Thursday, March 26, 2009

Student Reflection: Risky Business

by Megan Knight

Last week for Span 332 we had to write our “Reflexión” about how risks are related to learning a foreign language. It took me a minute to think how risks are involved because I had never really considered learning Spanish as something that was risky. However, when I sat there and thought about it, I realized you really do have to take a lot of risks when trying to learn a foreign language.

Learning another language forces you to step outside of your comfort zone and interact in situations where you normally might not. Studying abroad is a perfect example of the risks you have to take to learn a foreign language. When you study a language in college, everyone assumes that you will study abroad because that is how most people become fluent. Going to a completely new country where everyone speaks a different language forces you to speak that language and be completely immersed in it. And a lot of times you might not know how to say something in this language, but reverting to your native language usually will not help, so you have to figure out other ways of explaining something or act out whatever it is you are trying to say.

I studied abroad in Santiago, Chile last spring and during orientation the study abroad coordinators there made us all take risks. It was the second day that we were there and we were staying in a really nice hotel. The coordinators divided us into groups of three and gave us a map and a piece of paper with something written on it. We then had 4 hours to go wander around the city and try to find whatever was on our paper. My group had to find three different stores that were selling men’s underwear and compare the prices. Needless to say, this day was full of risks. No one knew anyone in their group because we all had just met the day before, no one knew where anything was located in the city or how to use the public transportation to get to any of these places, and few people were capable of understanding the Chilenos whom they asked for help (if they were brave enough).

While during the exercise I was on the verge of a panic attack, afterward I realized that it was a great way to break the ice with the people in my group, practice my Spanish, and get to know the city. It was a really risky thing to do, but in the end everybody benefited from it, because risks are necessary for learning a language.

1 comment:

  1. Megan, This is such a great example! This is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of when I posed the question. I think all successful language learners are successful risk-takers, and they can draw on those experiences when they do entrepreneurial work. :)