Studying abroad in London has been giving me so many amazing experiences. Just this past week, I’ve gone to a country music festival in England (weird, right?), met Kip Moore (see photo that truly doesn’t capture my excitement), toured the inside of Westminster Abbey, and visited Paris. So there’s plenty I could talk about here, especially since all nine weeks here have been just as as exciting as this past one has been. What I really want to address here deals with my most recent experience, visiting Paris. What I found unique, aside from the wonderful sights of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame, is the impact language barriers had on my stay, especially considering my portfolio of languages only includes English and a little dabbling in Spanish. It’s a bit humbling when you arrive in a foreign country, like France, and your conversations are limited to hello, goodbye, thank you, you’re welcome, and the all-important phrase, “do you speak English?” Being in Paris was a challenge at times and the language barrier brought about a great deal of confusion. Signs are written in French, familiar advertisements become cryptic, and ordering from menus becomes nearly impossible (just to name a few things). Luckily for us Americans, there’s a great lot of Europeans who speak English, saving me, and I’m sure many others, some awkward interactions when all you want to order is a baguette, some cheese, and a French pastry to bring it all together. And even if they didn’t speak English, all they asked for from you was a little bit of effort and things generally worked out.
My experience in Paris was the first time in my life that I’ve been to a place where English is not the primary language. I had a great time trying to learn French phrases, even despite how sad my attempts sometimes were. And thanks to Nic (my flatmate) and his general understanding of French, I was able to just squeak by for the two days I was there.
The reason I’ve bringing up this language barrier now is it’s not something that I have had to deal with yet. The entirety of the UK speaks English. The closest I get to a foreign language being the primary language is in Scotland in Northern Ireland where the accents are so thick it might as well not be English. My visit to Paris has helped me appreciate the ability to communicate and has prepared me for what’s up ahead in my travels. In my last seven weeks here, there will be six more languages that will replace English as the primary language. That’s six more chances I have to use another language, each of which will likely lead to another poor attempt.
Side Note: Speaking to those individuals at RIT that will be reading my blog to evaluate if this semester abroad will be deemed fit for co-op credit, yes, I do attend class on a regular basis and yes, I am being challenged academically here at City University London. But aside from academics, it’s the life skills I’m learning here that bring the real value. So thanks RIT for allowing me to replace a co-op block with a semester abroad. Without that, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be having the time of my life and learning more than I ever could have imagined.
(And hey, why not try out the language barrier for yourself. The side note above is translated below in French.)
Se adressant à ces personnes à RIT qui seront lisent mon blog pour évaluer si ce semestre à l’étranger sera jugé apte pour le crédit co- op, oui, je ne assiste classe sur une base régulière et oui, je suis mis au défi académique ici à la City University Londres. Mais à côté des universitaires, ce sont les compétences de la vie que je apprends ici que ramener la valeur réelle. Donc merci RIT de me permettre de remplacer un bloc co- op avec un semestre à l’étranger. Sans cela, je ne serais pas ici. Je ne serais pas avoir le temps de ma vie et de l’apprentissage plus que je aurais pu imaginer.