Our Arts Council recently hosted a band from China as part of a five-week/five-state WorldFest tour. The group did not speak a word of English and thus were accompanied by a translator for the entire trip. I cannot even imagine how exhausting it would be to spend a month in a country where you can’t understand a spoken or written word: no watching of television, reading signs or menus, listening to conversations or being able to navigate on your own.
Hearing communication through a translator highlighted the intentionality of communication when its process is difficult. It takes time for people to ask questions, hear a translation, have the band answer the question and then to receive a translation back. Instinctively, the questions became more succinct, the lead-up and chatter eliminated and the focus became only on the essential. It became a transaction rather than a conversation; a sharing of facts more than feelings.
We have the luxury of being able to communicate with each other directly and yet we often squander the opportunity. We fail to take the extra moment for some relationship-building banter or even bother to share how we are feeling. We don’t have to strain to understand what is said but sometimes speak without first truly listening as is required when a language barrier is present. Or we don’t ask for a bit more clarification although it could be easily provided without translation.
The Chinese group made great efforts to be able to communicate with its audiences. Take the same care to communicate with yours.