While oftentimes foreign language improvement is a big benefit of studying abroad, it is just as often not a requirement. Nevertheless, language barriers can be intimidating for many students looking to study abroad. Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t let a language barrier stop you from studying abroad.

1. 60+ countries have English as an official language

This means that English is used by government officials and taught in schools. Therefore, more of the population is likely to speak it fluently. India, South Africa, Fiji, and Republic of Ireland all have English as an official language.

2. English is heavily prevalent in many countries (even if it’s not an official language)

English is the third most spoken language behind being Mandarin and Spanish. English is also the most popular second language. Between native and non-native speakers it is the most widely-spoken language across the world. Some countries where more than 75% of their population speaks English include Norway, Barbados, Austria, and Netherlands.

3. There are many ways to get language support while abroad

Most program providers offer their classes in English and many also provide on-site support with translation needs. These programs don’t usually require any language prerequisites to apply, so they know that they’ll have many students with zero or very low host language fluency. They are on-site to support you in many ways and this is a big one. Additionally, recent technological advances have made translating more readily available for anyone with a smartphone.

4. English is the language of business and tourism

Even without a country having a high number non-English speakers, there are usually many signs that also use English. Some governments even offer important paperwork in English or have translation hotlines to assist you.


5. Learning another language, even for one semester as a beginner, has benefits

  • When you’re in the local culture, language learning and meaning making happens more easily because you also have social and cultural cues. After a few weeks you find that you’ve picked up on more of the language than you thought! You can learn important phrases that will help you go about your daily life.
  • Learning another language challenges you and gets you out of your comfort zone. When learning a language, it’s especially important to try, try, and try again!
  • It increases your ability to problem solve, think creatively, and communicate. When you’re not fluent in the language you’re trying to communicate in, you have to be creative. Rephrase your sentences, use easier words, explain difficult words, use nonverbal cues or gestures.
  • It encourages you to meet local friends through language exchange. This also brings us to our next point.
  • It also helps you learn more about your own language. By learning another language you’ll naturally want to compare it to your own. Additionally, when you participate in language exchange, you discover the difficult parts of your language or confusing rules that you hadn’t considered before because you learned them naturally.
  • Lastly, it increases your empathy for people who immigrate without knowing the host language. It also makes you a better helper if you work with second language learners in the future.

If this post got you thinking and you’d like to talk to a study abroad advisor, set up a 1-on-1 advising appointment here.