Student Exchange Programs and Languages

A group of five teenagers were recently flagged off by the German Embassy in Uganda to leave for Germany on a foreign student exchange program handpicked from schools that study the German language.

This is common in most parts of the world especially among high school University levels of Education where students from one country leave for another to experience the academic environments of their host countries where they also definitely get to learn about the cultures in that particular country.

Language barriers

Language is one means of communication and is vital when it comes to student exchange programs and it is not usually the case that the languages used in the host country are similar to those used and spoken by the students.

For example, in the example above of the Ugandan students leaving for Germany, it should be noted that the language of instruction in Ugandan schools is English and that German is merely a language studied as a lesson or course unit and even then English is used when teaching German. On the other hand, German is the language of instruction in schools in Germany where English is the language of instruction in just a few British International schools.

Disadvantage and how to go about it

The disadvantage is such instances is that at some point communication maybe limited as the foreign exchange students will only be able to understand topics only based on the knowledge they have in the foreign language. Although this can be overcome by the art of translation, interpreting, transcription and subtitling for more effective communication.

However the entire experience on the brighter side can be a major learning and adventurous journey given the fact that it is a new country with different people and cultures which can be both educative and fun.


It would be better if student exchange programs are carried out with countries that have a language in common so as to benefit more out of the experience with effective communication. And in cases where the languages are different, professional translations should be considered to further ease communication. It is a global village we live in today and therefore very common to go to places or meet with people of different languages which shouldn’t be a problem with the proper translation means in place.

Serious prep talks in form of briefings should be given to these students intending to travel on what to expect so as not to experience cultural shocks of any kind. This could be about the dress code, mannerisms, forms of greeting so as not to find themselves in trouble. For example, in Japan it’s rude not to bow a little when greeting elders.