The following article is a great, comprehensive overview of the fundamentals of good intercultural communication, told through a series of thought-provoking quotes. I've curated a preview of some of my favorites below, but like the article's title suggests, if you want to level up your intercultural communication skills, I highly recommend you head over to the original article and read some of the analysis under the quotes. It's great insight into how to be a better communicator in general.
Feel free to leave a comment if you checked out the article and found a quote you loved that I didn't share here!
Rettig, T. (2017, November 03). 28 Quotes That Will Level Up Your Intercultural Communication Skills. Retrieved from https://medium.com/intercultural-mindset/28-quotes-that-will-level-up-your-intercultural-communication-skills-57790f649d97
In any professional setting that involves working with the public, such as working in a hospital with different patients every day, intercultural communication can play a crucial role. Not every professional has the ability to communicate in multiple languages, and with modern technology it is now easier than ever to transcend a language barrier in order to make sure the professional can do their job and the patient can receive the treatment they need. I was able to talk to my dad, John Miklos, an Occupational Therapist with a career spanning the last 20 years, and find out how he communicates with his patients when they may not share the same language.
What does the hospital do to ensure that patients who do not speak English are able to be communicated with and treated properly?
JM: Now, they rely on a virtual translation system, and that has worked very well in my experience, I have used it twice so far.
How does the virtual translator technology work?
JM: We go through the security department, we call security to request the translation system, and we are given a mobile computer that we set up in front of the patient and ourselves (the therapist) and through this system we can facetime/skype a remote interpretor for the duration of the treatment. The interpretor greets us each in the appropriate language, and then we proceed with the instruction process for specific treatments. So, I will address the patient directly, and the interpreter will translate what I am saying so the patient can follow. The patient will then either perform based on the instructions or respond, which the interpreter will translate back to me.
How do the patients seem to respond to this technology?
JM: They seem to really appreciate the chance to be able to communicate effectively. The interpreters were all very pleasant and great to work with.
How did you communicate with patients who do not speak English before this newer technology was available?
JM: Before this technology, in my experience it would just depend on who we had available, if someone on the hospital staff could speak the language and was available. This can still be the case sometimes, if we have someone in-person who could act as an interpreter. There are definitely some situations where the virtual service may be more appropriate due to trust and confidentiality in an evaluation or interview where you might be asking more personal questions about the patient and their home life.
In this spoken-word style essay, entitled "Broken English," Jamila Lyiscott narrates what it is like to speak three variations of the same language, depending on formal and informal situations, with her family, friends, or colleagues. She brings attention to the subjectivity of being "articulate," how the different contexts that we find ourselves in dictate the norms and rules of our communication. Our individual cultural upbringings shape the way we utilize language and make it our own. Lyiscott also makes mention of the often complicated and tragic history behind a culture, in this case, her African heritage, and how we become truly "articulate" when we take ownership of our personal history.
So, to improve your intercultural communication skills, I recommend you take a few minutes to watch this brief but poignant TED presentation. Afterwards, take a few moments to think about your own background, your upbringing, your family's history. Maybe you can trace your lineage to Native Americans, maybe your grandfather was an immigrant, or your parents. Maybe you were born in a different country and had to learn a second language; maybe you've lived in a metaphorical bubble, exposed to mostly the same comfortable cultural norms all your life. Whatever your background may be, consider all the different contexts in which you communicate, and all the different languages or slang or intonations that you use, and where these originate. You have a unique accent that is all your own, and there's no use trying to neutralize it in pursuit of perfect articulation. Once you have noted and embraced your own history, realize that every other person you meet has an equally complicated set of influences. With this understanding and empathy, you can be "articulate."