Breaking a Language Barrier the Agile Way

MalaysiaTeaching is a new experience every time, especially if I’m interacting with a completely different diaspora as I was in Bayan Baru, Penang, Malaysia. When students’ regular language is not English, it poses unique challenges for their Agile trainer. Here are some of the prominent ones:

  • Language: Since English is not the medium of interaction in Malaysia, the class was unresponsive for quite a while because they were not able to make complete sense of what I was saying. After an ice-breaker session, the crowd opened up to the idea of interpreting all the lessons in Malay. A volunteer among the students stepped up to translate for the class, and the students took turns drawing what they had learned on the board. This became a fun, in-depth learning experience for me as well as for the attendees.
  • Responsiveness: The responsiveness of the class, though low in the beginning, picked up as we progressed through the topics. They were eager to learn and understand the concepts of Agile and Scrum. Doubts were raised, but in an unaggressive manner. Though not very expressive, the students provided very constructive feedback.
  • Decorum: The class had a generally encouraging and enthusiastic feel to it, an atmosphere that is delightful for a trainer. All the students were keen about keeping up the pace of the class, and were polite and rational in their questions. The crowd tended to concentrate on the expressiveness of my hands, so I tried to stop using them as much while explaining and stick to just talking because they were mapping my lip movements.

Breaking down the barriers of language and culture and communicating to the class about Agile and Scrum through their own ways of understanding was a lesson I had to learn quickly, but the efforts paid off. I was able to drive home the point that Agile is congenial and adaptable.

Welcome to Agile, you will enjoy the ride!

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