March, 2016 – Megan Miln

Dealing with Language Difficulties

After four years in France, language difficulties are not new to us, and we have developed strategies to deal with them. In most cases, our strategy is to note down all the key information beforehand. It gives us a cheat sheet we can hand over when the language gets complicated and the details are important. We’ve found this useful for everything from buying train tickets to doctor’s visits.

A local bakery in Lyon
A local bakery in Lyon

We went to our first site meeting with cheat sheet in hand. It was great for getting across the information we needed to convey. Great for ensuring we were understood. But that is only half of the process, we need to make sure we understand.

During longer interactions in French, I sometimes find that social etiquette takes over. I smile, I nod, and I feel like I understand. It is only later when I sit down and think about it that I realise I’m missing some key information or important details. So, I need a new strategy. Our site meetings are going to be full of important details, and I want to feel like I’m on top of them.

I’m going to try a second cheat sheet. One for the information I expect to receive, with a space to write it down. My hope is that pushing myself to write down the information at the time will ensure I really understand, and give me the opportunity to clarify any missing details. It will probably come at the cost of some social nicety, but when you’re building a house, everyone wants the details to be right.