Steve Willis is a master trainer and vice president of professional services at VitalSmarts.
During my last trip to the United Kingdom, I found myself struggling to respond to what seemed like a simple question, “Blooming brass monkey weather isn’t it?” Even though the person addressing this question was speaking English, and even though I understood each individual word, I was completely oblivious to what he asked. Even when the conversation continued, I was stuck on that phrase—struggling to figure out the meaning.
After this conversation ended, I sat down to prep for my class. As I reviewed my material, I saw a lot of phrases and expressions that had the potential to create the kind of confusion I had just experienced. So this month, I wanted to talk about teaching VitalSmarts material to culturally diverse groups.
I’ve found the best thing to do in these situations is to translate. I try to identify jargon and VitalSpeak—phrases and expressions we use to name skills or describe ideas—before the class starts so I can be prepared to translate them during the session. For example, when training abroad and talking about a Sucker’s Choice, I might say something like, “We’re now going to look at a Sucker’s Choice, a perceived choice between two options that are both bad,” and follow that with an example. At other times translating is simpler. In Influencer, one of the videos mentions Chex Mix. Before this video plays, I say, “Dr. Wansink is going to mention something called Chex Mix. Chex Mix is a snack made of dry cereal and nuts.”
Then during the class, I’ve also found it very useful to have participants turn to a partner and summarize the main idea of what they’ve just learned. This helps them internalize the idea, and allows the trainer to clarify any misunderstandings. I’ve also had a lot of fun identifying local expressions and phrases for the terms in the material.
So good luck with your trainings, wherever you may be holding them, and always remember to “Eat what you can with your Grandfather’s fork.” Don’t ask me what that means.