Another Side of the Language Barrier


At this time last year, I was running around Seoul, South Korea, studying at Yonsei University for 2 months and I now find myself on the precipice of my next adventure: a semester studying abroad in Buenos Aires.

You can find all the logistical-type info here in the updated FAQ because I’m lazy and don’t like answering questions more than once.

I was trying to figure out how to start chronicling this experience so I looked back to my very first post on the website. It was entitled “Am I Nervous?” where I talked about how I was feeling before I left for Korea. I thought it would be prudent to begin in the same way, but realized a funny little difference: last summer when people found out I was going to Korea for two months on my own, they always asked “are you nervous?” but now that people hear I’m going to Argentina for five months on my own they now ask “are you excited?”

I have no deep analysis for why this is. Perhaps it’s coincidence or perhaps it was everyone’s trepidation regarding North Korea’s shifty actions last summer, but my feelings towards this impending trip to Argentina feel nothing like the butterflies I had last summer.

For one thing, I speak Spanish better than I speak Korean and other’s expectations for me will be different: last summer, people assumed I should be able to speak Korean fluently or even that I was a Seoul native and I had to explain to them that this wasn’t the case. This time around, nobody is going to mistake me for a native at first glance and will potentially try to take advantage of that, but I look forward to getting my bearings and proving them wrong with my knowledge of the city and language (hopefully…).

However, the language barrier will still be an issue for me. I do not mean this in the traditional sense of being unable to communicate and find my way around and get directions and whatnot, but rather in the sense that I am unable to fully be myself when required to speak only in Spanish. For example, anyone who knows me well knows that a key trait of mine is my inability to stop talking. However, due to my limited vocabulary and the fact that my sense of humor (comprised mostly of sarcasm, puns, and crude remarks) will not translate in the same way, I will have to be a little more careful with the way I use my words and will likely be less loquacious.

I look forward to this challenge, but it does certainly place a few question marks in my brain as I prepare to leave. I have always enjoyed being thrown in to completely new groups of people in new situations and adapting, but I’ve never had to do it entirely in a different language. It will be interesting to see how that takes shape during my first few weeks in the city.


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