Language Barrier Hints and Tips

Hi everyone!

I thought I would do a post about hints and tips for overcoming language barriers when you go to a different country in order to get fluent in a foreign language. I just want to say now that I am not fluent in any foreign languages by any means (yet!) but I am on my way and so I am going to list a few things which have helped me get by.

I am currently studying Spanish, German and Italian and have just spent 3 weeks au pairing for a family who live on the outskirts of Madrid. I was really lucky that my family was so nice and helpful and they could speak English if there were any major difficulties. 

Although it was so tempting to slip into speaking English with them, I tried my best to fit in as much Spanish speaking practice as possible. I actually found that as well as learning the language I was finding so much about Spanish culture as well - just everyday things which are different to English customs. I thought this was so interesting! For example apparently it's very common for Spanish people to dip their toast into tea and whilst I am not up for trying this it was a fun thing to find out!

So on to my hints and tips. I have shortened them down to 5 so I hope they help!

1. Always wear a bracelet/hairband - this is essential as you can fiddle with it in awkward situations and it helps you not to stand there like a lemon which doesn't know what it's doing. Alternatively in dining situations keep something to drink in one hand to sip whenever you feel awkward (but don't gulp it down too fast because you might need it later!)

This was my bracelet which I got from Greece because it
has the lucky Greek eyeball symbol on so it gave me both 

good luck and relief from awkward situations
2. If you don't understand, ask - this one seems really obvious, but the amount of times I just said yes or no and hoped it was the right answer was crazy and also you end up looking very stupid if you a) say the wrong answer  (an example of how this is when I said yes to the question 'are you allergic to wasps?' and so I made everyone really worried for no reason as wasps began to swarm around the table - oops!), or b) answer yes or no to a question which requires a proper answer 

3. Try to participate as much as you can - I found this particularly hard because by the time I understood what we were talking about the conversation had moved on to a different topic. It's so easy to just sit there passively in conversations, but if you can go for it! 

4. Don't be afraid to say that you don't understand - there is nothing more embarrassing than when someone finds out that although you said you understood you actually didn't! There is no shame in not understanding because you are learning so let someone know if you are confused about something

5. Relax - I found it so much easier to speak more fluently when I didn't plan the sentence I was going to say beforehand or stress about how to say something. So my advise here is to make what you say spontaneous and then it will come out a lot better!

So those are my tips for language survival. As someone who finds speaking in general quite hard I found that I have made some real improvement in just 3 weeks.

If any of you are trying to get fluent in a language I wish you the best of luck and I would definitely recommend au-pairing as a way to improve really quickly and have so much fun too!




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