Posted by Steve Snyder

Caring and Compassion While Seeking Comprehension 

Imagine, leaving your home country and arriving, alone, in rural Costa Rica where no one speaks your language. You meet the family you are to be staying with for two weeks. They have been told that you desire to understand their language and culture. They seem friendly enough, but they don’t understand you, and you barely understand them. 

Mary Anne Eppler recently lived out this scenario. Her empathy for her increasing number of Spanish speaking preschool students and their families was her motivation.  As the Heartland Early Learning teacher for 3 and 4-year-old classes, Mary Anne recognizes the importance of good communication not only for her students but for their families as well. 

While trying to communicate among adults, Mary Anne experienced many emotions covering the spectrum from confidence to anxiousness to frustration. When she interacted with the children, she found their use of simple words and sentence structure allowed her to communicate in an easier way. She realized that she understood a good deal of what the adults were saying, but she lacked the words and sentence structure to express herself as an adult. She found that she was starved for adult conversation in her own language. 

Mary Anne hopes she can use her new perspective to enhance the experience of her students and their families. She hopes to increase community awareness of the challenges our non-English speaking neighbors face. It would be a great benefit to include translators at important events. She notes that increasing the amount of bilingual signage, and communication would be quite helpful. She also noted that the ability for adults to have meaningful conversations with other adults in their own language would be comforting and have positive effects for our entire community.