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Avoiding Slang In Cross-cultural Teaching

Lesson Plans > Religious Training > Preaching > Cross Cultural

Avoiding Slang In Cross-cultural Teaching

Over the last decade I've had several opportunities to speak (preach, do ventriloquism, etc) in a variety of cross-cultural situations. Some were in Canada (yes, there's even a cultural difference between Maine and New Brunswick), others were in Argentina, Africa, and even right here in my home state of Maine!

Even if you don't think you will be dealing with linguistic problems, you may be surprised. I remember once taking a group of teens to speak at a church in New Brunswick, and one of the teens shared a brief testimony, which had a particular piece of Maine slang scattered throughout it; she kept saying things were "wicked", which in Maine lingo means "really great". ("We had a wicked time" means "we had a really great time.")

Only, every time she said "wicked", her audience lost what she was saying, because to them "wicked" meant "wicked", not "good".

Another time I was working with some teens in preparation for a trip to Argentina. Everything we taught had to be written in English, then translated to Spanish before we left for South America. Instead of asking an Argentine to do our translation, we asked someone local, who was very fluent in Spanish, to do our translation. His work was excellent, and everything was clear, except for one minor problem; he had learned Colombian Spanish, and there were a couple slang terms he used which did not translate properly into Argentine Spanish.

Thus, we faced exactly the same issue as we had faced in New Brunswick; we lost people on slang terms they did not understand.

Obviously, there is a critical step we were missing; we hadn't bothered to get to know the culture we were going to, and were unaware of the linguistic differences. Having learned my lesson, when I went to Quebec to work with a missionary there, I asked the missionary on the field to do my translation work for me, so he could explain to me what did and did not work well. A big part of preparing to speak in a cross-cultural setting is to get to know the linguistics as best as you can before you're thrown to the wolves, so to speak.

But even before that, you should begin to pay attention to your own speech, work to become aware of your own linguistic idiosyncrasies. If you know you are going to be facing a cross-cultural teaching situation, began preparing well in advance by consciously removing those pieces of slang from your speech.
Lesson by Mr. Twitchell

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