Communication involves both receptive and expressive language in both the spoken word and in body language. Yet often we find ourselves struggling to communicate in countries where we don’t speak the language. We are so concerned with expressing ourselves in a manner by which the interpreter will understand that we don’t take time to look and listen to the people with whom we are speaking. So much can be gained by observing the person’s body language, posture, and cadence. When faced with communicating in a different language, we often resort to using our hands and pantomime. For example, a community member who was concerned with the lack of water to his farm first began by using his hands to describe the size of his crops. He then motioned for us to follow him out to his fields where he showed us that his crops were dying. Our interpreter then explained that he would likely lose his crops in two weeks time if he did not get enough water. If we had not listened with our eyes, we would have missed this farmer’s message: Although the village is small, the lower aspects of the village receive less rain water than the upper parts of the village; the lower part of the village also receives far less water from the canal—some reported not having water from the canal in three to six years. Therefore, we must take pause to receive the language regardless of our understanding of the spoken word before we begin to express our thoughts. If we don’t listen with our eyes and ears, our communication can be lost.
-Professor Amy Cory