Study Abroad Questions - 'What if I do not speak the language?'

Updated: Jul 31

Studying abroad is much more than having an international education! But what if you do not speak the language? Here at 'Go Studying Abroad' we provide you with the answer to allow you to make the most of your international exchange programme regardless of the language barrier.


This is a common fear for most students, however, from personal experience, I understand this fear to over-exaggerated and should not be a reason to affect your choice of study or to stop you travelling and expericencing an international exchange programme


Ask yourself, ‘What could be the worst-case scenario?’


Let’s say, the worst-case scenario, is perhaps;

  • turning up at your host country and not being able to navigate,

  • Or the fear of not be able to communicate with fellow students and form friendships because of the language barrier,

  • Or you get lost and can not ask for direction.


First of all, assuming that you are able to speak, write and read English, this should not be a problem. ( I say assuming, as I know for most courses are taught in English, unless you are travelling to the country for language purposes).


Returning back to potential worries:


From personal experience, travelling to Japan, whereby only 51% of people speak English. Ranking Japan 13th in terms of English language proficiency among the 25 Asian nations. (Compared to Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines and India ranking within the top 5) could make some people fearful.

However, I was not fearful before leaving, and despite slight issues which arose when I attempted to speak the language, overall I managed and had a great time.


Furthermore, I not only created friends from international backgrounds, I also managed to make friends from Tokyo, meaning that even if the perception or being a language barrier when it comes to friendships, but it is also well know that students and young adults among populations are the best when it comes to language, thus friendships can be found regardless of background.


Okay, you may ask, ‘What was your experience like outside of the University setting?’

Yes admittedly, it was slightly more challenging, however, what I recommend is downloading the language of your host country onto google translate, therefore if you do happen to be without WiFi, in the wilderness and on your own (unlikely, but it may happen) then accessing your translate app can always assist, even if the translation is broken or slightly incorrect.


Overall, I would not allow the fear of language put you off as it is a mere fear, which will only allow you to control your decision making for the worst.

If you have any other specific questions on how I managed to navigate or talk to locals, do not hesitate and contact me. I will be happy to help.

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