query: organizing across languages

colist at comm-org.wisc.edu colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Mon Oct 31 21:48:09 CST 2005

[ed:  thanks to Barb for replying to Sarah's query.]

From: Barbara.Stuart at colorado.edu

What a thoughtful and difficult question. We prepared simple handouts and
comic books with images, translated into the languages in use.  We even made
them in braille. Used as a starting point, what we took to be generally 
upon principles were circulated and then percolated issues by culture, and
sometimes by language (mistakes/misunderstandings?!). People compared across
languages, especially English. They flew out of the office, by the 

Barb Stuart
> From: "Sarah Phillips" <phillips at stand.org>
> Esteemed colleagues,
> I was hoping you could help me out.  I am building a chapter of a 
> grassroots
> children's advocacy organization in an extremely diverse city.  We work
> primarily with parents, and the vast majority of the parents in this city
> speak 1 of 5 different languages-English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, 
> and
> Khmer.  There's also a smattering of Lao and Vietnamese speakers in the
> community.  I speak English and French and am learning Spanish.
> What I'm looking for are some really practical tips from those of you who
> are working/have worked in similar situations. Particularly nuts and 
> bolts
> stuff, like how your leaders have facilitated meetings when there's more
> than two different languages at the table?  (I've used headsets in 
> previous
> jobs and had a hard time making it work).  Or, how you help leaders 
> organize
> in a language that you can't understand?  (We're really heavy on 
> leadership
> development and helping our leaders become effective organizers.  And 
> while
> I think most of my leaders will be pretty fluent in one of the languages
> that I speak, I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of the members they
> recruit won't be.)
> So, what have you learned from your experience that might help me 
> start off
> on the right foot?
> Best,
> Sarah Phillips

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