Language barriers can cause simple tasks in daily life to be difficult. The enjoyment from small pleasures such as reading and engaging in social interaction can be compromised. Issues from language barriers can occur on a global scale as more businesses relocate abroad, or on a community-based level as a family settles in a neighborhood that speaks another language. Regardless of the setting, issues from language barriers can affect the quality of life for all those involved.

If you don’t speak a more common language like English, Mandarin, or Spanish, it’s more common to encounter language barriers. It also depends on which area of the world you’re in – English speakers may have less trouble in many areas because the English language is so widespread as a form of cultural communication. It’s a second language for many people across the globe whose primary language might be anything from Portuguese to Arabic. Being multilingual is very common and has helped to overcome language barriers in many places, made for more effective communication, and strengthened interpersonal relations.

The impact of language barriers is far reaching – here are some examples of the negative impacts, cultural barriers, and types of language barriers.

Stunts Academic Growth of Individuals

Language barriers limit the capacity of individuals to learn from their environment due to the lack of comprehension and miscommunications. The student may not be able to thoroughly understand the teacher because of communication barriers, which significantly decreases the ability of the learners to absorb the lesson. Consequently the learning process in the classroom is thwarted because of these disadvantages. If the teacher has to slow down for the student or organize translation services or transcriptions because of the poor communication, then the rest of the class will not be adequately challenged.

Stifles Information

Language barriers prevent the free flow of information. Two groups that speak different languages may have a valuable perspective on solving the same issue. However without the capability to communicate the differing ideas in the same official language, the two groups miss out on new knowledge because of their language differences. It can be difficult for people who speak different languages to learn from each other. Cultural differences, the use of idioms, and differences in body language can all impact the understanding of a foreign language. During travel it can also weaken the cultural experience. Tourists may not understand the full cultural implications of events, sites and tradition.

Hinders Relationships

The inability to speak in the native language prevents individuals from being able to fully express their personality and form bonds with others. The individual may feel isolated from the rest of the population. Language barriers can foment discrimination and separation of groups. Groups that share the same language may avoid other language groups. Professional growth is also hindered if the individual is not able to communicate with co-workers on a deeper level.


Language barriers can cause intense frustration for all parties involved. A person may feel inadequate, shameful and sad for not being able to understand and share simple ideas. People who are not able to speak the native language may grow frustrated at the missed opportunities, embarrassing mistakes, serious consequences and negative attitudes from others. A person that knows the native language may be frustrated at someone else for not knowing the language. Learning a new language is hard and comes with many impediments. This frustration can manifest in the form of hostility, avoidance or resentment.