When language barriers melt

– Priya Dey and Shona Manson

Shona Manson:

Seeing that we were just settling into our host homes, the Pravah ICS programme was just starting and realising that me and my counterpart, Priya needed to start preparing for the first Active Citizenship Day (ACD) on quality of education, was daunting and nerve-wrecking to say the least. The research itself was really interesting and I felt that I could challenge my views on the education system both in India and in England from doing this experience.

The day started with mind-maps and discussions on 1) what Quality of Education was, 2) whether the volunteers personally thought they got a quality of education, and 3) why quality of education was so important. We presented this in the form of mind-maps, which the volunteers could write on and discuss, and we added research found from the UN website under labels which we discussed after the volunteers contribution. From this, we then branched into discussion about how realistic the UN 2030 goals were after lunch. I found this a great time for the volunteers to not only challenge each other but to challenge the professional goals implemented by the UN and got the group thinking about the topic’s future. This was followed by a short game of charades in which each of the three groups had to portray a minority group in which quality education was limited (e.g. women or religious minorities). This was personally my favourite part of the day because not only did it act as a sort of energiser among the group but enabled us to remember this part as it was much more physical and comical. We unfortunately ran out of time to do debates on three statements which we found from a Ted talk by Viney Menon on the education system: 1) Stick to the syllabus, 2) Art is not important and 3) Discipline required punishment. Despite this, we managed to finish the day by crowding round a laptop and watching his video which the volunteers found interesting and funny at times.

Priya 1

Overall, I would have liked to have taken more care of our time as, from some of the other volunteers feedback, we missed the debates which would have made the day more interactive. Nevertheless, the discussions themselves were jam-packed and very informative. One volunteer wrote that the discussions ‘made the topic very interesting. Go girls!’ Some found the different ways of presenting the topics effective such as the mind-maps, post-it notes, and the video went down a treat. From the feedback however, I think if I could have changed anything, it would be to make the day more active. Some of the volunteers commented on the need for more energisers or physical activities as their attention was lost due to the continuous discussions, especially in the morning. However, the majority of the feedback forms rated our sessions a 4/5 and only one 3/5 which suggests the day was better than expected!

The one thing I found so difficult about the experience had to have been the language barrier. Despite getting on with my counterpart well, working together in such an intense time limit put me under pressure as I had the instinct to get the research done and get onto the presentation as quickly as possible. I later understood that this would be even more difficult because Priya had very limited experience of presenting information in her school education. Nonetheless, I think the hard work and frustration (at times) led to a successful ACD and it brought me and my counterpart even closer.

Priya Dey:

২৪তারিখ শনি বার আমার আর সোনার সেসোন ছিলো এসিডি.আমার পথম এসিডি.আমি খুব ভয় পাছিলাম যে কি হবে.এবং আমার খুব শরীর খারাপ ছিল.সোনা বল যে ঠিক আছে আমি দেখে নেব তুমি কোন ভয় পেতো না .তখন যেন মনে হল আমার পাশে কেও আছে  মনে হল যেন আমার পাশে আমার বোন আছে.তখন যেন আমার ভয় টা কমে গেল.তারপর আমার সবাই এসিডি জন্য খেরি তে.সেখানে গিয়ে আমি খুব ভয় পাছিলাম যে আমি পারবো তো তারপর সুকৃতি আসে ওখানে আর আমাকে বলে পিয়া তুমি ঠিক আছে তো আমি বলি ঠিক আছি তখন বলে তুমি পারবা তো .আমি বলাম পারবো.তখন সুকৃতি বলল ভয় পাওয় কিছু নে আমরা সবাই আছি তোমার সাথে .এসিডি টা শেষ করে নাও তারপর ছুটি আর ছুটি.আমি তখন বলাম ঠিক আছে আমি পারবো.সোনা আমি এসিডি শুরু করি.পথমে তো সোনা আর আমি এক সাথে জিগাসা করে শিক্ষা কি বারে মে.তারপর আমি আর সোনা দুটো চাট বানাই শিক্ষাকি বারে মে ও দুটো বারে আমি আর সোনা জিগাসা করি. এক টা গেম ছিল.তারপর আমি আর সোনা শিক্ষা কি বারে আবার জিগাসা করি আমি তো ভয় পাছিলাম যে পারবো কি না তো আমাকে সবাই হেল্প করে.এবং আমার সবচেয়ে খারাপ লাগে যে আমি যদি ইংলিশ ভালো পারতাম তাহলে আর বুঝতে পারতাম তাহলে আরও ভালো পারতাম আরও ভালো এসিডি হতো.আর এর থেকে আমি অনেক কিছু শিখেছি আমার যে ভয় ছিল তা অনেক টা কমে গেছে.

Gist in English: On February 24, Shona and I had to do our first ACD. I had never done something like this (made a presentation/led a session) before and was really nervous and scared. To top it off, I struggled with understanding the topic and doing research because I had trouble understanding English. It was difficult for me and Shona to communicate. I took help from another Indian volunteer who helped me translate English to Hindi, and then I translated Hindi to Bengali and wrote the design for myself. On the day of the ACD, I was feeling unwell and very nervous. I looked at my counterpart Shona, and she understood my feeling and comforted me, saying, “Don’t worry, we will handle it”. That was the day I felt like I was going to be okay, because I had found a sister. We did the ACD together and by the end of the day I felt really happy and relieved that it was over. I was very proud of myself for facilitating a session for the first time.

Priya Shona

(Priya Dey and Shona Manson were volunteers with Pravah ICS for the February – May 2018 batch and were placed with partner organisation Jatan Sansthan in district Rajsamand)

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