Zagreb #5

One thing I want to talk about is the language barrier. My co-workers all speak English and German pretty well, so theoretically, the language barrier really shouldn’t be an issue at all. However, I realized that while I frequently chat with some of my co-workers, others appear to be not interested in having a conversation with me at all. I was told not to worry about that, since it’s not me causing this behavior, but them being overly self-conscious about their foreign language skills, be it English or German. This is very interesting to me, because I behaved similarly when I first moved to the United States last fall. In the first few days, I was very quiet around my peers and didn’t make many connections with other people. I got better with that after a few weeks, but even towards the end of freshman year I wasn’t confident enough to ask questions in English in front of a large crowd (i.e. in a lecture hall) and still had a hard time participating in discussion sections. For some reason, I’m way more confident speaking English to non-native speakers like me than to native speakers. Regardless, I respect my co-workers for not wanting to talk to me in English when I’m the one coming to their country not knowing a single word in their language. However, I still feel more appreciated around the people that decide to talk to me. Some of my co-workers decide to even speak English to each other when I’m in the room, even if it’s about something completely unrelated from what I’m doing. Overall I feel very much integrated into the organization I’m working with, despite the language barrier.

One thought on “Zagreb #5

  • June 21, 2017 at 8:50 pm
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    That is so interesting about the language barrier! Something similar happened to me last year when I was teaching in Taiwan. Over half a year had passed until I found out that many of my co-workers actually spoke English very well, or had even majored in it in college! It turned out that they had not tried to communicate with me in English because they were afraid to make a mistake in front of a native speaker. I understand where they are coming from, and make a conscious effort as I am learning other languages to try speaking even when I don’t feel entirely confident in my abilities.

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