Throughout the years, I have consistently been using a variety of strategies to communicate with people from all around the world. One example of this was during the summer of 2017 when I visited Vietnam.
One of the first and most important issues I experienced when arriving in the country was a language barrier. The Vietnamese language was very different compared to the languages that I spoke, and since everything was in this foreign language, I had to find a way to communicate with people in order to survive for the two weeks that I was there. Being an intercultural student, I applied different strategies to solve this problem.
The first and most simple solution was to study the local language. Therefore, I spent my first day reading guides and learning basic phrases. By the end of the day, I realized that these phrases could only be used in a handful of situations and that two weeks would not be enough to memorize enough of the content. This troubled me and caused me to panic as to how I would survive the remaining days without a clear form of communication.
For the following days, I decided to use another form of communication. Despite speaking different languages, I figured out that an universal language that everybody would understand would not be through words, but through actions or gestures. Whenever I tried to communicate, I used gestures to physically show what I was talking about. This seemed to work as people would understand and subsequently act out their response.
Although I was able to communicate with people using this method, I continued to learn and practice the Vietnamese language as well. By the end of the first week, I was able to understand and speak basic words/phrases as a result. Again, in some areas that I visited, people spoke in French, which I used to my advantage as I was able to implement my French skills that I have developed over the past years.
Overall, this experience has helped me to understand that I do not have to speak the same language as someone in order to communicate with them, although it could be helpful. Furthermore, I learned to appreciate the language barrier as it stimulated me to find new, creative ways of communicating with others, while adapting to a new environment. Finally, this experience helped to remind me that at the end of the day, everyone is the same in the sense that although there are +6,500 languages, anyone can understand basic actions or emotions.