Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lost in Translation

I cannot stress enough how important communication is. It is especially important when we are dealing with other cultures and languages. Having had many aupairs myself and also being the Area Director for Aupaircare in Kansas City I value communication and patience. I now see how wars get started, people misunderstand each other, they do not communicate properly and everything builds up and suddenly we have distrust and people get uncomfortable. This can all be avoided by communicating and when dealing with a foreign language we need patience. I have seen many a match (Aupair and Host family) almost fall apart and the main reason one or both parties felt misunderstood. We as host families get busy and we forget that our aupair is not a native English speaker and we assume things, we assume they understood what we meant but they did not. Put things in writing if needed and then go over it later to make sure everything was understood. Be patient. As an aupair ask if you do not understand something, also put it in writing, have another aupair help you explain if their English is better. There is never a stupid question! Better to ask and clarify than wonder. And host families really need to be patient, especially the first few weeks of an aupair's arrival. Everything is new to them, the culture, the language, the food and expectations. Even when we have native English speakers we need to communicate with each other. Never assume the other party knows what you mean. One of my South African aupairs was getting directions from her host mom and the host mom told her to turn right at the traffic light. Well the aupair had no idea what a traffic light was because in South Africa they are called Robots. She kept searching for this traffic light wondering when to turn and she got lost. So never make assumptions and always ask when you do not understand.

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