Overcoming the Language Barrier

Overcoming the Language Barrier
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recently posted on the topic of the language barrier and how those who are in the early stages of language learning may appear shy, rude or unintelligent. Included in this post were several tips on how to support foreigners who are learning on own language. If you find that you are that foreigner, however, I wanted to address what it can feel like from your point of view and then share with you how I overcame some of those difficulties that are involved with language learning! Here are the main language barriers I encountered during my time abroad in Spain:

The side-effects of the Language Barrier:

1. I acted much quieter and shy than I usually am
  • I would stray away from conversations and even eye contact to avoid talking to people because I was scared of engaging in a conversation I wouldn’t understand. Even when people went out of their way to ask me questions and include me in the conversation I would respond with short answers and not ask any questions in return. Then, I would beat myself up for it later wishing I had been more talkative and shown more appreciation for their effort to include me.
2. I was afraid to speak
  • In the beginning, I was so nervous to speak even the smallest words and even more terrified of long conversations.I nodded or shook my head so much people probably thought I was a mute or something. I was nervous about my accent, about trying to speak as fast as the locals did, about trying to use local slang…This desire to speak perfectly or not at all just made me quieter and quieter and slowed my language learning.
3. I was afraid to ask someone to speak slower or to repeat themselves
  • I wanted to hide the fact that I hadn’t understood something as if that was a terrible thing. If there was a time when I didn’t understand a certain word or an entire sentence I would just nod my head some more or agree with them and then try to move on to another topic or even just end the conversation right there.
Overcoming the Language Barrier
4. I felt secluded from conversations/jokes/activities
  • Because of my timidness in speaking, I often felt secluded and left-out from the fun that was clearly being had. Feeling like I wasn’t or couldn’t be involved I would usually leave practice or activities as soon as I could to escape the feeling that I was a deaf person in a crowded room, unable to understand anything.
5. I didn’t attend group activities/or include myself in conversations
  • My teammates were so great at inviting my to team gatherings, dinners, movie nights, etc, but I almost never went because I was so afraid of ending up alone in the corner with no one to talk to. I would stay home wanting to be a part of the fun, but too scared to get myself to step out the door and put myself in an uncomfortable situation.
6. I felt embarrassed when I would make a mistake
  • When I would talk and I would make a mistake I would turn bright red and get so embarrassed as if my language skills were supposed to be perfect and it was a terrible thing that they weren’t yet. Then, this embarrassment and anxiety would cause me to make even more mistakes!
7. I wanted to cry when people would laugh at something I said
  • When I would make a mistake, sometimes the girls would laugh and it was like a knife to the heart. I took their laughter so hard that it made me want to cry and tell them all to go and try and learn a new language then see if they were still laughing. It made me want to go back to my flat as quick as I could, put on an English show and never talk to them again.
Overcoming the Language Barrier

Because this post is already long enough I decided to dedicate another article to explaining how I overcame the difficulties of the language barrier. Overcoming the Language Barrier Pt. 2 is up just follow the link!

But before that, what struggles have you encountered during your journey of learning a new language? How did you overcome these or which ones are you still trying to overcome? I would love to hear about your language learning story, answer questions, and get some tips from you all as well!

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