Some of us were privileged to grow up in a multilingual environment: Switching from one language to another, from a young age, intertwining grammar, and combining parts of words together to form new terms.
This amusing mishmash of language fades with time and resurfaces from time to time in a modern version, amongst multilingual staff, at a round table, working at implementing quality care programs such as Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative/Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFHI/BFI), for instance.
Let’s use this familiar work context to put forth an example of what I find to be a spellbinding observation. It is interesting to notice how individuals who share the same multilingual background seem to recognize each other in a group and automatically throw in a word or two from their common language in the conversation. It is utterly compelling not only to see these members’ ability to recognize each other but to see their ability to notice the consequent expression on the faces of the rest of the members—those who may be suddenly missing out.
The two then show the ability to linguistically adjust to nonverbal expression-ensuring that everyone feels included in the discussion. Perhaps this fundamental trait is enhanced amongst actors in the BFHI/BFI implementation process, say by the provision of additional communication skills training.
Reading facial expressions and body language is helpful in various ways, notably, in a perinatal care setting that is working on improving practice. The adaptability of “language” according to the understanding of others’ body movements and facial expressions can be revealed in situations such as:
A training course related to infant feeding where a speaker perceives the audience's disinterest and adjusts the pace of their presentation, accordingly.
A multilevel committee coordinating activities related to quality care where one member discerns another’s need for talking and therefore engages in active listening.
A counseling session on breastfeeding-related matters where a health care professional notices a slight twitch of an eyebrow and readjusts the terminology in familiar terms for the parent. Thus helping to build trust.
It is significant to note how linguistic adaptability to nonverbal cues of others offers the opportunity to engage with people, and to form meaningful connections, in all languages.
May noticeability define your journey.
World Health Organization. (2020). Competency verification toolkit: ensuring competency of direct care providers to implement the baby-friendly hospital initiative. World Health Organization. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/333691
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