How it feels to live in a country where nobody understands you (and viceversa)

Published by Alice, 17 years on 2018-04-26
Everyone knows how it feels to find ourselves stuck in a situation where no communication is possible because of the language. It could have happened on holiday when that French guy asked for your number but you just nodded and smiled, not having a clue of what was happening. Or maybe on a school trip, when that Spanish lady asked you if you had a lighter and you run away terrified 'cause you didn't understand a word.

Imagine being stuck in that kind of situation for months.

I'm on an exchange in Germany for a bit more than two months and I'm still panicking when someone asks me for information. But there's more than that. Every normal conversation becomes suddenly as difficult as climbing the Mount Everest. And the fun fact is that you might have studied that language for ten years, but as soon as a native speaker gets near, your brain will delete everything you knew.

The first times, when people asked me if I spoke the language, I naively used to answer "Of course!". I soon realized that yes, I spoke German, BUT NOT THOSE PARTS. Everything I knew was gone. Even saying 'Hallo' to my host family the first weeks sounded like 'Allòò', like if I was someone who had never seen German in her entire life. As I said, I've been here for two months and I still struggle a lot talking. But a positive thing is that, with the time, people around you start to understand as you speak. They just get used to your weird way of talking.

Not knowing the language of your 'host country' sometimes can be very, and I repeat, VERY frustrating. A few days ago I spent half an hour trying to explain to my host brother what Italians usually do on New Year's Eve. Sometimes, on the other hand, are the others who have to explain me something a million of times 'cause I cannot understand (e.g my host mum tried to explain me a joke in German... it took her almost 45 minutes). And I won't even mention the school. Suffice it to say that I've never been so scared in my life as when the gym teacher shouted at me in German trying to 'explain' that I was doing the wrong exercise.

Long story short. For each of us, the times to learn a language are different, but it will always be a difficult journey, so why not do our best and try to make it worth?
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