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Breaking the Language Barrier


Kaitlyn Lannan, European Union Studies, Fall 2014

One of the things that I had been the most worried about before coming to France was being able to communicate in French. I had taken French throughout high school and some in college, but I was nowhere near fluent. Immediately after arriving at the airport, I was struck by how fast the native speakers spoke, especially when a group of us that arrived at the same time were trying to find our pre-booked shuttle into the city center. It worked out eventually, but it was definitely a big change to have to get used to.

Knowing French has also helped me out throughout the travels that I have had so far, especially in Brussels and in Luxembourg (pictured). Even if you are a beginner, native speakers always appreciate when you try to learn a few words in their language. In general, I have found that most people, especially younger people, speak English very well, but I still try not to count on it. I learned my lesson after visiting Munich, Germany, where fewer people spoke English than I expected. Since I don’t know any German, this was a difficult challenge, but the visit went much better once I had learned some basic phrases.

As the weeks have passed, I have noticed my ability to understand what people are saying improved drastically. I’m looking forward to hopefully improving my French even more in the weeks that I have left here and plan on continuing to take classes at Northwestern when I return!

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