Maneuvering Language Barriers

There I was, standing on my tip-toes in Santander, clutching my bank card so forcefully that I genuinely believed it would snap into two meager pieces. That morning I had been expecting a delivery, however, to my dismay, I somehow missed the delivery service knocking on my door, and would have to call the company. After fumbling through a phone conversation with the little German that I knew, I proceeded to go to my bank and run a few errands. Little did I know, this wouldn’t be as easy of a task as I had first assumed. I immediately had to struggle through a difficult conversation with the clerk who knew zero English, so by the time I was buying postcards for my parents five minutes later, I was too tired to even comprehend the cashier saying, “Wie gehts?”


View of campus.

Recently, I’ve been bombarded with questions about the language barrier, not only in Germany, but amongst all of the traveling I have done. In short, a language barrier doesn’t really exist for me and my fellow American students. This is something that I honestly was expecting (thanks to all of my research and preparatory Buzzfeed articles about studying in Germany), but definitely a factor that still surprises me every day.


Random house in Mannheim.

I’m going to be honest, when I first walked into my study abroad advisors office, I specifically requested a program that wouldn’t have a language requirement. To my disappointment, those don’t exactly exist for business programs. But you know, all I had to do was take one language course at Drexel and I would be fine. No biggie. Wrong – once again. I absolutely fell in love with the German language. I don’t know why, maybe I like the way it sounds, maybe it’s the directness, or honestly, it’s probably just the fact that word ‘potato’ quite literally translates into ‘earth apple’ and it makes me giggle.


Road leading to campus.

As I said before, I was mentally prepared in knowing that most (younger) Germans speak English, and I wouldn’t have much trouble getting around. But for a while I was significantly disappointed with the lack of German I was learning, due to the absence of a significant language barrier. Every time you talk to seasoned travelers, they have comical stories and renditions of the times they had catastrophic conversations with natives of other countries. So where was mine? I felt selfishly left out. That is until I had to go to Santander Bank.


View of Marketplatz.

From that day on, I was non-stop running into German speakers, and most often actually being able to understand them. Don’t get me wrong, it does become a little difficult at times when you’ve had a long day, and you don’t feel like thinking anymore. But as time has gone on, I understand much more than I ever would’ve imagined had I not studied here and found out for myself. All it takes is a little patience, refreshing regularly on basic German words, and last but most definitely not least, a little (a lot of) help from our dear pal, Google Translate.