Taiwan Part Three: Communication

Today marks the twelfth week that I have been in Taiwan. I finished my four week internship at Tunghai University in June, and then spend eight weeks working at an American style summer camp in northern Taiwan. Since I am exploring teaching and academia as a career path, the two internships allowed me different perspectives on teaching and learning. From these two experiences, the biggest lesson I have learned is about how to best communicate clearly and effectively.

At Tunghai, I learned about both written and oral communication. I wrote articles for their newsletter, which required succinct, descriptive writing. I also learned about oral communication when I gave a presentation at a local high school about studying abroad. I talked about my experience taking a class at Cambridge University as well as being a Davidson student. As I began talking, my main focus was not on what I was saying, but how I was saying it. The students understood some English, but I had to tailor the words I used and the delivery to my audience. This meant repeating some sentences twice, explaining words, saying the same thing a couple different ways, watching their facial expressions, and when I hit on something that was interesting to the students, then staying on that topic longer. In this instance, I ended up talking about Cambridge and how it looked like a scene from Harry Potter for a larger portion of time than I had planned. I learned that reading my audience was essential to delivering information.

I further developed my speaking skills at the summer camp. When I was teaching ecology, I would tell the campers about the four stages of the butterfly’s life and then ask them how to say each stage was in Chinese. This question served multiple purposes. First, it portrayed my vulnerability–I did not know Chinese, and I was trying to learn it, just as my campers were trying to learn English. Second, it gave the kids who understood English a chance to say “毛虫,” giving them the satisfaction of knowing an answer. Third, the kids who didn’t understand English were pulled into the lesson by hearing a chorus of “蛹.” I also realized that my facial expressions and body language were super important. It was simple fixes that made me be more understood. If I asked a camper where their hat was, I should touch a hand to my head–not blatantly, but a simple gesture.

These communication skills are important with people who speak English as a second language, but also as a first language. My time in Taiwan taught me the importance of visual cues, both the ones I was showing and the ones I perceived. And while there are some things I cannot change–a camper told me this past week that they way my eyes were tilted down made me look sad and angry–there were others I can control. This was an important lesson to learn for future professional and personal interactions.

presentation at a local high school

 

working as a camp counselor

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