Saturday, November 8, 2014

Translation issues

I had a few dispiriting interactions today with a boy of about 10. He is deaf and he was asking me for a few things at the children's information desk.  My elementary school knowledge of the sign for 'bathroom' allowed me to help with one of them, but for the other question he had I couldn't figure out at all what he wanted. Even worse, I didn't know a good way of conveying that a)I didn't understand and b)I was sorry.

I've never dealt before with patrons with whom I have NO common language--I can communicate pretty effectively with people when we have a very limited common vocabulary, but I don't know where to start with someone like this. With someone who could write in Roman script, I would run their question through Google Translate, inadequate as it is, but in some cases the person can't write, I can't manage to convey to them to please write their question down, or the writing is something I'm not equipped to put into a text-based translator on my computer.

Any thoughts, strategies, or resources you can suggest?

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