Bedside Language Lessons

MCsquares_GreyOrangeTweedOne experience that comes to mind is a nursing home, which my dad who has Alzheimer’s, lives in. People with Alzheimer’s slowly revert back to their first language. In this home patients and staff from all different countries, e.g. Iraq, Iran, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Italy, to name a few; interact with one another daily.

My father speaks Farsi, and still remembers a little bit of English. At the request of the staff, my mother has made a list of simple phrases in Farsi so that they can use them when interacting with my father. I observe and am touched by their efforts during my visits. With a great deal of care and respect, they repeat the phrases from the booklet in his room, while showing him the Farsi print adjacent to the phrases. Simple things, like “let’s eat”, “I’m going to help you now”. There is a lot that is lost in translation. However, with the staff’s attempts, a look of recognition appears in my father’s face, along with a smile and then he starts conversing with them in whatever language he can remember.

To me, this is multiculturalism at its best, diverse people, trying to reach each other, overcome barriers and interact with one another. When I see these interactions, I realize that hearts are connecting first, there is an openness and willingness on everyone’s part to communicate, to reach the other person’s inner being, then comes the words. Through these shared experiences I see our shared humanity manifest itself. For me this is a moment filled with pride to be Canadian, and joy that my parents chose this country as their second and main home.

- Iren in Toronto