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How to overcome language barriers while studying in South America

No hablo Espanol? Source: unonueveochotres on Unsplash

IFSFrom the majestic Amazon forests to the urban beach at Ipanema, South America dazzles the world with its rich history, lively culture and breathtaking landscape. With its universities gaining ground in global education rankings, the region grows more appealing to prospective international students day by day.

One obstacle, however, stands in the way of this  study abroad dream destination: language.

Unlike traditional study destination favourites like the UK, US and Australia, English is not the lingua franca here. Spanish, on the other hand, is. And in Brazil, the largest country with some of the best higher learning institutes in the region, the medium of instruction is Portuguese.

With most international students coming from educational backgrounds where they learn only their mother tongue and English, this doesn’t look too good.

Hello, Olá, Hola? Source: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Thankfully, this isn’t the end of the road for aspiring students. With enough time and preparation, you can pack up your suitcase and flying over the Andes mountains for an unforgettable study abroad experience.

Start early

If time is on your side, start taking Spanish or Portuguese language classes early – years ahead, if possible. Many universities in the region require applicants to take an admission test, and you would most likely be required to take this test in Spanish/Portuguese.

Take Brazil as an example. Applicants are assessed by the Certificado de Proficiência em Língua Portuguesa para Estrangeiros (Celpe-Bras) exam, where his or her competence in Portuguese will be assessed.

Speak to your course provider

If you’ve yet to bring your Spanish up to par, there are some options you can explore as a Spanish language beginner.

Certain providers in Argentina are able to loosen the language requirement, at least for the first few months or first year of your studies. API Study Abroad, for example, gives students an ‘Early Start’ option, allowing them to use the first four weeks of their course as an intensive Spanish course.

Source: Giphy

Coursework and assignments can be completed in English during this time, giving students enough time to brush up on their Spanish.

Look for English-language offers

While it would be ideal to be able to converse in the language of your host country for a more enriching experience, there are certain situations where it’s simply not possible to do so – there may be a number of learning difficulties or time constraints.

In such situations, you can still apply to the few courses that are currently taught in English. For example, Argentina’s Universidad Austral offers eight to 10 English-taught classes in its Buenos Aires facilities every semester. Open to international and domestic students, these courses cover a variety of subjects with a focus on Argentina and/or Latin America, including Literature of the Americas and Economic Development in Argentina.

Buena suerte (good luck)!

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