For those who have had them, international travel can be some of the most incredible experiences one has. But with these experiences come the almost the inevitable difficulty of a language barrier. In her article “Sensory Ways of Knowing, When Research Tunes into Emotions,” Elizabeth Challinor talks about an experience in Cape Verde, where the locals are speaking Creole very fast and she is unable to keep up. Despite the lack of understanding, Challinor did not feel left out, indeed she would even laugh along with the others, for no reason other than that’s what was happening. She describes this experience as being a change from the participant observer to the “participant absorber.”
During my three months in Costa Rica, I found myself in similar situations countless times. Despite years of learning Spanish in school, no amount of education could have prepared me for conversing in real life Spanish with native speakers. Like Challinor, there were many times where the speed of conversation was simply beyond me. Regardless, I usually enjoyed myself, and I found that just letting myself absorb the language was a comforting experience.