Learning a new language can certainly feel intimidating, especially when immersing yourself in a new place. If you’re nervous about learning a language abroad, read this experience from Arly MackRosen, a Peer Mentor at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She went abroad with API to Seville, Spain. Her big takeaway: embrace the language, even if you’re a beginner. Don’t worry about making mistakes because that’s all a part of the learning process!
Starting as a Beginner
In the spring of 2022, I went on the API program “Spanish Culture Studies in English” in Seville, Spain. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget! When I first arrived in Spain, I experienced a bit of culture shock especially since I only knew a little bit of Spanish. (Most of which I could remember from high school). As a result, I was uncomfortable and embarrassed to use my minimal Spanish skills. It was intimidating to speak a new language, so I relied heavily on my friends who were Spanish majors.
Making Mistakes is a Part of Learning
One day, I was eating lunch with two friends. One friend was more fluent in Spanish, and the other was a beginner, just like me. When ordering food, our fluent friend ordered their meal almost perfectly in Spanish. My other friend and I laughed when it was our turn, ultimately resorting to English. Stopping us with a huge smile, our waiter encouraged us to order in Spanish. Our waiter cheered us on after our attempt. The whole experience was pretty silly, but I realized making mistakes is a part of learning. And it’s better to try and fail than not try at all. I learned people native to Spain appreciate the effort, and no one will be annoyed if you give it a shot.
Embrace the Language, Embrace the Culture
Language is part of the culture of any place you visit. If you want to fully embrace the culture, there is no way around it. By embracing Spanish, I was able to gain experiences I would never have before. I could communicate with my host family to learn more about them, and I even made friends with locals! I wasn’t perfectly fluent, but I improved my skills, and they appreciated my efforts to communicate.
Learning a Language Abroad and Gaining Confidence
By the end of my experience in Spain, I felt a lot more confident speaking in Spanish; even now, I sometimes find myself randomly pulling out Spanish sentences or words without even trying. I am so glad I was able to gain the confidence to use my Spanish. Now, I jump at the chance to use this skill whenever I can!
It’s Your Turn to Go Abroad
We hope Arly’s perspective provides inspiration to anyone who is hesitant to go abroad because of a language barrier. No matter your level of fluency, learning a language abroad is a great way to grow your communication skills. Are you ready to take the leap and go abroad yourself? Get started by checking out our programs in Spain!