We had several international students visited my global engagement class recently. The point that stood out most to me in this discussion came from the student from New Zealand. He told us that even being a native English speaker had not spared him from language barriers here in the US. Phraseology and accents each had a major impact on his day-to-day interactions and communication, and consequently, he found himself altering his syntax to blend into the norms of those around him. This concept of being a “lingual chameleon” was strangely both comforting and slightly terrifying to me. It made me feel better that I am not the only one struggling with the “local dialect.” I have found myself altering my phraseology by adapting sayings from Tennessee or deleting them from my speech. However, the concept is unsettling when think about myself leaving for a study abroad as a non-native speaker of Spanish. I only have learned the formal grammar, and I feel like the struggle to fit in would be magnified tremendously in that situation as opposed to just adapting to a different form of colloquial speech pattern. It would be hard to navigate a city street when you didn’t know the slang terms being used, which brings up another point that our visitors shared: don’t be afraid to use the language, make mistakes, and ask for help because most people are willing to help you understand. I want to take this advice when I go abroad and step out of my comfort zone. Finally, I have a high regard for these students in their courage to come as nonnative English speakers to the US and for actively working to practice their skills.
- Stories and Perspectives
- Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe Reception