Breaking Through Language Barriers With Story


By Erika Janik | May 26, 2017

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Carlos Rodriguez is a TimeSlips facilitator at St. Ann’s Center for Intergenerational Care in Milwaukee. Rodriguez is also a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As part of his classes, he’s required to do a service learning project. He immediately connected with the TimeSlips program.

“I have my grandma who has Alzheimer’s,” says Rodriguez. “She’s back in Honduras so I don’t see her very much. What I’ve learned here, I’ve brought to her, and I think that’s the reason why I decided to do this because being connected to elderly people in the U.S. is some kind of connection to my grandma.”

He’s developed a bond with one of the elderly residents named Julio. Julio is from Cuba and talks about his family back in Cuba regularly. Rodriguez says he’s learned a lot about Cuba from him and is impressed with his recall of important dates in Cuban history. He recalls one time they were talking about a photo of a family eating dinner and Julio said the family was celebrating the new government in Cuba. When Rodriguez inquired further, Julio gave him a date that Rodriguez later confirmed was the date Fidel Castro came to power.

Julio doesn’t appear to have any obvious memory issues but he only speaks Spanish, something that has cut him off from the other residents. It’s something Rodriguez can relate to. His family moved to the United States from Honduras when he was in middle school. He spoke no English at the time. 

“I felt very isolated from everyone and I think that’s what happened with Julio,” explains Rodriguez. 

Rodriguez had a teacher who reached out to him, asking him questions about his life. Rodriguez does the same for Julio, translating the story prompts and making sure his voice is included in the stories. 

 

This story was produced in partnership with TimeSlips Creative Storytelling.

 

 

Erika Janik

Erika Janik spins multiple “Wisconsin Life”-related plates as she acquires, edits, records, and mixes radio stories for broadcast — all while searching for new roadside attractions, hiking trails  and local beer to explore.  She is the author of five books including “Apple: A Global History“, and most recently “Marketplace of the Marvelous:...
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2018-02-10T23:11:32+00:00 Tags: , , , |

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