Kathy: How to chat despite an age gap

USQ blogger: Kathy Ryan
Kathy completed a Bachelor of Business degree, majoring in administration management and accounting, in 2017. She is married and has four daughters. Kathy likes Pilates, reading, watching a good movie and spending as much time as possible with family and friends.

Is there a language gap between students of different ages at university?

This is one of the things I was most curious about when starting my studies as a mature age student. What kind of conversations could I expect to hear? Would younger students talk to me? Would I know what they were saying? Would they know what I was saying?!

Strangely enough, while socialising among students of varying ages, I have not experienced any gap, nor any hesitation to communicate across age barriers.

While it is obvious younger students have their own way of communicating with each other, whether this be verbally using their own lingo or via social media, communicating effectively with people of different ages at university is not that big of an issue! Personally, I think that certain lingos are most evident between groups of friends. I’m sure if I delve deep enough into conversations I have with my own friends who are a similar age, we would more than likely have a lingo that’s unique to us. Similarly, this would be seen with types of music and movies different ages listen to and watch, which also reflects our personalities.

The way we communicate with each other also depends on personalities, for example whether we are extroverts, ‘out there’ sorts of people, or are reserved and introverted. Reflecting on conversations I have with other students and lecturers, I don’t believe the types of words or tone in my voice are any different. When I communicate with a person I don’t notice their age, gender or status in life, I communicate with the person or group of people I’m with. 

I notice the age-specific communication lingo more at home with my girls. This is probably because we are relaxed and our relationship is more open to whom we really are. It can be quite comical when my husband and I try to keep up with the words that our girls are using every day (which they hardly ever use with us, but we watch them with their friends). It can really get totes cray cray!

To further investigate communication barriers at uni, I spoke with my girls about their experiences. They tell me there is more of a lingo within their texting messages rather than verbally. I can remember the first time I received a text from one of the girls with LOL. Well, I thought it meant lots of love, instead of laugh out loud. This was quite entertaining to them! I preferred my meaning much better…

Whether you experience a language barrier due to an age gap at uni or not, these tips will help you communicate effectively at uni:

1. Try to understand the meaning of what someone is explaining rather than focusing on the words they’ve chosen to use.

If you still don’t understand, ask the same question differently or try to rephrase their answer back to them and see if you’re on the right page.

2. Sometimes, the younger generation can have a less experienced point of view.

Instead of finding this frustrating, I remind myself that an older person would probably think the same about something I’ve said! Be mindful and considerate of their life experience and view on the world. We’re all different and can surprise each other!

3. Find common ground you can talk about.

Whether it be about the subject you are completing together, or what you do in your spare time, like going out with friends, work, or going away with family and friends etc.

4. Remember to smile.

No matter what the age, smiling can make a really bad day into a better one, even if it is just for that short moment.

The way we communicate with our peers depends a lot on the respect and knowledge we have for each other, rather than the age of the person you are communicating with.

Worried you’ll only look uncomfortable or awkward if you try to strike up a conversion with someone of a different age outside of a class or in the coffee line? Rachael has experienced her fair share of awkward moments but knows the best way forward is to just embrace them.



Kathy: How to connect despite an age gap

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