Is the Language Barrier a Measure of Friendship?

Second Meeting with Classmates

When it comes to language barrier, the first time I experienced it was during a class trip to Arashiyama, Kyoto. My Japanese is still not good and at the same time, I have to adapt with them. However, they still approached me and tried to get along even though they knew it was hard to communicate with me since I can’t speak in Japanese. In this case I tried my best to speak in Japanese even though it was wrong because in my opinion if I show them how interested I am about learning their language, they will be very happy and help me learn. In the beginning it looked very easy to make friends but it becomes more difficult as time goes on.

Dorm mates

All these people are the ones who taught me how to deal with problems that I faced during my stay in Japan. Who always reminds me when something is not good for me. One day I asked one of them about my problem “why are my friends always busy when I ask them to go out with me? They always said that they had club activities or tests. Is it because of the language barrier?” and then he explained, “Yes, it can be because of the language barrier since if you go with them, they need to use English to talk with you. if they use English, they will become the center of attention and most Japanese people don’t like attention. In other cases, even if your Japanese skill is good enough, there is also a chance that they do not want to go with you too, since your culture and their culture is different.” From this statement it made me more motivated to learn about Japan, not only the language but also the culture. I’m still observing Japan until now and it can be until my last day in Japan, like how Japanese people react to a foreigner who talks in Japanese for the first time, or someone looking for help in Japanese. With all of my curiosity about Japan, I always ask my dormitory friends about their point of view about my curiosity. Therefore, I can see from many perspectives and try to not judge everything from my first impression.

By learning and trying to accept the environment, it makes me easier to make friends and reach them even if my Japanese skill is not good enough.

After Christmas Party

This is not the first time I went out with my friend. It was just a simple hangout, playing at the park after school, but at that time I really enjoyed playing with her. We know how to treat each other; she knows what makes me happy. We just had simple conversations, but it was so funny. She knows that I am not good with Japanese, so she tried to make another activity that we can enjoy together. Playing the swings, the slide, a running race, and other silly things that we laughed about together. It was really simple, but at that time I felt like I was accepted into this new environment.

Since I did not have any host families, I did not have a chance to experience Japanese house culture. However, for now I learn a lot of things here, not only Japanese culture but also other countries’ culture, I realized that this exchange program is not only about cultural exchange. Now, I know better about myself and exactly who I am.



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Bina Antarbudaya

Bina Antarbudaya


The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning Official Partner of AFS Programs