Studying abroad is a challenge within itself, but try adding a foreign language into the mix and you'll really spice things up. I’ve been studying Spanish language at my university for almost three years, but being immersed in the culture is an entirely different story. It’s like I’ve been practicing for the big game for years and now it’s time to lay it all out and perform. It’s been a roller-coaster ride of an experience, but as I reflect from where I’ve come to where I ‘am now, it was all worth it.
I’ve been living in Buenos Aires for almost three months now, even for someone like me who studies the language, I have still met the occasional and infamous “Language Barrier.” It happens to us all no matter if you’re a beginner or expert, a second language will sometimes leave you stumped! What is most important when you encounter a language barrier is how you approach it. Look at it as an opportunity to learn a grown, not as a failure or mishap. Let me tell you about one of the experiences I have had with the language barrier and how I came out of it better than I was before.
I live in a homestay, which means I live with a family here in Buenos Aires. Talk about being on the front lines. My house mom knows some words and phrases in English but for the most part only speaks to us in Spanish. Living in a homestay has forced me to ask questions and deal with situations I have never before encountered while studying at university.
The best stories I have to describe the language barrier stem from my homestay and house mom. I remember one occasion when my house mom had mentioned something about the maid coming, the rest of what she said I missed but politely nodded and smiled like I understood what was going on, happens a lot; you’ll see. Fast forward 20 minutes later I hear the buzzer ring and I think it’s the maid and I proceeded to let her in, no one came but the buzzer continued to ring. I was dumbfounded and didn’t know what to do. About ten minutes later in walked the maid and doorman who let here in through the back service entrance that I had no idea even existed. So, I locked the maid out for 20 minutes because I had no idea what my house mom asked of me; a little embarrassing at first but a good laugh whenever I think about it.
I have so many more stories I could share, but I’ll save myself the embarrassment. Learning a language or being in a foreign country is about give and take. You have to be willing to put yourself out there and challenge yourself. The reward will be so much more than you could ever imagine. Trust me, I’m living it.
Javon Dobbs is the Spring 2013 CEA MOJO in Buenos Aires, Argentina
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