As a behavior analyst, I spend much of my time with individuals who do not communicate using vocal language. I interact with these children and adults on a daily basis, having meaningful conversations, and getting to know them through various forms of communication.
As I arrived in Delhi I asked myself, why, when preparing for our trip to India to train and collaborate with like-minded teachers and clinicians, did we wonder how we would be able to communicate with them? Why did we worry so much about feeling lost in a country where the language would be foreign to us, when we know very well, that vocal language is not the only way to communicate with others?
After leaving New York, I spent the first flight next to a woman who spoke a different language from my own. Throughout our journey, we found simple ways to communicate, whether she wanted to let me know that I had dropped something on the ground (again), or when I helped her relay a request to the flight attendant.
Without a single word exchanged, we had several exchanges, interactions, and a shared sigh of relief as our plane landed at our first stop in Kuwait. Our journey ended with a simultaneous smile and nod, a quiet acknowledgement of our time spent sitting next to each other on the long flight.
The idea of connecting and communicating with people, in whatever way possible, has only been reinforced since our first flight from New York. I am constantly encouraged to be open to connecting with others, without letting the fear of a language barrier deter me. As we continue our work at SOREM, and explore during our time here in India, I remind myself to be patient, and creative in my interactions with others.
Language does not have to be a barrier, and that consideration can open us up to many memorable, and potentially life changing interactions – as big or small as they may be.