Dave and I are returning from a week of beach-filled bliss in Cabo San Lucas. Actually, we hosted my two best friends from high school and their husbands, so it was a week of laughing a bunch, eating too much, riding ATVs, getting massages, and playing golf. One night, we found ourselves discussing the language barriers that crop up periodically when we are visiting other countries. You know, the ones that create a discrepancy between us asking what the restaurant has on their menu, and the gentleman taking our order says “Do you like burgers?” and we hear “boogers” (now, you can plainly see where the 50-year olds commence 5-year old laughter. Luckily, the waitstaff thought the whole thing was funny, too).
We also had some issues one night at dinner with moths flying into our soup, our drinks, and in our face (it has been a very humid last few weeks in Mexico). We found that when it appeared we were being critical of the restaurant (after all, not one of us ordered moth soup on purpose), we and the waitstaff had a difficult time getting along.
What’s the point, you ask? (besides trying to pretend that these creepy huge moths are really beautiful, colorful butterflies?) Not surprisingly, I believe most of the communication concerns we tend to have revolve around not making a complete connection. My analogy is when I am trying to charge my cell phone and the charger doesn’t totally snap into my port. It may say it’s charging but then it blanks out due to lack of connection. We humans are much the same, in that respect. We have to have a complete connection in order for accurate communication to take place. Dave and I have told many leery-about-traveling-out-of-the-country friends that the key to getting by in a non-English speaking country is making an effort to make a connection. It is our experience that, even when we have a major language barrier between us and them---the key is to make an effort. Our Spanish has improved exponentially since we began traveling down to Cabo San Lucas for the last seven years, and I think it is because we try making connections. Likewise, when I traveled to Bogota, Colombia last year for work (which I will do again in a couple of months), my driver and I made a deal to challenge each other to speak in each other’s language. I am currently taking the Spanish course from Rosetta Stone, which is helping a bunch, but the connections and grace and humor are equally as important, I think.
What are the benefits of making connections with people?
When we have a connection or relationship with someone…
Making connections in schools and other businesses looks a good bit like shared community, helping one another instead of attacking one another, and has the added benefit of building up a high degree of trust.
Just for today, perhaps we can focus on the language similarities instead of the language differences.