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foreign language requirements


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I'm way too embarrassed to ask someone in my department this so I'm hoping you guys can help me out.

Is it possible to do fieldwork in a foreign country if you don't speak the language fluently? Is that acceptable these days? I've only been learning the language of my world area for about a year, and my program requires some fieldwork. Getting around and holding light conversations isn't a problem, but I'm afraid that my perhaps intermediate (or less than) level is going to keep me from accomplishing anything. I'm completely new to this field, so any insight would be greatly appreciated!

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I did some work in Mexico and my spanish is only so-so.. It was with an american professor so we were able to make it work.. I used to be fluent but have lost it so I did okay on my own and the locals were very patient about it.. But if you want to work a serious project in another language and don't have a professor you're close with to translate for you you will not be useful, and may not be selected even if you're offering free labor.. PI's are very busy during these super limited excavation seasons, and often are hiring local workers so they will be speaking the local language


That being said, it varies A TON from project to project. Just ask the PI if it's okay and you'll get a straight answer. Best advice though: Keep working on the language, so even if you can get by without knowing it well you'll be an asset in the field as opposed to the opposite. 


This of course is speaking for archaeology, not cultural. If you don't speak the language and you're having to speak with people, you will be much more useless. :)

Edited by christianhol
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