Foreign Languages as Part of a Holistic Offshore Strategy


written by A. L. Hart Havens on December 15, 2020


One of the primary concerns about moving overseas is the ability to communicate with locals in the country of destination. In fact, the perceived difficulty of a language is often viewed as a deal‑breaker when it comes to consideration of a country’s inclusion in an aspiring expat’s offshore game plan.

There are numerous schools of thought on what constitutes the most effective language‑acquisition approach, among which are classroom instruction, self‑paced study, and in‑country immersion. However, it is important to keep in mind that these are didactic methods developed by linguists and language professionals who are focused on imparting language skills upon the learner. Consequently, they do not consider whether the acquisition of a particular language is a worthwhile investment of the learner’s time, effort, and other resources.

This essay presents the argument that prospective expats from Anglosphere countries who exhibit an interest in foreign languages often unwittingly adopt an unwise approach that serves to interfere with their offshore flag‑planting endeavors.

Hard Work, Dedication, and a Lifelong Commitment

Anyone who has legitimately learned a foreign language to advanced or near‑native fluency in adulthood understands how much time, effort, dedication, and upkeep is required to achieve and maintain such a high level of foreign‑language proficiency.

Furthermore, the majority of languages in the world have a significantly more complex system of grammar than does English, which means that you’ll be studying the 35 or so different ways of the expressing the (in)definite articles A and THE if you decide to pursue an Eastern European language. If that doesn’t sound awful enough, it should be noted that Asian languages constitute an entirely different league of difficulty.

Unsurprisingly, most monolingual English speakers are quick to call it quits once they move beyond the basic tourist phrases and into the heart of the grammar and rote vocabulary memorization. However, this doesn’t deter the numerous cosmopolitan‑minded language enthusiasts who enjoy romanticizing about building a worldly persona and thus continue to pointlessly dabble in new languages for years on end without ever achieving fluency in any.

Generally speaking, dedicating time and effort to foreign‑language acquisition is a worthwhile endeavor only if a reasonable level of fluency is ultimately attained and if the learner is able to frequently apply the newly acquired skills to his own personal and/or professional benefit. Otherwise, the pursuit of foreign‑language learning should be viewed as an intellectual hobby like playing chess and reading classic novels rather than as a constructive offshore endeavor.

Do You Really Need It?

The ability to speak and understand proper English is of immense value when it comes to foreign travel and international diversification strategies, as any reputable bank, law firm, hotel, and business abroad will have English‑speaking staff, particularly in the capital cities.

With this in mind, any effort aimed at learning a second language as part of a holistic offshore strategy should be undertaken only if it is genuinely needed and only to the degree that it is likely to make life more convenient. Expats should therefore ascertain at the outset of the relocation planning process how well the target‑country locals speak English and whether any language‑proficiency exams are administered to residency or citizenship applicants.

And although focusing solely on countries with English as the official language may seem expedient at first glance, this is actually quite an unsavvy approach given that the major English‑speaking countries of the world are substandard options for lowering taxes, increasing personal and economic freedom, and achieving international diversification across geopolitical spheres of influence.

Understanding Goals and Setting Priorities

In light of this predicament, a sensible approach should involve first establishing an offshore strategy with residency, citizenship, banking, tax, and business flags in the best possible jurisdictions in view of the expat’s specific goals and circumstances, and thereafter potentially adjusting that strategy in order to avoid any severe language‑related issues that could arise in the initially selected countries.

This structured approach serves to eliminate the risk of a prospective expat investing precious time and resources in learning a language that he ultimately won’t have any need for. More importantly, it eliminates the risk of the expat falling into the trap of designing his offshore strategy to include subpar offshore jurisdictions simply because those countries would accommodate his language‑learning objectives.

Thus, waiting until a sound offshore strategy is finalized and put into action allows prospective expats to better gauge the extent to which any language study will be beneficial. And this will typically only be the case for languages spoken in countries in which an expat firmly intends to spend a significant amount of time living on a long-term basis.

In summary, if your goal is to achieve financial and political diversification across national borders in order to ensure your freedom and prosperity in today’s troubled and uncertain times, your international game plan should primarily focus on second residencies, second citizenships, offshore banking, and foreign real estate. It should not be centered around learning foreign languages.