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The Language Barrier Breaks Barriers

April 06, 2015
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
 Menus in Spain! What exactly am I ordering again?

While living in a place where you speak the dominant language (For me, English in the United States), it's very easy to overlook the language skills needed for common, daily interactions such as ordering food, asking for directions or going to the doctor. When I came abroad, however, the luxury of the language that once had served me so well had disappeared, and the situations I once handled perfectly created unavoidable obstacles. I had my first taste of this reality during my first day in Granada when I met my host-mom. I arrived to my home-stay by taxi, and I was dropped off next to an apartment building that would be my home for the next five months. I rang the door bell, and I was greeted with a friendly "Sí?". I replied by saying that it was Brady and that I was her new student. The door to her apartment became unlocked, and she replied with a phrase that sounded very similar to "afjqwuofdnvadn." I shrugged my shoulders a bit, but I just figured that she must have said that I was in the clear to go up to her apartment. I entered the apartment building, and I saw that the elevator was rather small. Because of this, I grabbed my suitcases and headed up the stairs instead. As I reached the fifth floor, I began to hear a woman on the first floor calling out my name. "Ahhhh!" I said to myself. That's what she must a have said to me! She was going to meet me in the lobby! To this day, my host-mom and I still laugh about that first day experience of meeting each other and having our first conversation through the five floors of the stairwell. Since then, I have had many conversations where my lack of Spanish  has created funny misunderstandings like this.

 Pharmacy in Spain! If you are sick, they've got you covered!

One day, however, I was faced with a more serious downside of living with a language barrier; being sick and going to the doctor. Although I had the option to go with one of the bilingual advisers in my program, I wanted to have this experience in Spanish. My host-mom, who only speaks Spanish, accompanied me to the doctor. I did the talking, and she did the memorizing of what antibiotics I would need to take- A perfect combination! After all was said and done, I am honestly glad that I had that experience! Only way to learn how to go to the doctor in Spain is to actually do it! I feel like that statement accurately describes learning a language in general as well. Over the last three months, I have learned that the struggle that comes with not speaking Spanish fluently is the same struggle that helps me improve my Spanish day after day, I have learned that the Spaniards are willing to wait for me as I slowly string my Spanish sentences together, and most importantly, I have learned that learning a foreign language is fun!
 Spanish Class in the kitchen! Enjoying the Spanish Tortilla!
 Learning to cook with Spanish instructions!

Brady Greenwalt is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO in Granada, Spain. He is currently a junior at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln.

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