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  • many of you have probably taken foreign language classes.

  • Or maybe you're taking one right now.

  • Well, I actually grew up here in Austin, and when I was in sixth grade, I got a form in front of me that said Spanish or French.

  • They asked us to pick which language requirement class we were going to be taking the next year, and without really thinking about it, I chose Spanish.

  • But that decision set off a chain of events that have impacted me through middle school, high school and even now in college.

  • At first it was just another class in my schedule, but But as I advanced through the classroom levels of Spanish, I started to feel this enjoyment for learning the language and a curiosity for all the new tenses and vocabulary vocabulary we were learning.

  • So I embraced this enjoyment, and I took it with me to high school, where I went beyond the requirements and took more advanced managed classes.

  • I also became increasingly interested in Latin American cultures as well.

  • I joined leadership of Spanish Honor Society and participated in Pan American student form of Texas with the mentorship of some great teachers and I really dove deep into my interests in this language and in this culture.

  • But the most pivoting moment for me in my study of Spanish was probably in 2016 during my senior year of high school, when I had the opportunity to volunteer as a bilingual translator at an election poll.

  • Until that day, I never really had a chance to speak Spanish outside of the classroom, other than with my teachers or with my peers and classmates.

  • But I walked into that pool room and there was so much commotion and noise and a lot of chaos.

  • Everyone was trying to figure out what to do and how to get through the voting process.

  • And I remember women called out for me, my boy, this idea that can you help me?

  • And I was nervous, but I looked over at her and she looked nervous, too, and she looked lost and confused about the process.

  • So I went over and I did my best to help her, and she looked at me and thanked me, and that day I realized that Spanish was more than just learning new vocabulary.

  • It was about learning how to communicate with an entirely new population, and my ability to speak to her in her native language was in part what helps relieve some of her anxiety and stress and helped her calmly understand the voting process.

  • That day I learned a few things.

  • There is power in the knowledge of foreign language, and there is difficulty and being the only person in the room who can't speak English.

  • And that feeling comes with feelings of isolation, loneliness, separation and distance.

  • But the knowledge of foreign language has the power to break down that barrier and create trust and connection between you and a complete stranger, and that is powerful.

  • So I took these ideas with me when I graduated.

  • Call it when I graduated high school and went on to college, and I wanted to explore these ideas further and study them.

  • So I took all of the advanced Spanish class is that my college had to offer, and I began to volunteer at a local nonprofit clinic at the clinic.

  • My role was as an interpreter, which meant that I would sit in on a patient appointment, listen to what the physician had to say in English and say it in Spanish to the patient and then listen to what the patient had to say in Spanish and say it in English.

  • To the physician at the clinic is where first observed the language barrier in action alongside several other socially determined factors that influence health care.

  • So the patients would talk directly to me about their treatment, and as soon as they found out that I spoke Spanish, I could see this lead in their eyes.

  • They all of a sudden trusted me to understand their emotion, their pain, their questions on their concerns because they could only fully express those things in Spanish and connection and trust and sue.

  • When a patient can speak directly to health care provider in their native language, that's something that's incredibly valuable and that I've been able to experience directly by talking to these patients.

  • In fact, I remember one time one patient and his family thanked me and hugged me outside of the appointment room, and I was shocked because I'm not the doctor.

  • I'm just a translator, but that had so much more meaning to it than I thought it did.

  • Now there is a shortage of translators, which means that physicians and patients have to have these broken conversations where not all of the information conveyed across.

  • And that leads to a decreased likelihood of patients complying with their treatment and a decreased likelihood of patients coming back for follow up appointments.

  • For example, at the clinic where I volunteer, we have a lot of diabetic patients, and in that case the physician has to explain to the patient how to log their blood sugar before and after every meal when they get home and how to inject insulin in different areas of their body.

  • But if they can't get that information across, then the patient doesn't know how to do those things and can't comply with the treatment, and they're also discouraged from coming back.

  • That shows that language is an extremely important factor in determining patient health outcomes.

  • In fact, in 2018 Moyes, Zach and Bo in showed in the study that language barriers cause poor patient outcomes, misdiagnosis and impaired confidence and service is received for patients from low income populations.

  • Just going to the clinic itself is a barrier because the time that they used to do that can be used to work and increase their income at the clinic where I volunteer.

  • A lot of times, the appointment slots for patients weren't long enough for the physician to get all of the treatment procedure instructions across.

  • So I was often asked to sit in the waiting room with the patient after their appointment and explain how tow law blood sugar and inject insulin while the physician moved on to their next patient because there just wasn't enough time.

  • And that meant that the patient had to stay even longer than they had planned for in the clinic.

  • Therefore, I've started a project called the Diabetes Education Program.

  • Were groups of students who are learning Spanish can come together and create educational materials like videos and flyers that help explain the instructions of the diabetes treatment procedure all in Spanish so the patients can be take them home and understand how to do everything at home.

  • This program also includes a in person session that would allow patients to be encouraged to come back for follow ups as well as be able to ask students questions in person.

  • This is a quote from Nelson Mandela.

  • If you talk to a man in a language he understands that goes to his head.

  • If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.

  • I never thought that a small decision I made in middle school would impact my academic direction and my professional future in such a large way.

  • But now I understand that our worlds can be a little more connected if we take the time to step out of her own and into that of another person.

  • So if you had to remember one thing for my talk today, I would really like it to be to value your knowledge in foreign language and use it to its fullest extent.

  • Read, right, listen, speak, practice and take one step further and collapsing language barriers and rebuilding human connection.

  • Thank you.

many of you have probably taken foreign language classes.

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Language as a Means of Collapsing Barriers | Nithya Gillipelli | [email protected]

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/15
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