Mentoring a boy or girl whose parents do not speak english can be very challenging, and at times discouraging. As much as I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix every language barrier and culture difference, I cannot. The truth is, there’s no easy way around communicating with people of a completely different background, heritage, and language. It takes a little bit of extra work, a little more effort…or as we would say in Spanish, “Échale ganas!”. However, just telling you to try a little harder doesn’t help very much. There a few ways to help bridge the gap between you and your protege’s family, but before jumping into them it’s important to remember a few cultural differences between what mentors are accustomed to, and what their protege lives everyday. If you haven’t had a chance to read the first post about mentoring Spanish speaking families, you can check it out here.
Even though it may seem nerve racking to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language, it is necessary in order for the relationship to grow. At Champions of Hope we not only desire a connection between mentors and proteges, but with families as well. Keep in mind that parents may feel intimidated to speak to you as well. Your protege may have the time of their life with you, and his or her parents may not even know. They may not have any clue what you talk about with their child, yet they continue to trust that you’re doing something good in their lives. So rather than just hoping for the best, here are a few ways to help with communication:
–Write letters to parents/guardians: This may seem odd, but if learning Spanish is nowhere on your radar, then writing a monthly letter can allow parents to know how things are going with your protege. Google translate is an excellent way to convert your words to Spanish, and once it’s finished you can copy what’s on your screen in paper easily. Include how hangouts went, what they shared about school, friends, family, the 5s’, etc. Let them know how they can help, or be involved in the relationship.
–Use your protege’s bilingual ability: If you haven’t already tried, talk to your protege about translating for you. Ask how their day is going before getting in the car to go hang out, and let them know you’re praying for their family before you head home. Your protege may think it’s awkward, but that’s what it takes to create dialogue then go for it!
–Learn some Spanish yourself: You don’t need to be fluent, and if you can’t roll your R’s you’ll be just fine! You don’t even need to know that many words, check out these simple phrases and you’ll be able to hold a few quick conversations in no time. Duolingo is a great app for learning Spanish straight from your smartphone. It’s free, and helps anyone learn. I get on it from time to time to sharpen up my Spanish.
–Put your protege’s parents in contact with bilingual staff: We’re here to help! If that means making phone calls, sending text messages, or being present when you pick up your protege, we’re here to serve in any way. Feel free to leave my contact information with your protege’s family the next time you see them, or contact me about how I can help out.
Those are just a few ways to help communication, but whether you decide to follow these or not, please know that effort you make to communicate with parents will have a much better impact that you may think. Even if you butcher every single word, and get all the tenses wrong, parents will appreciate your attempts at jumping into their world and speaking their language.
-Nathan Elizondo, Relationship Coordinator