Speaking the language gives the best expat experience in Switzerland


Moving to a new country has many challenges, especially if you don’t speak the language. It may be difficult to communicate with colleagues and perform to the best of your ability, and it can be hard to make new friends. However, if you learn to speak the language and immerse yourself in local culture, the experience of living in a new country can be extremely rewarding.


For journalist and missionary Joy Eva Bohol, travel and people are at the heart of her work. Learning languages has been transformative, giving her opportunities in Colombia, Korea and Switzerland that wouldn’t have been possible without her determination to communicate in the local language. We spoke to Joy Eva about her reasons for learning languages and how this has helped her work and enriched her life.


Languages are essential to Joy Eva’s missionary work

As a 24-year-old, Joy Eva left The Philippines to join an NGO in Colombia, South America as a young adult missionary and journalist. Joy Eva learned to speak and write in Spanish so she could communicate with people in their local language.


After two years of missionary experience and speaking Spanish, Joy Eva became an advocate for the young adult missionary programme (based in New York City, USA) covering Latin America and Asia. When Joy Eva moved to the South Korea office, a new language learning opportunity beckoned!


Joy Eva is now in Switzerland as a global missionary for the United Methodist Church. Not content with speaking five languages, Joy Eva is now learning French! Working with the World Council of Churches (WCC) as programme executive for youth engagement in the ecumenical movement, Joy Eva has been living in Geneva for three years. Joy Eva’s work is all about communication, which is so much easier with a common language.


Joy Eva connects with people by speaking their language

Joy Eva shares that one of the core values of a missionary is engaging with local communities. “When you try to speak the language of the people, of the locals in the community where you are, you get more respect, and you get to build a closer relationship with the people.”


As the “stranger moving into a different community”, Joy Eva wants to immerse herself in Swiss culture to make the most of her expat experience. “I have to adapt myself to integrate. I would never be like the Swiss, but at least I try to integrate myself, to communicate in their language.”


By understanding local culture, eating local food and learning the local language, she has gained trust and built relationships. She tries to live like the Swiss and has several Swiss friends to the surprise of colleagues who know that making friends in a new country isn’t easy. She takes delight in the way she has picked up several cultural traits from people she works and lives with. While her French isn’t at the same level as her other languages, she is well on the way to reaching her goals.


Blended language learning pilot programme

Earlier this year, Joy Eva joined the blended language learning course provided by Leman Language Services for free during lockdown.


Then, when the World Council of Churches contracted Leman Language Services to prepare WCC staff to take the FIDE test, Joy Eva was one of twenty-one students to join a blended language learning programme. Students combined online learning via the Babbel platform, oral lessons with LLS trainers via Zoom, and language cafes with other students.


Joy Eva’s hard work on the lockdown language course paid off. When LLS tested her French level at the start of their WCC training, she was ready to take the FIDE test. All she needed was to understand the test format and to practise, practise, practise!


FIDE preparation

When the FIDE training started, the pressure was on, says Joy Eva. Staff knew they needed to pass the test to renew their work permit and stay in Switzerland. Although the pressure felt a little overwhelming, she knew that learning French would have benefits beyond the test. With her experience in learning new languages, she has supported and encouraged her colleagues in their learning too.


Finding your language learning style is key to your success

Joy Eva believes that success in learning a new language depends on students finding their learning style, one that fits in with their lifestyle too.

The LLS Babbel Language Programme suits the way she likes to learn. She was free to go at her own pace, choosing a Babbel online lesson for an aspect of the language she wanted to focus on, and having an LLS trainer to help with her progress. “If I want to focus on grammar, on cultural, maybe idiomatic terms or review any intermediate lessons, then I can.”


The LLS coaching sessions supported her own independent study. “If you have questions, you can ask the coach, and the coach will also guide you with the progress. Also, sometimes I don’t understand why the structure is like this and like that. But the coach is there to assist, to guide, to help you understand these differences. And they also correct me on grammar.”


If students aren’t sure what their learning style is, Joy Eva says that the LLS blended language learning with its online lessons, oral coaching sessions and student language café gives them the flexibility to find out.


Passing the FIDE gives students the confidence to live the Swiss life

Passing the FIDE has certainly taken the pressure off in terms of permit renewal, says Joy Eva. But learning French isn’t just about the permit or having the language skills. By speaking the same language, you can share in everyday Swiss life, such as shopping, eating out, visiting exhibitions and shows and using public transport.


After six months of language training and passing the FIDE, Joy Eva is more confident about understanding and communicating in French. “I was in Avignon on my birthday, and I was there for three days speaking only French. People were so happy that I was trying hard to communicate with them in their own language.“

But Joy Eva isn’t ready to stop learning. “Having the FIDE is not the end. I really want to continue, to better my French and to speak more fluidly in the conversation”. Joy Eva will be living the Swiss life and making new friends for a while yet. “Hopefully, in the remaining two years that I have, I’d be great with my French,” she says, laughing.


LLS French language learning programmes

Are you inspired by Joy Eva’s passion to speak the language, live the Swiss life and make new friends? Whether you want to improve your French for the workplace or a study programme, take the FIDE for permit renewal, or to feel more at home in your Swiss French community, our expert French trainers can help.

We provide face-to-face classes, individually or in groups, or an online language programme with weekly tutorials and student meetups via Zoom, ideal for students unable to get to classes. We cater for learners at every level, from beginners to French speakers who need to brush up or advance their skills.

Visit our French training and LLS Babbel blended language learning pages to find out more about our company training or one-to-one courses.


Written by Tracy B./LLS

Pictures: Courtesy of Joy Eva Bohol

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