As a group of British volunteers coming to Honduras with varying levels of Spanish, it was inevitable some things would get lost in translation. Now as we are coming to the end of week five here in La Villa San Antonio, I think we can all admit that the added time it takes to make a decision or create a plan is a frustrating symptom of the language barrier.
With most of the English translations depending on the UK Team Leader Vikki to interject between raised Spanish voices all talking at once, there have admittedly been moments of complete chaos. However, these moments have also provided some of the most hilarious memories of my placement so far, a reminder that despite a difference in language, laughter is universal.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for the national volunteers to have to contend with our broken Spanish every day, but their patience and hospitality has been incredible as they’ve welcomed us into their homes and community.
One memory stands out in particular. When practising team energizers in the first week, Bilal, a UK volunteer, hit Ariel, the Honduran Team Leader, square in the face during an animated game of dodgeball. At which point everyone fell about in hysterics, except for Ariel of course who just sort of stood there with a stunned look on his face and a fairly bruised ego. (Writing this now I do realise it was probably a ‘you had to be there’ kind of moment but bear with me.)
Regardless of age, gender or origin, people unexpectedly getting hit in the face is always funny, I urge you to check out compilations of people falling over on YouTube to confirm. Especially when it happens to those who feel they possess an element of sporting prowess, such as Ariel in this situation. From then on, it only took someone to mimic the incident for us to start cracking up again, the ice was officially broken.
Aside from our scheduled Spanish lessons, we’re learning a little of the language each day, whether it’s memorising the colours whilst painting murals at the children’s home in La Paz, (thank goodness someone reminded me the difference between ‘marron’ and ‘morado’ before I painted baby Jesus’ hair bright purple) or singing Spanish songs during our weekday Zumba classes with local instructor, Chin. At home, my housemates and I have been trying a little more each day to wean off the Google Translate and attempt conversations with our host family ourselves. Again, their patience and generosity is a testament to the warm welcome we have felt since arriving in San Antonio.
Among so many other things that this experience has taught me so far, how to cope with an unavoidable language barrier is definitely one of the most worthwhile. You come to discover that, for the most part, you can live without detailed specifics, happily get by on the general jist of things, and, most notably, that nothing breaks the ice better than a dodgeball in the face.
Written by ICS volunteer Joanna Taylor