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How to Embrace a Language Barrier Abroad

by Marley Vawter
AIFS Study Abroad | Embracing the Language Barrier | Marley Vawter | Student Blogger

If you’re anything like me, the idea of tackling a language barrier can seem impossible. It can be scary to think about going to a new place with new people without knowing the language as well as you would like, but I’m here to tell you not to worry.

I will be the first to admit that my Spanish is not anywhere near being advanced or fluent. When I told people that I was going to study abroad in Granada, Spain, they all had the same question — “Oh, are you fluent in Spanish?” My answer was the same every time: “No, but that’s part of the experience!”

I have spent a few weeks here, and the greatest part of studying abroad in Granada for me has been the people. I am lucky to have a wonderful host family that really works with me to communicate. Every person I have talked to on the street has had such a friendly and helpful personality that I feel welcomed here. It can be frustrating at times when I know exactly what I want to say but can’t think of the right word. Of course, there are apps that can translate for you to help if you feel lost. Most locals know some English phrases as well.

Each time I get overwhelmed or feel any kind of culture shock set in, I try to remember how much I am learning. I can already tell how my Spanish has improved in the short time I have been here. My host mom told me that right now I am translating everything in my head, but soon I will start thinking in Spanish naturally.

AIFS Study Abroad | Embracing the Language Barrier | Marley Vawter | Student Blogger

Every morning, I wake up and take a look outside on my terrace. I feel so lucky to get to experience this beautiful place that is so rich in culture. Since Granada has such a diverse cultural background of Moorish and Spanish roots, the locals are very accepting of new people. The experiences that I have had already have blown me away.

Making the decision to come here is something I will never regret. I may not have been fluent in Spanish when I arrived, but I’m getting around fine and my language skills are improving. I will cherish my time here forever. So my advice to you is don’t let the language barrier scare you. Step outside of your comfort zone.  It is so worth it.

This post was contributed by Marley Vawter, currently studying abroad for the summer with AIFS in Granada, Spain!

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