Beneficial Language Barriers

Venturing to a new land that uses a foreign language can definitely be frightening. From birth we are brought up in a society that allows us to vocalize our needs, ideas, and feelings and understand others while using a common dialect. Being aware that this convenience may be hindered while traveling can most certainly be intimidating, especially while preparing to study abroad.

Before my study abroad experience in Florence, Italy I was nervous about the use of the Italian language. I had only 4 years of beginner Spanish skills under my belt, and knew the Italian language would be difficult for me to use. Luckily, in Florence, most of the locals spoke at least a small amount of English, which helped me in common situations. What I found most helpful was the Italian language course I was enrolled in at my university abroad. This class instructed me to actively use the Italian language, and made interacting with locals a more enriching experience.

There was only one scenario where an Italian man and I did not share a single common word. He was my waiter in a small restaurant in Siena, and immediately had difficult time explaining that he did not speak or understand English. Although we had a language barrier- through the use of smiling, nonverbal language, and a lot of hand waiving, I was able to partake in one of the most memorable lunches during my time abroad.

Language differences are not a factor that should scare the student from studying in a foreign country. If anything, it should be a reason that makes the country even more intriguing. Whether you’re studying abroad to practice a language, or going only understanding English, immersing yourself in a land of words that are unrecognizable only benefits you as a student, and more importantly a person living in a multicultural world.


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