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Breaking Through the Language Barrier

One of the hardest transitions to moving to a new country, is becoming used to the language and its usage in your new home.  Language barriers go deeper than just not being able to read or write the language, but also to include problems with understanding the slang terms in a language, as well as difficulties understanding the different mannerisms that may accompany spoken words to convey a thought or idea.

While there is no "fix-all" solution to the language barriers you will face when coming to America, there are a number of things you can do to make the process easier on yourself.

Most people in the United States are open and accepting to those who may not speak perfect English.  After all, our country is a melting pot of all kinds of different nationalities and religions, so we (Americans) are all very used to people who look, talk, and act different than us.  As such, don't be afraid to speak up or ask questions if you need to.  Asking questions can also be a great way to "break the ice" and get to know a new person and maybe make a friend or two in the process.

In classes that you attend this can be a two-sided advantage.  Not only will asking questions and speaking up when given the opportunity offer you the chance to learn more easily, asking someone in your class if they can help you with a problem on your homework is often the easiest and most common way to meet someone new.  Most of your fellow students will not hesitate to offer their assistance, all you need to do is ask!

Also, don't be offended if when talking to someone they respond with a "can you say that again, I didn't quite catch it."  They're not trying to be rude, just trying to understand what you are saying better so they can help you.  This tends to happen more if you have a particularly strong accent from your native country.  If someone asks you to repeat yourself, just realize that they probably want to help you and need to be able to understand exactly what you're saying before they can do so!

Another great way that works for some people to overcome the language barrier is listen to the radio or watch TV.  These two media forms, especially news programs on them, are great ways to learn both visually and audibly the different mannerisms and slang words in the American vocabulary.  Make sure that if you choose this option that you are watching quality programming so that what you hear is actually worth learning and will help you in your day-to-day communication.

Finally, if you're trying to write a paper or type a letter or email to someone, and you just can't figure out what the American English word is, there are a number of website on the Internet which allow you to type in words, or even entire papers and have them translated into hundreds of languages.  The website http://www.freetranslation.com/ allows users to type in anything they want, and then select which language to convert it from, and which language they want it converted to (i.e. English to German, or Japanese to Italian!)