Sunday, July 17, 2016

Language as a Barrier

At the Boston Children’s Museum, we have six fishing rods we use to teach children to fish, all lined up on the railing. It’s completely free. All people have to do to fish is walk up to us and ask. However, since I’m working at the Children’s Museum, sometimes the people that approach us are tourists, and sometimes they don’t speak English.
A little background with me and languages: I’ve never been amazing with languages, even English. It took a lot of hard work to improve my writing. In school I studied French, and I was always better at learning and memorizing grammar and vocabulary than actually putting together coherent sentences.
Most of the time, the parents can speak English and the kids can’t, so the parents act as translators. And sometimes if I recognize a language as French, I’ll make an effort to speak French to be courteous. I’ve done so three times, and I’ve realized that I don’t know the words necessary to explain to people how to fish in French. Working at the Children’s Museum has made me want to go learn the specific vocabulary I would need to explain how to use a fishing rod in French. I’ve never gone out of my way to improve my French outside of school until now. And yet, because I’m working at the Children’s Museum, I want to be able to explain to people how to fish. I want to be able to teach them and let them fish, very possibly for the first time.
Ready for action!
This Thursday, we were approached by a large group of children who were on a school field trip. It was nothing out of the ordinary. A lot of times we have camp and school groups approach us. But here’s the catch: this school group was from a school for the deaf. All I remember from fourth grade sign language is how to clap, and a few random words in sign language, only one of which was useful. The solution? A lot of miming, and a lot of asking the chaperones the signs for certain words. In the end, it was both exhausting and a great experience. There were about forty children in the group, and it involved a lot of running around, trying to make sure everyone took turns, everyone had bait, and everyone knew what they were doing. But at the end of the day, the kids were all enjoying themselves. They were fishing and holding a pole, possibly for the very first time. They were happy to be there, and sad when it was time to leave. Language might be a barrier, but emotions and experiences aren’t. What people have experienced and felt after fishing is the same, regardless of language or background.
A rather impressive fish that was caught outside BCM
Sarah M

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