Transcending Language Barriers

TIMA  |  April 9, 2019
Photo by: Dennis Lee

Author: Ida Eva Zielinska
Editor: Anik Ghose

Organizing an international conference demands a lot of preparation, which includes anticipating that some attendees may not understand the language in which speakers and panelists will present. Prior to the opening of the 2019 TIMA Global Forum, “Enlightened Wellness: Body, Mind, Spirit,” at Tzu Chi USA’s headquarters in San Dimas, California, Tenshang Joh, Director of the Humanistic Culture Development Department, undertook the task of assembling a team of interpreters and taking care of the logistics of providing simultaneous interpretation for those who need it.

While this fifth TIMA (Tzu Chi International Medical Association) global forum will be conducted primarily in English, some speakers will present in Chinese, leaving many participants requiring simultaneous interpretation. Furthermore, an estimated 50 to 60 attendees from around 16 different countries don’t speak either English or Chinese, and will benefit from interpretation services to Spanish instead. In fact, the story behind why these guests are coming draws our attention to TIMA’s activities around the world.

There are doctors from Mexico [who are coming] because we’ve done several medical outreaches there. And in the past few months, we had outreaches in Ecuador as well, so there are many doctors coming from there. We also have doctors coming from Brazil, Costa Rica, so [from] several different countries.

The TIMA global network of over 10,000 licensed medical professionals routinely provides free medical outreach events worldwide, and these Spanish-speaking attendees participated in such events in their native countries. Having witnessed TIMA’s impactful work, they were inspired to join this forum out of solidarity and a shared vision of providing free medical care to those in need.  Some even decided to come and be part of the experience while knowing that they might not understand the proceedings due to a language barrier.

I think that’s the power of trust and love and belief; belief in [TIMA]. We’re doing things for the greater good and they trust us. And they know that we respect. That aspect of respect is always there.

And yet, everyone associated with Tzu Chi continuously strives to transcend boundaries that may exist between people, so for Joh, organizing a team of around 20 Spanish speaking interpreters to bridge the communication gap for these doctors was a joyful endeavor.

We really need to show our respect to them when they travelled such a long distance to be here.

It’s all about closing the distance, offering medical services with gratitude, respect, and love, and making everyone feel most welcome. Whether in the field on a medical outreach mission, or at a global forum drawing together like-minded people, that’s the spirit of TIMA.