As EVS- volunteers we are intentionally coming into the new, unknown country with different habits, culture and of course, language. At start it takes some time to understand, how different or how similar are people here in compare with your home country. Although Germany is not so far from Czech republic, I feel a lot differences in our behaving. It is obviously that start of our volunteer service brings some misunderstanding as well.
To speak in the same language is of course very important thing to understand each other. At least it is the easiest way how to transfer specific informations. And of course, as better and more educated is our language, that better and more sophisticated can our conversation be. But after all I think communication is more than just transfering verbal informations. My german is not incredibly amazing and sometimes I have problems to understand. But because of the opportunity to use another language, I learnt some new interesting things about communication. At first, I stopped to be fully dependent just on informations, which are said. Of course we are trying to give as specific informations as possible, so we are using very complicated vocabulary. But sometimes it is much easier to use simple words, simple sentences, which helps to find more universal expressions understandable for all people.
In the moment, when we feel free and not depended on verbal informations, we can explore much more through non-verbal communication. According to psychologist Albert Mehrabian creates these verbal informations just 7 % of general impression! Of course it is very important to learn new language and try to be as much specific in new language as is possible, but also it gives opportunity to concentrate on different parts of human communication. If i do not understand so well, I am trying to focus on this non-verbal part. Intonation, phrasing in speech, body language are saying to us sometimes much more as words. We can feel personal interests of the speaking person to topic, to relationships to others in conversation. We can discover much more, what is “between the lines” or undertone, which would be not readable from written text. It works just in human communication, which is also a lot about our intuition, emotions, natural behaving and perceiving another persons, what we sometimes forgot and concentrate just on rational informations, even this kind of communication can be for us (as not-native speaker) much more useful. This new view of possibility of communication helps me a lot to understand more. Because I don´t understand words so good, I am concentrating on details in relationships and across language barriers I am usually able to say as first, if there is some kind of conflict or understanding in communication.
My EVS here in Marburg is connected with theater activity and it is also very interesting to explore this factor here. Actualy I think, this rule works in theatre even in bigger extent. If you are going to see theater performance, the text is just one of several parts of theater expression of the topic. The way of communication is here of course much more complicated. At first there has to be communication between actors each other and then communication between actors and audience. And exactly this expressive non-verbal communication which is supported also by stage design, costumes and mask or make up, lights, music, ect. If all these elements works good together, is much more easier for me to read the meaning of the performance and my not-perfect knowledge of language is not important anymore. But the play counts on the text and the informations in, experience of performance is loosing and with that also being of Theatre.
Although the Title of this article sounds illogical and provocatively, maybe it is not bad idea to turn off our translator in head and just turn on our eyes, ears and feelings.