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Running head: COMMUNICATION 1

Communication in a Foreign Country

Marissa Brown

Trent University

Communication in a Foreign Country

Look Back

This semester I was lucky enough to have to opportunity to travel to Honduras for my

NURS 2020H placement. We travelled to the capital, Tegucigalpa where we visited an

organization for children with disabilities and a rural region called Yoro where we visited two

schools and the hospital. The purpose of our trip was to deliver health promotion projects such as

prevention of mosquito borne illnesses, non-communicable and communicable diseases,

handwashing and other health topics. We also brought large bags of supplies such as toys,

clothes, and medical supplies.

Throughout the trip, we had translators to help us communicate with the children,

teachers, and other members of the community. I have travelled previously to countries where

English is not the primary language, but have not been on a trip where my purpose is to teach

others. In Honduras, I interacted with local people more which was a new experience for me. At

certain points throughout the trip, I felt like I had a hard time communicating with others due to

the language barrier. I noticed this specifically at PREPACE when interacting with the children.

There were only a few translators on the trip and they could not be with everyone at the same

time. This led to points when I felt like I could not communicate effectively due to my lack of

knowledge of Spanish. There were also points when communicating through a translator was


The most surprising aspect of these interactions was the fact that myself and the other

team members managed to communicate with the children fairly well using non-verbal

communication such as gestures and pointing. At PREPACE, we managed to communicate

mainly by pointing and using one word sentences such as “aqui” which means here or “que”

which means what. Overall, myself and my team members managed to adapt to the challenges

that came with trying to teach and interact despite a language barrier and have gained crucial

skills that will help us in future experiences. Prior to this experience, I never fully understood the

large role that non-verbal communication had when interacting with others.


Attempting to interact with the children when no translators were present made me feel

uncomfortable because I was not confident in my Spanish speaking ability. In these situations, I

had a hard time adjusting to the fact that I could not communicate as effectively as I can in

Canada or other English-speaking countries. Throughout this experience, I realized that we rely a

lot on verbal communication in order to interact with others. I do not have much experience

communicating with those who are hearing impaired so verbal communication is a key aspect of

how I interact with people. Being in situations where I am unable to communicate verbally or am

not confident in my ability to speak in another language, made me feel out of place and helpless.

I think that other members of my team felt the same way in the situations in which they

were not sure how to interact or relate to the children. They may also have been surprised like I

was at how well we managed to communicate with the children using alternative methods. I feel

as if the children could have further benefitted from our interaction if we were able to speak

more to them, however, they were very grateful for the interactions. They never seemed to get

frustrated that we could not understand what they were saying and at some points played games

with us in order to teach us some more vocabulary. One day, in the girl’s cabin, we found out

that we were playing “Simon Says” with a girl who was trying to teach us all the words for the

different body parts.

Analyze the Outcomes


Throughout these experiences my main realizations were that non-verbal communication

is very important when interacting with others when a language barrier is present, that I was not

as confident in my Spanish speaking ability than I had originally thought, and that working with

a translator was difficult. After reviewing current literature on similar topics, it is evident that

what I was feeling in those situations is common in others.

In certain situations when my verbal communication was not as effective, I relied on non-

verbal communication techniques such as body language and facial expressions. According to a

study evaluating communication strategies during intercultural encounters, non-verbal

communication is crucial to maintaining the client relationship (Jain & Krieger, 2011). The study

also states that non-verbal techniques such as facial expressions, supportive touches and eye

contact played an important role in emotion management (Jain & Krieger, 2011). This study’s

finding has implications to my situation because I also experienced the benefit of non-verbal

communication when interacting and creating a relationship with the children at PREPACE.

Although I learned a little Spanish before I left, I felt anxious and embarrassed to speak

Spanish to the children and adults. I felt this way because I was afraid of pronouncing the words

wrong or saying the wrong word. I was not confident in my ability to verbally communicate in

Spanish. I am not the only one who feel this way because a study performed by Liu and Jackson

(2008) revealed that Chinese students who were learning English as a second language were

unwilling to speak in class and had significant anxiety about speaking because they felt as if they

were incompetent. The Chinese students felt exactly as I did in the situations. The study

suggests that positive further practice in the language will build their confidence and ability to

speak the language. I can use this suggestion for further experiences and learn more of the

language before leaving.


When presenting my project through the translators, it was very difficult for me to fully

determine if the audience was actually understanding the information I was presenting and that if

what I was saying was being translated into the same information in Spanish. An article written

by McCarthy, Cassidy, Graham, and Tuohy (2013) describe potential issues with information

transfer when using a translator. The article suggests that “participants were concerned with the

accuracy of information” (p. 338) that was presented due to the translation process (McCarthy et

al., 2013). The article describes that in many cases, it is the nurse’s inability to use the translators

effectively that can negatively influence patient care and information transfer. They suggest

further education in order to enhance the nurses’ ability to communicate using translators

(McCarthy et al., 2013). It would have been helpful to me to have interacted with the translators

ahead of time so that the information presented in my project can be translated effectively.

Revise Approach

I believe that I was able to adapt to the situations that I experienced and managed well

when communicating. In the future, I would have liked to have learned and practiced more Spanish

so that I felt more confident communicating. I will mention this to future students in order to

enhance their experiences. I would have also liked have been more prepared with the translator to

ensure audience members fully understand the presentation in a way that is memorable to them. I

would also warn future students that it takes a lot longer to present with a translator. Overall, I

believe I communicated well with the children and adults.

New Perspective

In the future, I plan on travelling back to Honduras as well as getting involved with

similar work in other countries. To further my experiences, I plan on continuing to learn Spanish

so that I can speak fluently to others and not have to rely on translators. When visiting other

countries, my experience working with translators in Honduras will be beneficial. From this trip,

I can also take away new knowledge about the cultural differences between the two countries

especially when it comes to language barriers.



Jain, P., & Krieger, J. L. (2011). Moving beyond the language barrier: The communication

xxxxstrategies used by international medical graduates in intercultural medical encounters. Patient

xxxxEducation and Counseling, 84(1), 98-104. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.06.022

Liu, M., & Jackson, J. (2008). An exploration of chinese EFL learners' unwillingness to

xxxxcommunicate and foreign language anxiety. The Modern Language Journal, 92(1), 71-86.

xxxxdoi: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2008.00687

McCarthy, J., Cassidy, L., Graham, M. M., & Tuohy, D. (2013). Conversations through barriers

xxxxof language and interpretation. British Journal of Nursing, 22(6). 335-339 DOI: