Two Worlds, One Student, and Lunch

MC40_LanguageSymbol2I had lunch a few days ago with a woman who had many ideas and tremendous energy. That much was clear to me, even though we didn’t speak the same language. We were meeting to explore the prospect of a collaboration that would involve my students. Fortunately, one of them joined us to translate.
I watched as this normally shy student was put in the position of translating, not just the words of a language, but the cultural nuances that came with them and all the complex details regarding the potential benefits of the project.

She needed to understand and communicate separate languages, and also adjust for very different assumptions. As this student listened, she seemed to be carefully sifting through  explanations before turning to me to give a much more concise report of what had been said. The decisions she was making as to which ideas would successfully travel the distance between cultures were clearly complex. She did an excellent job of brokering a tentative understanding, and her successful negotiation made me think about all the international students who come to study in Canada. By virtue of immersing themselves in Canadian society, and learning another language, they must often find themselves in the role of navigator, helping others to make the crossing between cultures. I hope some of them find this site and tell their stories.

- Ron in BC