Overcoming (or at least trying to) a language barrier

My dad always tells me, “If you’re lost or don’t know what you’re doing, act like you know what you’re doing until you figure it out.”

But even pretending to have a clue is impossible in a foreign country that speaks a language that makes just as much sense to me as physics does (aka, no sense at all).

Czech language is, quite simply, unlike any language I’ve ever heard before. My first few days here, I was like a toddler. I would blindly follow people around, signs made no sense to me, where the tram stopped meant nothing to me, and ordering food became a game of pointing and charades.

And since the program directors know how difficult Slavic languages are, we are required to take a two-week intensive Czech class. Everyday, for five hours, I sit in class with 15 other Americans trying to make sense of Czech to English translations and correctly pronounce Czech words that include no vowels. With a beautiful view of the city from our classroom, we struggle with each other to formulate conversations about what our names are and where we are from. Our professor is just as interested in our culture as we are in hers, as we explain to her why we always greet people with, “how are you?” and she explains to us that Czech people are not accustomed to having college students pet their dogs. Our professors want us to get adjusted to speaking the new language, taking us out to eat and forcing us to order in Czech, or taking us into the metro and having us ask strangers for the time in Czech.

Overall, the class is helping and we are trying. After mimicking our professor in class, studying on the tram and having five year olds laugh at us for reciting the numbers in the Czech language out loud on the tram, I am finally able to make some sense of this language. I can greet cashiers and waiters now, I have a clear sense of what stops will get me home and where I need to go, and I can even (kind of) order food in Czech.

Slowly but surely, I will reach the ultimate goal of not looking like a total American.        view from school

Anne, English major and Journalism and Environmental Studies minor, is enthused to spend a semester immersed in a different culture. She cannot wait to meet new people, visit new places, and share these experiences with others.

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