Breaking the Barrier

I always have seemed to have a knack for getting along with just about any clique. I realized this back in high school, and it has provided me with some amazing experiences throughout my life. I realized early on that all it takes is a little observation and preparation. That is to say, knowing the language and/or culture (of the person or people) with whom you would like to interact successfully. It paid off during my years as an interpreter and translator, as I was able to get my counterpart (or “target,” for lack of a better term) to relax with me, allowing them to open up.

I have lots of examples of how this allowed me to be a very successful interpreter, and how it was very fulfilling on a personal level. I once took a “gypsy cab” in St. Petersburg, Russia, and had one of the most interesting conversations with the driver (an 18-year-old athlete). Turns out, after a few general questions about his likes, etc., I noted he was really into soccer and thoroughly enjoyed the recent World Cup. After finding this out, I was able to converse with him about the French goalie at the time (Barthez, to be exact). After that, I was able to practice my slang/conversational Russian with him, and I learned a lot of new phrases (that weren’t taught in my classes). Another example is paying attention to the students I had out in California. I would listen to how they talked, and what they were talking about (no, I don’t call it spying; I worked in military intelligence, so I call it on-the-job refresher training). When I needed to come up with examples for my class, I would then know from where to draw them so the student(s) would understand me (and the point I was trying to make) better.

I could go on and on about examples of breaking the barrier by keeping your ears and eyes open, but I won’t here. If you want more anecdotes, contact me directly and I will pass them (and maybe some more sneaky tips) your way.

Learn a little about the people with whom you interact. Make a connection, via language, culture, or actions.

Steve Holsonback
Instructional Media Design Specialist
Center for Academic & Professional Excellence
Ext. 3425


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