Recently... I have had to give a number of impromptu speeches. Manjula and I will be out in the field and all of a sudden our hosts will ask me to say something. Normally I am all to happy to talk, but trying to communicate to a crowd of individuals who do not speak your language can be a little daunting. You want to say something that will interest them or inspire them, but you can't make it to complicated because someone will have to translate for you.
And after being here a month I have picked up enough of the context clues to realize that most translators never take the time to say exactly what you said. They summarize, saying only what they think is important and add their own points to explain what you said.
The kids always ask the same questions: "Where are you from?" "What is your name?""What is your father's, mother's, brother's, sister's name?" and "What are your hobbies?" These questions make up the few english phrases that they have learned in school.
For some reason another favorite request of the people here is to hear me sing. I am not a singer. I will join a chorus happily, but singing solo is not something I am particularly keen on doing. And honestly every time I am asked to sing, every lyric and song that I have ever learned seems to temporarily leave my memory. Its almost as if my brain shuts down at the idea of singing in public, at that point I normally just turn the tables and get the kids to sing for me. Having 80 to 120 buddies to sing with seems to be a little easier, then just me alone in front of all of them.
I figure by the time I am done here I will be used to presenting in front of crowds no matter the size or the language barrier, which can only help me with my work in the long run. Especially since I will be presenting the Environmental Issues Campaign I am spearheading for Navsarjan at their strategic planning conference in September to their 150 employees.
Learning how to talk at a moments notice in front of crowds of various sizes, backgrounds, and with language barriers is just one more thing I am learning from this wonderful experience. And so far I have come to realize that the people who ask me to speak have an honest interest in me and the work I do. So as long I am passionate about what I am doing it will come across in what I say even if I may stumble at first to find the right words, eventually I know they will come.