (e.g. adjustment); we could still learn a lot about what the benefits are for the HCN, for example in terms of their careers. We also do not know all that much about outcomes at the group level – or antecedents, for that matter. What can organisations do to stimulate E-L interactions, and what are the benefits of those interactions for the organisation?

The paper also shows how important it is to specify what exactly the researcher is looking at: is it the frequency of the contact, the closeness, or the type of support one gets? Is it simply the frequency of the contact that helps adjustment, or does the contact need to be of high quality? This would open ‘the black box’ of E-L interactions and show more specifically the roles HCNs can play in expatriate success. After all, it does take two to tango.

Image of the tango by Graciela Rodriguez, via Flickr.

E-HRM in recruitment

Guest blog by Vanessa Geissler, Anna Szabolcs, Alina Vahldieck, and Arttu Ylinikkilä*

Times when companies only had to “post and pray“ to get fitting applicants for open vacancies is over. Nowadays organizations have to be more creative and proactive to attract the right employees (5). With the help of the Internet, e-HRM (electronic Human Resource Management) gives stakeholders the opportunity to get HR information as well as access to diverse HR functions (10). This blog post will discuss the question “Why should companies engage in e-recruitment as part of their HRM practices?”.

What is E-HRM?

In this context it is necessary to create a common understanding of both terms: e-HRM and e-recruitment. The first can be defined as “(…) an umbrella term covering all possible integration mechanisms and contents between HRM and information technologies aiming at creating value within and across organizations for targeted employees and management” (2). Furthermore, e-recruitment can be defined as using websites, Web portals, or kiosks to attract applicants and enable them to apply for jobs online (3). There are certain requirements for e-recruitment e.g. that applicants are able to use a computer or mobile device (e.g., tablet, smartphone) to locate and navigate websites to learn about job and organizational opportunities and to upload a resume or complete an online job application once on the website (4).

Tools for e-recruitment

Recruitment focuses on getting the right people in the right job and the digitalization has an increasing role in generating actual job candidates. Most companies use their own websites, online job search sites (e.g. Monster.com) and other popular websites to post vacant jobs and career opportunities. The growing use of social media plays an emerging role in recruitment through the use of professional networking sites like LinkedIn (8).

Commercial job boards are often used forms of online recruiting. Their strengths are that a company can reach and examine a globally large pool of candidates, share specific information about the organization and the job description. Also, job boards enable recruiters to look for candidates based on their skills and experience (6).

Jobvite (2017)

Another example of online based recruitment method that companies started to use within the last decade or so are corporate websites. A company’s website can provide all the information required to describe an open vacancy, information considering the company, what is required from the applicant and how to send an application (6).

Especially recruitment with the help of social media has been increasing its popularity lately. Social media allows companies to use different channels in recruitment process: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are just some examples with which companies can more quickly advertise and search new candidates for their open vacancies nationally and/or internationally. By re-tweeting a company’s tweets or sharing Facebook announcements, current and/or former employees can also assist in the recruitment process. Some companies even use Facebook during their background check processes. This makes HR function less reactive and more proactive from a strategic perspective (1).

Why use e-recruitment?

As demonstrated above, e-recruitment evolved to be an important tool in the recruitment process of companies. Compared to traditional recruitment methods it can provide opportunities, like increased efficiency, cost saving, reductions of effort for administrative issues and an improvement of HR planning processes (10). The downsides of e-recruitment should also be considered, such as the lack of “personal touch” or a huge volume of unqualified and low quality candidates (6).  Although we only focused our research on the company’s point of view, further research regarding the applicant’s perspective would be necessary to have a more complex understanding. For example, the increasing use of social media brings up the question if it is really allowed for companies to do background checks and candidate profiling based on their social media profiles. The EU is actually now trying to regulate this issue by releasing the General Data Protection Regulation effective from the 25th of May 2018 (7). However, due to the significant advantages it covers, companies should continuously ensure that they are up-to-date with technological changes regarding e-recruitment processes.

* This blog was written during the MA course Human Resource Management at the University of Southern Denmark

References (in alphabetical order)

  1. Arjomandy, D. (2016). Social media integration in electronic human resource management: Development of a social eHRM framework. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences. 33, 108-123.
  2. Bondarouk, T. V., & Ruël, H. J. M. (2009). Electronic Human Resource Management: challenges in the digital era. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20(3), 505-514.
  3. Braddy, P. W., Meade, A. W., & Kroustalis, C. M. (2006). Organizational recruitment website effects on viewers’ perceptions of organizational culture. Journal of Business and Psychology, 20(4), 525-543.
  4. Cober, R. T., Brown, D.J., Blumental, A.J., Doverspike, D., & Levy, P. (2000). The quest for the qualified job surfer: It’s time the public sector catches the wave. Public Personnel Management, 29, 479-496.
  5. Dannhäuser, R. (2015). Praxishandbuch Social Media Recruiting. 2. Auflage, Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden.
  6. Dhamija, P. (2012). E-recruitment: a roadmap towards e-human resource management. Journal of Arts, Science & Commerce, 3, 33-39.
  7. European Comission, Justice and Consumers, General Data Protection Regulation, Article 29 (online access 08.11.2017)
  8. Hitt, M. A.; Black, J. S.; Porter, L. W. (2012). Management. 3rd edition, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 166-202.
  9. Jobvite (2017). Job Seeker Nation Study 2017: Finding the Fault Lines in the American Workforce (online access on 08.11.2017)
  10. Stone, D. L.; Dulebohn, J. H. (2013). Emerging issues in theory and research on electronic human resource management (eHRM). Human resource management review, 23, 1-5.

Image of the person with the newspaper by Esther Vargas, via Flickr.

Træfpunkt HR: trends and developments in HR

Last week I went to Træfpunkt HR, the largest HR fair in Denmark. There are about 140 stands – many of them presenting some kind of HR tool – and several presentations. Here is a blog about what I picked up.

The employee as adult, customer, and human

The first presentation of the day by Lucy Adams talked about how we need to fundamentally rethink the meaning and role of HR in order to be relevant – and HR can be extremely relevant in delivering a competitive advantage in today’s age. She quotes the HR director of Unilever: “We can’t keep saying the world around us is changing – and carry on delivering HR in the same way”.

Lucy Adams advocated a change in the way we see employees and conduct HR:

  • The employee as adult: Often companies take on the role of the ‘employee mum’ (notices with ‘wash your hands’) or ‘employee dad’ (an annual talk about your ‘report card’). Why do they assume that their employees are unable to take decisions themselves once they are inside the doors? And why do we create policies based on the worst possible behaviour? That also has an effect on the 98% who don’t steal coat hangers from hotels. Several companies are already taking their employees more serious; for example by listing a number of topics new employees should find information on (vs. a one day sit-down-and-listen-event), or communicating that they trust the employee’s judgment when getting dressed in the morning (vs. an elaborate dress code).
  • The employee as customer: We can learn a lot from consumer organisations who know an awful lot about their customers and tailor their services to them. Why are so many HR policies universal? Why do companies want to implement one system for performance management, rewards, training etc? There are several companies who are now tailoring their HR to specific types of employees, for example Starbucks who distinguishes three types of employees with a different goal: having a career within Starbucks, working in a fun team, or just there for the cash.
  • The employee as human: Few HR policies are based on how humans actually think, feel and behave. A good example is performance management, which has developed to compensate for ‘poor managers’ and ensure conversations about performance are actually taking place in a good way. But imagine you would do this with kids – only give feedback once a year and put them on a scale of 1 to 5; so why would we want to do this with adults? We can see now that companies are moving away from it, and focus the annual conversation more on career development, or have more frequent feedback conversations, without this forced ranking.

Sustainable HRM

I was also very interested in the presentation about sustainability by professor Steen Hildebrandt. This followed nicely on an article I recently read and found very inspiring (and hope to dedicate a blog post to as well at some point), about how HR could contribute to solving the big questions of the world*. Prof. Hildebrandt emphasized the importance of sustainability in today’s world – it is no longer a choice, but a necessity. Companies also should take this into account. Unfortunately, the talk did not really touch on what HR can do towards achieving this goal. How do you think HR could work with this topic? I’d love to hear ideas or examples.

New developments

I also walked around and explored some of the new developments. Apart from many stands presenting some kind of tool to automate MR processes, there were also many stands focusing on health – which was also the topic of the keynote talk by Christian Bitz. Another important development that HR professionals need to take into account is the introduction of EU General Data Protection Regulation by 25 May 2018. This is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years, which has several consequences for all companies processing and holding the personal data in the EU. For example, some personal information regarding employees may only be kept for a certain amount of time, and Nets has introduced a system where it is possible to indicate when certain information can be deleted, so that these data are protected in the right way.

* Brewster, C., Gooderham, P. N., & Mayrhofer, W. (2016). Human resource management: the promise, the performance, the consequences. Journal of Organizational Effectiveness, People and Performance, 3(2), 181-190.

Photo of butterfly by Scot Wylie and photo of ‘secured’ by GotCredit, both via Flickr

Expatriate contact with a local host: an intervention to increase social support

One of the ways in which a local host can contribute to successful In Touch with the Dutchexpatriate assignments is through offering social support. Does a local host offer social support? And what types of support do they offer? This is the final blog post about the academic articles that have been published about my PhD research In Touch with the Dutch.

A local host offers social support
Thirty-three expats were put in touch with a local host for a period of nine months, and they were compared to 32 expats without host (read more about In Touch with the Dutch). They undertook all kinds of activities together, from going for drinks or dinner to a Spanish cooking workshop. We investigated the amount and types of social support they received through questionnaires as well as interviews and diaries. The study showed that expatriates with a host received significantly more social support from host nationals than did those without a host.

Types of support
A local host can offer social support in several ways. First of all, it was for many expats a way to meet Dutch people:

It has helped us because we have found it difficult to meet Dutch people socially outside my husband’s work. We are on friendly terms with our neighbours, but that is really just saying hello in the street. [P4Q3]

At the start of the contact, a local host can offer informational support for settling in the new country and understanding the new culture. Also, the host can accompany the expatriate to all kinds of activities, thereby offering social companionship.

It gave me an opportunity to socialise and share some plans to see people at the weekends. It has taken a long time to settle in and we haven’t made a lot of friends yet. [E43Q2]

After a while, when the contact is established and has deepened, a host can also offer emotional support.

At one point I was feeling concerned about mysocial-support work and I talked openly with them about it. They provided me with some websites that might be helpful – and listened when I needed to talk. [E45Q2]

Although the fourth type of social support, instrumental support, might be more often offered when the contact is well established (e.g. loaning something or offering to help out in a stressful situation), small scale offers such as translating a letter written in the foreign language could also occur early on.

We met so that I could become a typical Dutch woman, that is, buying a bike – here that’s a real sign of integration. [E40DW4]

A local host as a way to support expatriates

Many authors have pointed out the need for organisations to promote contact of their expatriate employees with host nationals. Expatriates received a significant amount of social support through the contact with their local host – whether emotional, informational, or instrumental support, or simply social companionship. Organisations can use a local host or buddy-system as a tool to support expatriates in dealing with the challenges posed by living and working in a foreign country, to enable them to perform well at their jobs.


Van Bakel, M.S., Van Oudenhoven, J.P. & Gerritsen, M. (in press) Impact of a local host on social support received by expatriates. Human Resource Development International

Photo by Ondřej Lipár via Flickr.

Global leadership recruitment and development: A Danish case

This spring one of my students in Change Management, Ioannis Zisopoulos, wrote a very interesting Master thesis about global leader selection and development in five Danish MNCs (1). Here are some of his findings.

What is a global leader?
One of the interesting findings is that the Danish MNCs do not label global leaders as ‘global leaders’, defining them simply as ‘leaders’. Although these leaders function in a more international context than others, no specific leadership programs are created for them. The question is whether this goes for MNCs in other countries as well, or whether this is something specifically Danish. Ioannis suggests in his thesis that it might be related to Danish culture with its emphasis on equality. It is certainly possible that Danish MNCs are hesitant to label leaders as ‘global’, thereby setting them apart from the other leaders. Whether this is true or not, it could be a good thing anyway to develop ‘normal’ leadership programs to encompass global aspects as well, since more and more leaders are nowadays working internationally, and will need to be able to deal with this added complexity.

When do organisations ‘buy’ or ‘make’ global leadDannebrog (Jacob Boetter)ers?
The thesis’ main focus lay with the decision of the organisation to ‘buy or make’ global leaders. In other words, when does an organisation decide to develop someone from inside the organisation, and when to recruit someone from the outside? When reading his thesis, the key aspect seems to be the availability of human capital: Does the company have the right person in-house to fulfil this global leadership position at this moment in time? If that is not the case, then the company will look elsewhere.

What influences the ‘buy vs. make’ decision?
In general, the companies preferred to develop an internal candidate – because they are already part of the organisation and are more likely to fit the company’s vision and culture – but there is simply not always time for that. Other factors that influence the choice between recruitment and development are whether the company is doing well – which influences how much money is available for employee development – and organisational culture. For example, one of the interviewed companies has a people-oriented culture which emphasizes the development of employees. Such companies are more likely to develop their own global leaders than to recruit from outside the organisation.

What do you think – is the fact that the Danes don’t label global leaders as such something typically Danish? Or have you seen this in other countries as well?


(1) Zisopoulos, I. (2016). Organizational perspectives on Global Leadership recruitment and development. A study of Danish MNCs. Master thesis in Change Management, University of Southern Denmark.

Image of the Danish flag by Jacob Bøtter, via Flickr.

Learning Danish: Finding out what works for you

There are many resources for learning a language, but I think everyone needs to figure out what works for them. There was someone in my language class who swore by this app which helped him learn words by repeating them every day. That worked well for him, but it wouldn’t for me. I think everyone has to find their own way in which to learn the language – and here is what worked for me…

Language school
I have been learning Danish both at language school and in the ‘real world’. One of the great things here in Denmark is that language school is actually free. Imagine what a difference that makes for people who would like to learn the language – especially a language that is only spoken in a small country of 5.5 million people. Although language school has helped a lot, I still prefer to learn the language in real life situations, because that’s where it’s relevant and so much more fun to learn. So instead of writing a fictional e-mail to a friend about some topic suggested by the language school, I wrote e-mails to actual Ugens ord og udtrykDanish friends, and then sent them off. To fluer med et smæk! (two birds with one stone)

Expression of the week’
A Dutch friend of mine gave me this idea; she did this with a foreign colleague of her. Every week, she would teach her a typical Dutch expression – it could be a saying, but also just a way of saying things. So I put a paper on my office door, inviting my colleagues to contribute an ‘expression of the week’. That was a lot of fun, because they came up with fun and interesting expressions that are actually used in everyday life. I think sayings are the fun part of learning a language!

The magic of Harry Potter
And then there is Harry Potter… Having read the books in English several times, I am very familiar with the story. This means that I could read the book in Danish without having to look up every single word – I could often guess what something meant. This was a great help, because starting to read in a new language can be very difficult and a bit tedious. I didn’t find the books that are specifically written for new language learners that interesting, and the books that I would like to read take ages because I would have to look up every single word. It might be a bit of an unorthodox way of learning a language, but it works for me!

I am curious to hear about your ways of learning a language. What has worked for you?

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