Overcoming language barriers in Mexico

Practicing interviews with interpreters.

By Marissa Bergh

Hello again! Or should we say HOLA! We made it safe and sound to Mérida, and our journey went off without a hitch. After a short three hour flight, we were warmly greeted at the airport by our friend and host, Victor Chan (head of the community organization, Hogares Mana). He and most people here were in especially high spirits this afternoon because MEXICO BEAT GERMANY in their first World Cup Match! (FYI: Fans were so excited after Mexico’s first goal that the cheers registered as a small earthquake in Mexico City)

After settling into our hotel, we spent the afternoon and early evening finding our bearings and taking in the culture of this beautiful city. Despite the frustrations of language barriers, everyone here was so patient and generous toward us. And even though many of us were nervous that we had forgotten every word of Spanish we had ever learned, most of us found that the words came flooding back as the afternoon progressed.

We capped of the evening with a group meeting. First, we had a discussion on cultural differences between here and Atlanta/USA, which evolved into a discussion around immigration, and the driving force behind migration to the U.S. and the bonds that keep Yucatecans close even when a border separates them.

Finally, we practiced doing interviews with interpreters. Having interpreters is necessary even though many of us speak descent Spanish because we want to make sure every word is understood correctly, so that we can more ensure that our future interventions are driven entirely by the community members themselves. This was more challenging than a lot of us thought it might be because we had to remember to slow down the pace and allow for moments of somewhat awkward silence. But we are all super excited to meet some of the women who volunteer at

Hogares Mana tomorrow, and learn more about how we can work with the organization this week, and in the years to come!

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