Language Barriers

As my time studying abroad comes to an end, it’s time to reflect on the experiences I’ve had while here. While for the most part, my experience here has been nothing but positive, there have surely been some hard times and some struggles I’ve faced. Things such as cultural shock and homesickness have been tough to deal with at times, but I think the biggest challenge I faced while here has been the language barrier.

While surely my Spanish has improved greatly during the four months I’ve been here, there are still many times where I cannot understand what someone is trying to tell me in Spanish and this is very frustrating. Although I have made many Spanish speaking friends, the language barrier between us has prevented me from being able to have extensive conversations with them at times. This is frustrating because it is difficult to build meaningful relationships when your conversation with them is limited. Having said that, it is very important that you don’t let your frustration make you stop trying. Just from having conversations with Spanish people over and over, my Spanish has improved immensely and that is a great feeling.

In general, at least in Spain, people are very patient and understanding when you try to talk to them. They understand that it is not your first language, and they appreciate that you are trying to talk to them in their language. Additionally, many of these people like the opportunity to improve their English, so many times they will try to speak with you in English. This makes it much more comfortable and less frustrating because you are both in the same boat; you are trying to improve your Spanish and they are trying to improve their English.

As I mentioned before, my advice for other students that plan to study abroad in a country that doesn’t speak English is to keep practicing and don’t let your frustration lead to giving up trying. Another piece of advice I would give, and one that I wish someone would have told me before I came here, is to practice the language a lot before you come. Before I came I thought, my Spanish is good enough to get by over there, I don’t need to practice more. While this is true, my Spanish was good enough to get by, it would have been so much better to be fluent and able to have a perfect conversation in Spanish before I got here.

While it is tempting to just study abroad in a place where the people speak English, I think that learning a new language is a very important and rewarding skill. So, though it may make your experience a bit more difficult in that sense, I highly recommend learning a new language and studying in a country where you can practice that language, as practicing and improving my Spanish has been one of my favorite parts about studying here.