Courtney Fraley is a student at Baldwin Wallace University and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures blogger corresponding with a her study abroad office at Baldwin Wallace. Courtney is studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain on an ISA Spring 1 program.
Picture this, every state in the U.S. speaks a different language. Some languages are very similar and others are so different from yours it makes your head spin. If you are lucky enough, someone knows at least a little of your language and can help point you in the right direction. In actuality, this is Europe. Traveling from country to country in Europe, I have run into many language and communication barriers as the majority of the countries speak different languages. Some times it can be frustrating and irritating, but, at the same time, an incredible learning experience.
As a Public Relations major, strong communications skills are vital. I need to be able to communicate with many people in an effective way, whether it be verbally, written or through nonverbal cues. But communication meets many barriers, language being one of them. Being able to communicate in English will only get me so far. Granted, English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, but not everyone speaks it. I have challenged myself to jump the language barrier in order to expand my ability to communicate by learning Spanish as a second language.
In America, I think we really take for granted that many people speak English. We never have to struggle to communicate. This world of ours is a huge place filled with diverse, incredible people with interesting stories and cultures, but we cannot fully grasp or understand without knowing the language. Our world is becoming increasingly connected and learning another language is becoming even more essential. Just by learning a second language, you increase your ability to communicate tremendously.
In Spain, they learn other languages when they are in elementary school, the best age to absorb a second language. As a teaching assistant for two grade school classes in Sevilla, I have seen the value they place on learning a second language and how quickly they pick it up.
Our greatest learning experiences come from being outside of our comfort zone, making mistakes and communicating with others. Here, in Spain, I have had the opportunity to experience all three of these. While traveling throughout Europe, I have slammed right into several language barriers from the stubborn French who only speak French to feeling completely illiterate in Greece. But these experiences have only motivated me more to speak Spanish fluently and learn more languages after that.
Imagine how much better we could communicate with one another by learning other languages; not only understanding each others’ actions and words, but finding a deeper connection between cultures.