Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cards and culture

Part of the cross-cultural training offered where we serve involves techniques for learning a new language and culture. There are various ways this happens, obviously, but one of the best ways to begin is with a shared experience. You visit someone in their environment, observe them doing something they're skilled at, make objective observations, ask questions, learn terms for the objects and tools used, learn terms for the actions done, maybe eventually take part in the process, etc.

So... since I happen to be from a different culture, and I [ahem] do have particular skills that require specialized and unusual tools, the teaching team asked if I would allow the class to observe me making a card from start to finish. I would only be allowed to speak English, and they also asked me to provide a little 'culture shock' for the class.  I did that. ;)

It was really interesting, actually... we live on a very safe campus and our doors are usually open from about 5:30 until 9:00 at night. Imagine doing that in California! Nope... so I closed and locked the door -- normal for me in America, but definitely not here! (And right off the bat, they interpreted that as "she doesn't want us here!" and were completely caught off guard. Perfect!) I also decided to treat the group as if I didn't know them, which meant being extremely task-focused, and a bit suspicious... though really... if I were home and 20 people showed up at my door that I didn't know, I would never have opened the door in the first place - I would have hidden behind it until they went away!  I got to yell at one of the staff guys, who came late and also walked right in the back door unannounced (!!). The students were so rattled at that point that they were afraid to ask questions. I don't think they realized just how much we have adjusted our norms to fit in and make them feel comfortable with us here... I don't know that I realized it either.

This is the card I made - I had made one ahead of time so I had an example to show beforehand. It was simple, but used a variety of steps and tools. The bear image is from Inky Antics, colored with Touch Twin Markers, and the shaker element is a Shake-It Shaker Pouch from Impression Obsession.

Afterwards, another instructor and I demonstrated a technique for learning the names of objects, using some of the tools I'd used to make my card. Being a language informant is exhausting. "Those are scissors. That's an acrylic stamp. That's a die. Those are scissors." Then... "Touch the scissors. Touch the acrylic stamp. Touch the die. Touch the acrylic stamp. Touch the die. Touch the scissors." I think we had 12 items by the end of the time, and once I even said, "Touch the acrylic scissors," I was getting so confused!

Just a little peek into my life... sometimes my worlds do overlap!
Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Wow! Very interesting, Dina. Your card is so very cute-how interesting that you chose that card to use in teaching your class. I am sure I would have gotten far more tongue twisted much earlier in the process. I would loved to have sit in on this class and see their reactions.

  2. Wish my worlds could overlap like yours!

    Enjoyed hearing about your week, I live in UK now but was born in Africa and I can relate to your cultural differences!

    Love your talent you give me so much inspiration. Thank you

    Best Wishes


  3. I just had to laugh. Cute card Dina. Touch my acrylic dog... Nah. I used to live in Germany when a kid and decades ago we did student exchanges for a week at a time, total submersion at 8, 9 and again at 10 yrs of age. All I can remember is how great the food and castles are! Went back and now love the beer, too. Keep creating!

  4. Very interesting situation Dina but you handled it well. Your card is precious, I love shaker cards, they are always fun to give and receive. Can you please tell us where did you ever get those super cute little hearts that you put inside the shaker window? they are just adorable.
    Thank you for sharing your talents with us.

  5. Francie in Montreal9/23/2013 8:19 AM

    I was fascinated with your experience. You do live an extraordinary life. No doubt, once over the culture shock, your students enjoyed watching you create. They had a first rate prof! Your card is adorable.
    I live in Quebec, Canada and we have 2 main cultures & languages - French and English, and a plethora of minatory cultures from all over the world. I enjoy our multicultural environment thoroughly.

  6. What a story,I guess I'm seeing a little of you behind the scenes. You are a very talented lady and much to share with the world. Thanks for sharing this.