The biggest challenge of this internship no doubt has been the language barrier. Coming into the internship, I understand that not everyone would speak English and my program orientation sheet said I would have to “use hand gestures to communicate with many of the staff.” However, I was still under prepared on how tough it would be to communicate with everyone I meet.
Everyone in Thailand learns English in school, but many people are shy to speak it or have lost all speaking skills. In the hospital, I am fortunate enough that many people know English because all the medical terminology and equipment is operated in English. However, many of the Thais speak with thick accents that is hard to understand them and sometimes affects my ability to learn and comprehend what is happening. If I can not put the pieces together on what someone is trying to say, I usually will ask them to spell it out and then I will understand. However, going through this process every time I want to understand something is frustrating and tiring. I find the language barrier even harder when I am traveling on my own around my suburb where many people do not speak English, and I sometimes have to resort to Google Translator. I often have lost my patience with the language and get frustrated at the situation when I can not express myself. I also find it that when I talk to people in English, I need to talk very slowly and feel that I am undermining their intelligence.
Even though I knew this was an issue coming into this internship, I am still struggling to overcome the language barrier and have more patience with the communication. I now understand and value the power that communication has on relationships and being able to learn and do your job right. I am doing my best to learn Thai to try to communicate better with people, but the language is very hard to catch on too. To combat the language barrier, I often resort to Google translator and try to become more patient with the process. Even though this is the toughest barrier I am facing in my internship, it is adding to my experience by teaching me to be adaptable with my situation and learn to make the most of it.