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The Ups and Downs of Language Learning Abroad

by Lyndsey Bradley
The Ups and Downs of Language Learning Abroad | AIFS Study Abroad | San Jose, Costa Rica

Last Updated on March 12, 2020 by Lyndsey Bradley

Last semester, I took a class called Language Acquisition. It was fascinating and one of my top 3 favorite classes that I have taken in college, and I learned a lot.

This semester, I am acquiring a new language. Or trying to at least. It was certainly an interesting topic to study, but it is something entirely different to do in practice.

For as long as I can remember, there has always been a small part of me that has wanted to learn another language. I wanted to learn to be able to communicate with a whole new group of people that I would not have been able to otherwise. I wanted to rewire my brain to literally be able to think in a whole new way. I also wanted to gain perspective on the world that I live in, because they say the way we use language alters our view of reality.

Learning a new language is truly an emotional rollercoaster.

It is frustrating, exciting, and embarrassing. Some days I am so excited to learn new things, so I am openminded and ready to use everything that I have learned. The words just come naturally, without even thinking. They fall out of my mouth and everything makes sense.

Other days I get so frustrated that I cannot understand what people are saying, and that I cannot communicate everything (or anything) that I want to say. I have to think so hard that I am using all of my brain power to remember my vocabulary words, much less forming a sentence that makes any sense. There are times where I want to pack up my suitcases and head home — “What is the use? Why do I even bother? I am just not meant to learn another language.” I feel like will never be able to communicate in anything other than English.

On the good days, it feels like all of the dedication, passion, and hard work has paid off. I feel like I have accomplished what I have come all the way here to do. It is a rewarding and magical feeling to actually be able to convey your thoughts to someone in a language other than English.

Lyndsey and a friend drink freshly squeezed orange juice after conversing with a local merchant in Spanish.

Regardless of how I feel I am doing day-to-day, by the end of my four months here in Costa Rica, I know I will have learned (at least) some Spanish. After all, I have surrounded myself in everything there possibly could be in Spanish — from radio stations to movie theaters. There are phrases that I already cannot forget: “pura vida,” which directly translates directly to “pure life,” or “con gusto,” which directly translates to, “with pleasure.” I hear them so much that I do not think it is possible for me to ever forget their meaning.

This is certainly a challenging journey, but even with all of the frustrations, I can already feel my Spanish improving. I am two weeks into my semester abroad and I am already proud of how much my communication has improved. I cannot wait to see how far I will have come by December.

This post was contributed by Lyndsey Bradley, who is spending her fall semester studying abroad with AIFS in San José, Costa Rica.

The Ups and Downs of Language Learning Abroad | AIFS Study Abroad | San Jose, Costa Rica

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