Reflecting Issues and Education

Ms Chris Fanning, Cultural Tourism Lecturer and Industry Placement Coordinator, Flinders University Language Interpreters and Tourist Guides – Reflecting Issues and Education 

Tour guides use passion and feelings to express a three dimensional view and provide depth of meaning to what is being shared. Language is the main tool which tour guides use to communicate with their audience. Students who have English as their second language (ESL) need not only to be taught new language skills but also educated in the principles, theories and ethos attached to interpreting a site. The paper will discuss how educators of translators and tour guides (including bilingual guides) need to be culturally sensitive and recognise ESL students and their differences. 

I first started considering the issues associated with tour guides, interpreters and educators eighteen months ago and even though time has passed the topic remains valid. Having taught tour guiding for seven years to both local and international students and to both tourism and translating students, it occurred to me that site interpretation techniques should consciously be a part of my teaching methods. This led to me paying more attention to teaching students not just how to be a guide but to be aware of getting their message through and the consequences if they don’t. For ESL (English as a Second Language) students the issues include not just the technique but the message as well as perhaps cultural differences. 
Discussion will consider the issues involved with translators who have to not only translate a language but have to understand (whether written or oral) a message, agree with the information to some extent and be prepared to pass it on – what are the implications and issues if they don’t? This paper will contemplate how we as educators can assist both the translator and interpreter in getting the message to the visitor. There are also many similarities between the role of an interpreter and that of an educator, as they both endeavour to convey a message to their respective visitors or students. 
Methodology for this paper has been opportunistic and based on the hindsight gained from having worked as a tour guide and teaching in the industry. ESL students refers primarily to Asian students. 

2.1 Safety

Safety is a primary issue for guides. If translation of the message is incomplete or incorrect, not only could visitors misunderstand specifics of a site, they could easily be placed at risk. The story has been told of a group of visitors at a natural site, whose translator did not convey the full intention of the park ranger and consequently placed their visitors (customers) in danger, when the visitors and translator failed to follow the instructions as outlined by the ranger. An alternative strategy with less reliance just on the language component may have assisted the site interpreter to overcome this situation. 

Japanese in particular regard obedience and respect highly and generally try to avoid risk (Reisinger and Turner, 2003), however if a translator does not convey the full message the tourists can definitely be at risk of ‘losing face’. 

2.2 Correct message
Another problem is that if the message relies heavily on the language used then it risks either being misquoted or not having any words in the other language to which it can be translated. For many years ‘Coca Cola’ in Chinese translated as ‘bite the wax tadpole’ (Francesco and Gold, 1998). Similarly the following story shows the difficulties of dealing with complex questions and messages. 

‘A Foreign Service linguist, while catching the evening news, discovered that a Vietnamese interpreter had simply given up when trying to bridge the gap between a CBS reporter and a Vietnamese villager. The TV audience watched the reporter ask a question, heard it go back and forth between the interpreter and the villager and then heard the answer back in English. What the interpreter had done was simply ask the villager to count to ten, which he did. Then the interpreter reported what the villager might have said had he been able to understand the abstract ideas in the original questions (Fischer, 1980, p.60).’ 

Even within the English language words in one country can mean something different in another, for example the storage compartment of a car is a ‘trunk’ in America and a ‘boot’ in England and Australia. In Australia words can also have different meanings between states for example a ‘port’ can mean a drink, a harbour or a case, depending on your location. 

Much of an interpreter’s message can be lost and the experience diluted if the translator chooses to ignore the guide or significantly change the message. If as a tour guide we are talking to a group who have only conversational or phrase book English they may not be able to comprehend specialised explanations which are sometimes needed to interpret heritage or environmental sites (Aplin, 2002). The key then is to find alternative methods and to simplify technical terms without losing the context of the message. This applies equally to guides, translators and educators. 


Traditionally language has been the main tool of tour guides as their role was seen as being more related to the social and administrative needs of the group and information rather than interpretation driven (Pond, 1993).
Research shows that 60% of communication is non-verbal, that is, how we say things, with only 7% relating directly to the content of the message (Pastorelli, 2003). From a retention perspective only 20% of what is heard is retained (James and Robertson, 2003). For a tour guide whose main tool is language it is crucial these figures are understood, especially when a translator is trying to interpret and then communicate your message.
The retention and success of communicating increases as other communication methods are introduced (James and Robertson, 2003) and less emphasis is placed on the actual coding presented by language (Van Der Wagen, 1997). Other tools or methods will introduce the other four senses of taste, sight, smell and touch alongside the sense of hearing. The visitor experience is improved when less reliance is placed on the written word and more on using all of their senses (Armstrong and Weiler, 2003), it also increases interaction and engages the visitor more. Interpretive guides who are passionate about their topic and their visitors will connect better with their audience (Pond, 1993), however it must always be remembered that there is a fine line between dullness and over exuberance (Pond, 1993; James and Mallinson, 2003). Once less reliance is placed on the spoken word, then the visitors who are relying on a translator have another medium to gain information from. They will then have input direct from the guide through the use of their other senses and the non-verbal communication that an interested and passionate guide will use directly to the visitors and not just to the translator. For example listening to bird calls is something that may speak for itself. 
Sensitivity and awareness of others is important to a good communicator (James and Mallinson, 2003), however it is easy for a guide to be involved in their topic and the presentation and miss valuable cues from the audience. 

3.2 Sight (Gestures) 

When more reliance is placed on non-verbal communication other actions become more complex between cultures. Often gestures are assumed to be universal, when in fact they may have a completely different meaning in another culture. For example a smile is generally regarded as being 

a sign of happiness whilst to some Asians it may indicate embarrassment (Francesco and Gold, 1998). If a risk were to be taken with any non-verbal sign it should be with a smile, as it is still a very strong indicator of friendliness.
Eye contact is another form of non-verbal communication which is considered to be a sign of good communication in America (Ham, 1992) and Australia. However some Japanese, Chinese and some Indigenous Australians for example find eye contact uncomfortable and not part of their communication style (Francesco and Gold, 1998). This may be changing with younger generations as Japanese and Korean students who discussed this issue did not find eye contact confronting and often consider it essential as part of their translating role.
Other gestures such as nodding of the head to mean yes, can also mean no in India. The formation of the thumb and forefinger to make an ‘O’ means ‘okay’ in Australia, worthless in France, money in Japan and is an obscene gesture in Brazil (Francesco and Gold, 1998). 
There are many gestures between cultures that can be interpreted to mean different things and is an area that the site interpreter and educator should be at least aware of if not fully conversant with. The very use of gestures is something that differs between cultures from Italians who are well known for their exuberant gestures to Asians who are less demonstrative with their hands (Francesco and Gold, 1998). 

3.3 Smell, Touch and Taste
These senses account for only 12% of the communication message (Pastorelli, 2003) and yet have the potential to create a lasting impression. Along with remembering where we were when we heard a special song, particular smells (both good and bad), tastes and touch can transport us to different times and places. 

Smell is one of the most evocative senses, though it can be difficult and expensive to provide and control (Glen, 2004). Having said that scented gardens and trails and sites such as the Jorvik Centre in York U.K. for example, use smells to penetrate memories and enhance the learning experience (Hehir, 2004). Smell also has the power to invoke different reactions from different cultures as past experiences are remembered. 

Tactile mediums allow visitors to get involved and enhance their overall experience as touch is such a universal experience (Glen,1994). Taste also invokes memories and allows visitors to be involved with the experience to a greater degree. Similarly to smelling a scented garden, touching different textured leaves or tasting edible fruits, provides a different focus. Similarly tasting or smelling chocolate in a chocolate factory is often remembered long after the words are gone. 

With each of these senses care needs to be taken as health and safety legislation requires safeguards to be introduced for the benefit of all involved. Indeed in the U.K. the opportunity to use the taste sense is severely restricted due to legislation (Glen, 1994). 

3.4 Involvement or ‘Doing’
The use of each of these senses comes together to involve the audience – whether they be role playing, listening, moving, tasting or smelling. The actions that are invoked will long be remembered regardless of the sense. People (of all cultures) are more likely to remember the experience if they are actively involved rather than passive bystanders. 

Reisinger notes that it is important for guides (and educators) not to rely on information based on nationality and then assume how people will react, as it may not be indicative of the individual’s specific culture. With globalisation and multi-culturalism, the country of birth may not reflect the culture to which the visitor or student is most familiar. Many international students or visitors may 

have spent more time in an alternate country than their birth country. Having said that, it is useful to be aware of possible differences which may contribute to the student or visitor’s communication style. Asian ESL students have been shown in research to be quiet, respectful and high achievers (Barron and Arcodia, 2002), whilst being passive and non-participative in class, with the biggest hurdle being proficiency of the English Language. From an educator’s point of view it would be hard to ‘read’ the level of understanding achieved by the students on the surface, especially in relation to interactive activities such as tour guiding and interpretation, without specific activities which physically demonstrate the skills learned. The ESL students encountered by the author have not shown themselves to be substantially quieter or passive in the classroom than local students, especially once the lessons are made more interactive and demonstrative and involved. 
The use of the five senses however may be affected by cultural differences in communication. Each of us carries with us ‘cultural baggage’ or attitudes based on language, physical space, attitudes towards gender, habits, dress, avoidance of embarrassment, looking and touching etc. (James and Mallinson, 2003; Reisinger and Turner, 2003). These attitudes can and will affect the reaction the visitors have to interpretation methods which utilise the five senses. 
For example during one class the author was interpreting fossilized shell within the stone walls of a museum to a group of ESL tour guiding/translating students. Whilst the students all got involved and touched and made appropriate responses regarding the stone, none of those students chose to use the example in their own presentations later in the subject. There may be many reasons for this – remembering that the students had been able to demonstrate their ability to do an interpretive presentation in class – were they unable to take this experience out of the class room? Did they understand the principles? Was it not culturally appropriate to touch and feel the museum wall? Or did they just feel plain silly? Further research would be required to show if a group of local students would have acted in the same way. Generally Asian students have been noted in research to value indirectness, emotional restraint and direct questions, with a reliance on non-verbal rather than verbal messages (Reisinger and Turner, 2003). This provides opportunities for the guide or educator to utilise non-verbal attributes when conveying their message.
Reisinger and Turner (2003) also stated that tourism providers need to ‘practice self-control, humility and to be non-assertive’ in order to ‘save face’ for their Asian visitors. Whilst this may be true a guide and an educator both need to be passionate and involved with their topic, as mentioned previously there is a fine line between dullness and over exuberance. 

Research is building on good techniques and methodologies for tour guides – some of which are reiterated here. They can apply equally to site interpreters, translators and educators. A positive and passionate attitude to the topic is vital to being a good tour guide (or translator or educator) (Ham, 1992). Those who genuinely care for the group and the topic will provide a much more stimulating presentation (Ham, 1992; Pond, 1993). Speaking from the heart and not just the mind however, cannot be taught and is one of the most intangible things to try and explain to new guides and translators. Some of us have been fortunate to experience a guide who has really provided the ‘Wow !’ factor and turned a potentially dry topic into one that leaves you wanting to learn more. Tour guides and educators who are passionate about people and their topic are more likely to connect with the group and personalize the tour (Pond, 1993), which will allow visitors to be treated as guests and not just as their clients (Ham, 1992) thus allowing the ‘sense of delight’ to show through. The group needs to feel that it is the first time that the tour is being conducted and not the tenth time. This attitude and passion for the topic and group should then shine through to the group and assist the translator to convey the message.
The use of the five senses allows the interpretation to rely less on the actual words and more on the overall experience, with 75% of communication received by the eyes, 12 % ears and 12% taste, smell and touch (Pastorelli, 2003; Armstrong and Weiler, 2003). This strategy can have a significant positive impact on the presentation.
It is important to keep the message and delivery simple, speaking slowly and clearly (Pastorelli, 

2003; Francesco and Gold, 1998), especially when a translator has to pass the message on. When asking for feedback ensure the question requires more than a yes/no answer, as many Koreans and Japanese for example will reply yes, which may only indicate that they are listening (Francesco and Gold, 1998). The use of positive non-verbal gestures including facial expressions and facing the group assist the message to be conveyed clearly. Some people when speaking to ESL’s raise their voice, which will not make them be understood any better (Pastorelli, 2003).
Ensure all information is clarified, you cannot assume the group knows the background context (Pastorelli, 2003), this is especially true in relation to historical/heritage areas but could apply equally to environmental situations.

Also important in any interpretive presentation is the ability to know when to stop and be silent (Pond, 1993; Ham, 1992; Pastorelli, 2003). This use of the visual impact requires no knowledge of the English language. An awareness of the reactions of the group is vital for the guide (Pastorelli, 2003); with the message modified if reactions are different to expectations. In some cases, where the safety of the group is involved, the presentation may need to be altered significantly if the group reacts in a dangerous manner. Translators and guides need to work as a team in much the same way as a tour guide and coach driver work together. This awareness of the overall situation is extremely important, whether the group speaks English or not whether you are a guide or a lecturer. The timing of the tour (or lecture), environmental factors and emotional states can all affect an individual’s behaviour (James and Mallinson, 2003). An awareness of other cultures and some of their belief and value systems is essential for the interpreter and educator. This awareness should allow us to be conscious of issues which may be offensive or messages being received poorly, if at all

This paper only touches the surface of the issues associated with translators, tour guides and their education. Further research is suggested which would highlight other methods that are being utilised by guides to overcome issues in the field. 
Whilst language is one important communication method, the use of the five senses can provide a depth to the tourism experience that language alone can not. The sense of empowerment felt by visitors as they gain understanding from seeing, touching or smelling something is immense, as they take special memories of the site away with them.
If we as educators can train tour guides and translators to see that they are both there for the benefit of the visitor and need to work together as a team, then we can only improve the overall management and enjoyment of the visitor’s experience.

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