Sunday, January 30, 2011

When you are in a country where you are the foreigner.

When you are in a foreign country especially on a short visit, the language barrier is bound to be your biggest challenge.

I first visited Australia to study English in 1999. It was only a two-month visit and my English was pretty bad, although it wasn’t like I didn’t speak any English at all.

It was Perth I stayed during those 2 unforgettable months. The beach was beautiful, and the blue in the sky was the deepest blue I’d ever seen.

Inside the ESL institution I didn’t have too much problem understanding English; the clear-spoken, proper English the teachers used with no slangs or swear words. They also spoke slowly. 
However, outside the class was a totally different story.
English spoken in the real world was quite different from teacher’s English. It was near impossible to keep up with their…like, speaking speed, their thick Perth accent (you won’t notice the difference if you are Australian) and the idioms and the slangs.

My shyness didn’t help either. I pushed my courage as far as could to reach out to people and spoke to them, with my nervousness so obvious on my face.
I felt their impatience growing, and felt my own courage crushing inside, which freaked me out and made me even more confused. The humiliation was overwhelming.
I was lost in the place where there is no Japanese sign whatsoever, where hardly no one speaks Japanese unless you luckily come across with fellow Japanese in the area. 
If you mutter some English words in Japanese accent, I guarantee 99% won’t even understand you. 

So I know exactly how foreign travellers feel in Japan.
Well, at least Japan is a safe country to travel around alone.

Back in Japan I started talking to more people of different nationalities. I learned a bit of Indonesian, Chinese, a few Arabic words and more English.
What I was trying at that time was being more open-minded and out-going.

You’d see many English speakers in Tokyo. Particularly in Shibuya, you see many of them hanging around with some young Japanese.

What’s common in those who manage to cruise through their stay in Japan and learn the language quickly is their laid-back, open attitude.

They are not scared of speaking patchy Japanese and getting misunderstood.
Let’s face it – you’re in a different country, and you can’t escape some embarrassing moments caused by the language barrier.

Actually no one is trying to humiliate you. You are the only one feeling humiliated.
Leave that fear behind when you are in a different country.
You have to be adventurous and go with the flow.
Eventually you’ll learn the language however slowly it may be.
That way, you’ll make more friends and you’ll have a lot more fun.

In the end, we are all humans.
My time in Perth was still great in spite of numerous humiliating moments I had there. lol

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  1. Nice to meet you^^ I've just launched my blog and I'm looking for people who write diary in English. It would be great to talk with you here, pls visit my blog when you have time;)
    I'll visit yours again^^

  2. Hi Momo,

    Thanks for your comment.
    You maybe interested in checking out some blogs on the list of links. There are few people writing in English!
    And please drop by anytime!