Overcoming the language barrier as an international student

Studying in a foreign country is a great experience. However, it does come with drawbacks and compromises. One of the major drawbacks of studying abroad is the language barrier. Not only does it create a hassle during your studies, but it also keeps you from meeting other people, and this communication gap decreases the quality of your experience.

Below are some tips on how you can manage the language barrier as an international student:

Learning English

English may be neither your native language nor the official language of the place where you are going for studies. However, it is one of the most common languages across the world given its use for official communication. It is a language that can help you to find common ground. So, it is advisable to brush up your English skills before going to the new place.

Learning the Local Phrases

It may take time to learn the local language. For example, you may be going to Germany, but you speak English better than German. So, to integrate into the local community, you could start small by learning some local terms and phrases such as how to greet, ask certain questions, enquire directions, etc. This will make it easier to navigate your way around the campus and the city initially.

Let Go of the Embarrassment

Many students will be embarrassed about their language skills in the new place. Don’t let this overwhelm you. You have to try to improve. Don’t depend on friends or people who are fluent. Push yourself to learn despite the ups and downs. It is fine to speak slowly and be grammatically wrong. The locals will understand that you are learning a new language, and many will reiterate what you just said to ensure they’ve got the meaning correctly. This is the best time to learn, repeat the sentence and remember it; do use it the next time when you want to express it. 

Learn and Practice

In addition to your campus courses, join classes for learning the local language. And don’t forget to practice it as this is the best way to enhance your language skills. Don’t just use the new language in environments where you are comfortable, such as with your friends and family, but use them in your daily routine. Once you know the basics of the language, instead of doing the translation silently in your brain, try to train your brain to process it directly.  Once your brain gets used to the new language, you will be able to speak it fluently.

Keep a Pocket Translation Dictionary

This can be of immense help when you are stuck. However, don’t use it all the time or you will simply become dependent on it, hence missing out on the experience. You may want to use it only during your free time to learn new words.

An important thing to remember is to make the language discovery a part of your international education. Don’t develop an embarrassment or ego about it. Take it as an experience and you will have more fun learning.

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