Not Lost in Translation

Thomas Bliss First Aid CPR & AED Classes, First Aid Instructors Leave a Comment

Interpreted Training; not so scary after all.

first aid cpr training


This past week I experienced a first in my career.  I facilitated First Aid, CPR, AED and BBP training in four languages; English, Vietnamese, Spanish & Lao.  I’m from Redondo Beach, California, and my language skills are English with (what I’m told) is a slight Southern California accent.  Is there one?


I was definitely apprehensive going in, and had no idea what to expect, but I was prepared for a challenge, if not worse.


My first class was in Vietnamese, and the first few minutes of my class were rocky to say the least.  The rhythm you have as an instructor goes right out the window, and in those precious first minutes you have to establish a rapport, which in this case, was pretty much non existent.  Imagine a rock band and the drummer suddenly leaves the stage, but the show must go on.


The dynamics of what was going on in my head was frightening.  It was Improv 101, and I knew I had to get it together and find the beat.  I felt as though I was in a nose dive and had to recover fast.


My interpreter was very good, and after a few minutes of me re-tuning my delivery; the two of us found our rhythm and the drummer returned to the stage.  We had found the beat!  All of this seemed like an eternity, but a quick glance at the clock and only a few minutes had passed.  I looked at one of my students and saw that she was smiling, and another let go a chuckle.  Were they laughing at me or with me?  No matter; keep going!


I realized that the class was going to have to incorporate some ESL since nobody seemed to know how to make a 911 call.  So we broke it down to as simple a phrase as possible; what and where.  We worked on that 911 call until they all had it, and continued to work on it for the remainder of the evening.


The first hour felt like three, but the skills sessions were going really well, and I was pretty surprised.  Between my demonstrations, and the interpreters work we seemed to be making progress, and they were understanding what is necessary to respond to medical emergencies.  They understood the basics, and demonstrated average response skills.


At the first break, I asked my interpreter how it was going?  She said it was going great, and that they really liked me; they were learning.  After the break, we dove right back in, and the remainder of the evening went well or as well as could be expected under the circumstances.


I discovered some interesting things about my students that night.  I’m only speculating here, but I’m guessing that there is not a whole lot of interactive education in other parts of the world.  No push and pull from instructor to student.  Nor do I think there is a whole lot of touching each other either.  Some exercises seemed uncomfortable for the students when it came to checking a real person for breathing, establishing an airway, or choking emergencies.  The scenario’s went fairly well, but when it came to putting it all together; it was trial and error, but we managed.


I had expected the class to run at least two to three hours longer than usual, but I was pleasantly surprised to see us come in at only about 90 minutes longer than usual.


The following nights were Lao, Vietnamese again and Spanish; each class got a little bit better.


I have to say that the skill of your interpreter is very important and I need to acknowledge my interpreters from Dynamic Language in Seattle, They did an awesome job!  Consecutive interpretation seems to be the best.  Also translating your study guides, or at least key points is very helpful too.


Today there are more first responders on the streets empowered to make a difference when a medical emergency strikes, and that made it all very well worth the effort.


I’m not sure if I will ever have an opportunity to do this again, but I am very grateful that I did, and would gladly do it again.


Thomas Bliss

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