Study Abroad: Tips for Breaking the Language Barrier

Mar 10, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_Florence_Spring_2016_Marte_Eggleston_-_Official_CAPA_Blogger_Profile.jpgMarte Eggleston is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A journalism major at the Indiana University, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.

In this week's post, Marte shares her experience with learning Italian abroad and tips for others going into a host city where there's a language barrier.


Before coming to Florence, I knew about five Italian words (most of them food-related). I have a background in Spanish so I felt that I would be able to pick it up pretty quickly. I was only about a fourth right. Spanish and Italian are similar in the sense that they have the same words, but the issue is that the pronunciation is completely different. But both languages sound so beautiful when spoken correctly!

Florentines are so used to tourists though that they speak enough English to help us out. They give us smiles as we stumble over the carefully chosen words of the romance language and try to help us learn along the way.

 CAPAStudyAbroad_Florence_Spring2016_From Marte Eggleston - Language

It is a definite plus to take Italian in a classroom setting multiple times a week. Personally, the repetition helps me absorb the language faster. Mostly, I’m in it to learn enough food words to buy a cookbook in Italian.

I visited Portugal and Spain this past week over spring break, and I thought the Italian would help me out, and it did. Kind of. Portuguese is the strangest language I have ever heard, kind of like Spanish but not really at all. All the high school Spanish actually started coming back to me after awhile, making all of my teachers proud f they would have heard it, I’m sure.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Florence_Spring2016_From Marte Eggleston - Language

I’m mostly worried about going back to Italian class and thinking in Spanish the entire time. It was reassuring that I could potentially learn another language because I actually remembered the Spanish, and I hope all of the exposure to Italian will help me remember it better. We are a bit spoiled that so many Florentines speak at least a little English, but I always try to use Italian because I want to at least look like I’m trying!

CAPAStudyAbroad_Florence_Spring2016_From Marte Eggleston - Language

Here are some tips for those going into a study abroad trip with potential language barrier:

  • Try to learn "excuse me" and "thank you" before coming to the country.
  • Don’t be afraid to mess up; most people will appreciate the effort.
  • The more you try to use the words casually, the easier the language will become.
  • There is no shame in using Google Translate every once in awhile, but common sense will go a long way in figuring out those words that are difficult to translate to English.
  • For other foodies, try to speak the language at places without an English menu (they’re probably more authentic anyway!).

Thanks Marte!

Marte's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.

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Topics: Official Bloggers and Vloggers, Florence, Italy