Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Plan - Introduction: My Needs

Let’s Talk
I loved working a few years ago with several learners who needed some language learning coaching. One member was brand new on the field – had arrived about 2 days earlier.  Let’s call her Jane.  The other, let’s call him Louis, had been on the project for several years but was at a bit of an impasse, and would now also be working with Jane.

The first thing we did was to set aside time, about a week, to really focus on the planning.  We were all staying together – with the rest of Louis’ very energetic (4 kids!) family.  So, as we lived together that week – fixing meals, making some fun daily trips, sharing close quarters - we got acquainted, and I was able to get a good idea of what the dynamics had been to date, and would be into the future, for the Team’s program in the context of their real LIFE!

We spent several hours through the week talking about what the team, each individual and as a Team, brought to the project and wanted to see accomplished (reviewing their Mission and Vision, doing some needs anlaysis), setting Goals and looking at some reasonable time-tables.  This was exciting for Jane as she could see how her recent training would be put into action right away.  The input was encouraging for Louis, because after several years and some very tough times, he felt somewhat discouraged.

We then got real specific, talking about how each Goal they had chosen could be strategically tackled.  We set up a schedule for each of them which would enable them to pursue a realistic language program tailored to their needs, alongside their other commitments.  We also set up accountability for reporting, review and revision which assured them their work would be followed and supported.  Over the next 18 months, Jane and Louis implemented the plan, tweaking it when needed, working along consistently.  Regular self-assessments and occasional assisted evaluations indicated they were making good progress. It went really well and we all appreciated the planning we had done.

Have you had a similar experience…or perhaps one which was not as successful – but through which you learned how to do some things better the next time around?

Please share your comments below.
The Task

Planning a strategic language program involves a number of steps.  It can be simple, if you follow the steps, or really overwhelming, confusing and complicated, if you decide to just kind of wing it.  Let’s set up the steps, and commit to following them…you’ll like the results.  I guarantee it.

1.  set aside a time to focus on your planning
2.  work with your team members
3.  define your Mission and Vision
4.  determine what your needs are
5.  set specific goals (short, medium and long range)
6.  choose objectives and strategies which will guide you in meeting your goals
7.  plan specific activities to move forward
8.  plan review and revision times to keep track of both your progress and your process.

This coming week, let’s work on Steps 1, 2 and 4. Step 3 has already been covered
(see “Defining My Mission and Vision” posting) 
** For Steps 1 and 2, be intentional about setting aside the time, and be sure your team is ready and able to work with you.  Your team may include colleagues or friends, like Jane and Louis. It may include your Host or you may not have that set up at this point.  It may include a supervisor, or a coach.  If you are working alone, find someone you can just talk some of this over with from time to time, who will be willing to help you with being accountable.

** For Step 4, to determine what your needs are, spend time thinking about and noting down what you want to see accomplished: short term (in the next year), medium term (in the next 2 to 3 years) and long term (in the next 3 to 5 years, or for the duration of the program).  This is called by some a “Needs Analysis”.  It is a start.   You’ll be adding to this as you go along.

Please share your comments below.

We’ve already looked at these, which form your program foundation:
Learner ID & Learning Styles Index:
(Review “Dimension #1: HOME” & “Principle #1- Motivation at Home” postings)

Host Profile:
(Review “Dimension #2 – The HOST” & “Principle #1 – Motivation & My Host” postings)

HARBOR planning:
(Review “Dimension #3 – The HARBOR” & “Principle #1 – Motivation in the Harbor” postings)

We’ve also talked about having a well defined Mission and Vision Statement, to start you on the right track. (Review “My Mission and Vision” posting)

Now let’s add another useful tool:  Needs Analysis Chart (TL = your “target language”)

** Keeping your Mission and Vision statements in mind
** Check out these samples and see what you need in your own program to fulfill your Mission by
     accomplishing your Vision

Samples of short term needs for a beginning language learner: 
My Mission: To integrate into my Host community so I can work there effectively.
My Vision:
   I will able to use my TL well enough to build and maintain relationships,
   to function comfortably and to carry out my work in my Host community.

Role /activity
Describe briefly
Details of language use
General needs

1. Review what I have
    learned/covered in
    classes, etc to date
Evaluate how well I have mastered this material & plan for further study if I need it
May - June
2. Greetings and
Being able to go beyond the basics into different contexts with different people

3. Introductory
    information about
Where they come from (family, clan, village, region…); what they do

4. Introductory
    information about me
Where I come from; my family, home country/culture

5. Introductory
    information about my
Formal (giving an presentation to a meeting; informal (chatting with people I meet in the village

6. Starting a
Finding out things like: where someone is coming from or going to, what they are doing or have just done

Samples for specialized language learning, to fulfill specific roles:

Role-specific needs
Details of language use

Dates to study
1.  (for the agricultural worker)
understanding basic gardening traditions
Interviewing people asking things like: Do you have a garden? Where is your garden?  What do you plant?

2.  (for the micro-enterprise worker)
understanding what people usually do for income
Interviewing people asking things like:
How do you earn cash (women/men)?
Are there things you’d like to learn to do/make/provide which the community would pay you for?  How are work groups set up in your community?

Please share your comments below.
See you next time!

My Mission and Vision

Let’s Talk

Creating Mission Statements and ‘Vision Casting’ are both very IN! 
LOOK  around, everyone’s ‘doing’ it!! 

When I was writing an article on this topic a year ago, I kept coming across material with this theme in various publications I read regularly.  The following examples, and others I came across, indicated to me that many different kinds of folks with different kinds of needs ‘out there’ are involved in these important steps.  I’m sure if you google ‘mission’ or ‘vision’ statements, or read your local paper, or browse through any news publication, or look in your favorite bookstore, you too will find evidence of this:

** Vision casting (which includes taking inventory, hunting for meaning, experimenting with
     and creatively attacking your life’s challenges, branding) contributes to keeping a person
     active and healthy mentally, physically, emotionally while helping them (in whatever ‘next
     steps’ their life needs to take)
     (Source: AARP, The Magazine, Aug’10 article on self-reintroduction and self-reinvention)

** When we face a huge transition, it’s good to step aside and look at what’s helped us thru life
    that point - applying that can lead to vision casting for our future endeavors
    (source: NewsPress, Ft Myers, FL daily newspaper, 8/15/10 article on a long time
    award-winning employee who consistently valued inventiveness, self-improvement and hard

** Vision casting can help us to be “happy in the skin we are in” while recognizing the wonder
     of the world around us
    (Source: a new book advertised in one of my favorite catalogues,
        An Altar in the World: a Geography of Faith)

From any perspective, in the grand scheme of any endeavor:
It’s important to know what we want to see happen to be able to plan strategically and
     effectively for what we’ll be doing. That’s Mission and Vision!

One disclaimer:
There is for some a fine line between "Mission" and "Vision".  Many organizations and individuals use one, or the other, to cover both.  I prefer to make the distinction and offer you the following from that preference.  The important thing is you cover both in whatever approach you choose!

Please share your comments below.
The Task

Okay, so, let’s work through this in our own context.
What is a Mission Statement and what is a Vision Statement?  What’s the difference?
The Mission Statement is a brief statement about what we plan to do.
The Vision Statement is a brief statement about what we will see happen in the process or as a result of what we plan to do.

Mission and Vision Statements can occur at many levels in our lives:
* personal ones which we have formulated
* work-related ones which we are obliged to follow
* family or community ones we choose to enter into at various stages for various time periods

For the purposes of becoming effective cross-cultural communicators, let’s narrow down these possibilities to one specific project plan we want to design and implement.

When should these be defined?
1.  Defining our mission and casting our vision should be done at the very beginning of our
     project, before we spend time trying to move forward.
AND/OR (if we've already started) it should be done in the midst of transition, to review and possibly revise the direction in which we are headed.

2. As the project gets underway, the Mission and Vision should be revisited regularly and revised
    as necessary:
a)      based on the progress we are making, changes in our resources or situation, etc
    b)   preferably with someone else, or a team of colleagues, family, friends so we can get a
          wider and sometimes more objective perspective

IF this defining and revising process is used, our Mission and our Vision will be and will remain clear, informing our decisions and keeping us on track.

Please share your comments below.
Some Tools

1. Creating a Mission Statement for my cross-cultural communication project:
Using any strategic planning documents already available, answer the following questions which are tied here into 3D dynamics:
HOME: At what level am I working on this mission? (personally, with a team, etc)? 
     This should be reflected in the wording of your statement. 
     For example: “Our mission as the X Team is to …”
HOST:  What is the context of my project?  State it clearly.
     For example: “My mission is to impact the lives of (my Host community) through…”
HARBOR: What is it that I want to see in place at the end of this project?
     This is the core of my statement – keep it simple and brief.
     For example: “I will integrate into and work effectively and sustainably with my Host community”.

Longer term: Revisit my statement regularly to keep the big picture in mind, and to revise it as needed.

2. Vision casting for my cross-cultural communication project:
Using the Mission Statement, and other strategic planning documents as available, think about where I am headed while answering the following questions,which are tied here into the 3D Dynamics:
HOME: Be specific about who envisioned as engaged in this Mission
   For example: "As a development worker, I will..."
HOST:  State clearly who will be involved as the Mission is being carried out
   For example: "...meeting the needs of those who farm in my HOST community..."
HARBOR: What do I want to see happening in the process of fulfilling my Mission?
   For example: "...I will be honing existing skills and learning from my HOSTs as I introduce
      micro-entreprise opportunities in an effective, sustainable way."

Longer term: Revisit my statement regularly, especially in the early stages, to:
** keep me on track, by reminding me what I am heading for
** help me identify ways I can move forward step by step
** guide me when changes, in my current direction or in my original mission and/or vision, need to be made            

                                                  Please share your comments below.

For a example of a Mission and a Vision Statement, Global SKILLs is currently working with:
Mission Statement

Global SKILLs (Strategies and Kits for Intercultural Lifelong Learning)  is a partnership of subsidiaries with the mission of empowering individuals using life-long learning principles and sustainable practices for personal and professional growth with a special focus on intercultural communications and development.

Vision Statement:
Global SKILLs’ principles, strategies, kits and many tools empowers lifelong learners with consulting and training to meet the challenges of 21st century realities in our increasingly inter-connected and inter-dependent “global community”. 

This is probably broader than the scope of your project, but it gives you an idea of how the two statements are distinct, and yet also fit together.  That's your task - come up with two brief statements which define where you are headed and what you want to see happening along the way.

Have fun! 

Moving Forward: Motivation and Planning

Let’s Talk
Now that we have looked closely at this first Principle, that “successful learning is heavily impacted by learner motivation”, and we have done a few activities to identify and reflect on the motivation we are carrying into our program, the next step is to begin to design a plan into which we can then pour ALL our motivated energies!

From one of my own language learning experiences, with the Jola language of southwestern Senegal, I had times of very high and very low motivation…and this definitely impacted how I was able to move forward!  I am sure each of you has experienced this as well – in whatever learning context you might have found yourself.

One especially high motivation time for me, which I seized and put to work with a strategic plan, was when I needed to have a “final” assessment.   The results would be used to help determine if I was proficient enough to take on full time tasks using the language.  I had put off taking this test, as I had struggled along for years, part time, learning the language using many different approaches.  But I chose the summer months that year to focus on preparing to achieve my goal – to “pass” the assessment.  I was very ‘fluent’ by then, but had developed some bad habits of not being very accurate at times, and not using a wide range of the language, either words or structures. So, I set up my very focused program plan, which was heavy on vocabulary and structures review.  I made a zillion little cards with words and phrases on them.  In addition to my “normal life” activities - I ate, slept and breathed reviewing those cards and delighted in using the language in many contexts with my expanded language skills!  I clearly recall walking along the beach one afternoon, working on some obscure phrase! 

Guess what?!  My plan worked!  The assessment went real well, including the part where I had to use Jola to describe how mongooses kill cobras, in India!  Since there is no word for “mongoose” in Jola, and Indian culture needed some explaining, it was a real challenge – but my weeks of planned review paid off!  All this to simply affirm that when we identify and harness our motivation, preparing and using a good strategic plan which reflects where we want to head…we WILL succeed!

Please share your comments below.
The Task

Proceeding into designing your program plan will be less effective if you haven’t completed the tasks to date.  So, take this week to review the postings to date, and to fill in the documents mentioned.  It truly is going to be worth the effort.  I promise!

Please share your comments below.

Learner ID: You should have completed the Educational Background and Motivation sections
at this point.  Gather your notes, or let me know if you want the full form.
(Review “Dimension #1: HOME” & “Principle #1- Motivation at Home” postings)

Learning Styles Index: Have your style preferences ready – you’ll be using them to choose techniques as you design your program plan.  If you haven’t done one of these yet, do one!  There are many online.  If you want to use the following one, send me your results and I’ll give you feedback: 
(select the link, keep your cursor on it and it will give you the choice to go to it)
(Review “Dimension #1 – HOME” posting)

Host Profile: This you should get started, and work on as you go along.  Contact me for the full form, or answer the questions in the “Motivation & My HOST” entry.
(Review “Dimension #2 – The HOST” & “Principle #1 – Motivation & My Host” postings)

HARBOR planning: have your initial ideas ready about what you will bring to offer, and how you would like to benefit from meeting and working with your Host in the Harbor!
(Review “Dimension #3 – The HARBOR” & “Principle #1 – Motivation in the Harbor” postings)

Please share your comments below.

Pull all this together and we’ll start The Plan next time!

Principle #1: Motivation in the HARBOR

Let's Talk
We are now going to spend time hanging out in the HARBOR, the 3rd dimension of cross-cultural communication.  Re-visit my entry titled "Dimension #3 - the Harbor" for an introduction to this special, exciting place.  I want to share here what another linguist/cross-cultural communicator has written on what 'harbors' mean in the context of being a learner. 

Homi Bhabha, a well known educator and theorist, was one of the pioneers in examining what I call the 3rd Dimension and what he called "the 3rd space". In his book Location of culture (1994, London. Routledge), Bhabha explores this meeting of people and their respective cultures by presenting an artist's view of actual harbors as an example of how people and goods meet "in the very flux of exchange" (p8).  In his manuscript for Fish Story, an exhibition about the world's harbors, the artist Alan Sekula vividly describes a scene from a typical contemporary harbor:

"A scratchy recording of the Norweigan national anthem blares out from a loudspeaker at the Sailor's Home on the bluff above the channel.  The container ship being greeted flies a Bahamian flag of convenience.  (The ship) was built by Koreans working long hours in the giant shipyards of (Ulsan City in Korea).  The underpaid and the understaffed crew could be Salvadorean or Filipino.  Only the (Norwegian) Captain hears a familiar melody..." (p8)

In our ever increasingly global community, we often find ourselves in this type of multi-cultural context.  At any given moment, you or I  may be this Captain, the only one hearing a familiar melody - the only one understanding any given situation, the only one benefitting from what is offered.  Let's see how we can move from being in that isolated spot to building a framework for effective cross-cultural everyone involved is hearing and enjoying the sharing of the melodies!

Share your comments below.

The Task
In order to move into a HARBOR where shared goals and experience can be enjoyed, we must first engage with our HOST and begin to communicate about these goals!  What motivates us to do this?  What motivates our HOST to participate?  You began to examine this in the "Principle #1: Motivation and My HOST" entry. Bring what you discovered from there, and let's formalize that now with the next steps:

1. Identify and share Learner Goals (from HOME)

2. Identify and share HOST Goals

Share your comments below.


A helpful exercise in identifing anyone's Goals for language learning is to do a "Needs Analysis".  These are available in many formats online.  You can google "language learning - needs analysis", or you can follow these simple steps to get started:

1.  Identify your, the Learner's, Goals:
* list things you want/need to do with your Target Language (TL)
       Be specific - don't just write "Be able to talk"!!
       Think through who you want to talk with, what circumstances you will find yourself in,
             what kinds of tasks you might have to accomplish, etc.
       Make your list of specific items
Examples: I enjoy sewing and would like to purchase material at the market to use for that activity.
                My job requires that I interact with local farmers to see what their planting traditions are.

* write a goal for each item
Examples: I want to be able to buy a piece of material from a local merchant.
                I want to be able to interview a local farmer about his planting traditions.

*  share these with your HOST and record their initial reactions, questions and input

2. Identify your HOST's Goals:
* list things your HOST would like to accomplish
Examples: My HOST is my friend who wants to learn to sew using a treadle machine.
                My HOST is a local farmer who wants to improve his crop yields.

* record your initial reactions, questions, input

Share your comments below.

Next step?  Exploring how each of these goals can be achieved by working the HARBOR!
See you next time!

Principle #1: Motivation and My HOST

Let’s Talk

     During my years on the field, in Cameroun (1980), Côte d’Ivoire (1981-82) and then Senegal (1984 to date…), I have had quite a few opportunities to be involved in entering a new community to begin a language learning program.  Sometimes it has been for my own work, and more often, in recent years, it has been helping pave the way for other learners.  Thinking back on some of those situations, it is interesting to note how different communities reacted to having a “foreign” learner in their midst. 

One thing I can say universally is that people were intrigued,
at times mystified but always excited,
when they understood that this learner was there to stay for the ‘long haul’
and wanted to learn their language and about their culture.
     I recall one gathering I thoroughly enjoyed, during a visit from my parents in the first year in the village in Senegal.  The elders had gathered in our front yard, and were addressing my parents about our presence in the village.  They said, “If we had a Main Street, we would name it after your children”.  They were that thrilled to have us living there – and a huge part of that was our focus on their language. 
     Another favorite memory is a brief conversation I had with a taxi driver in the capital city one day.  I had been chatting with him in his language, of which I knew really just enough to get around.  He said to me, “I know you truly care about our country and us, because you are learning our language.”
     Have you had a similar moment or moments in your learning experiences, when someone you were developing a relationship with in your HOST community validated your motivation to learn their language?  If not, stay tuned!  With a strategically planned program, you’ll enjoy that sooner rather than later.

Share your comments with us below

The Task
We looked broadly at our motivation, from HOME, in the "Principle #1 – Motivation at Home" section.  As we look more closely now at different factors feeding into our motivation for learning our target language, it’s important to consider the context where our program will take place.  We can be fully aware of our very high motivation, but if we have no clue about where and with whom we will be living and learning, we will compromise our ability to move forward.

We’ve already talked about this in general in the section "Dimension #2 – the HOST" , in terms of the importance of knowing our HOST.  It’s time in the planning process to get more specific now about how motivation – ours and our HOST’s - will impact our learning experience.

First, we want to understand how our motivations can be brought effectively into our HOST community, at the different levels we choose to interact. 
Second, we need to identify our HOST’s motivations in relation to us being there and to our expressed goals.
Third, we can then move on to meeting our HOST in the HARBOR (the 3rd Dimension), where we’ll agree together (with all these various motivational factors feeding into our decisions) about our mutual goals and the benefits we each will reap from our relationship.

Share your comments with us below

Some Tools
Taking this one step at a time from the  three steps above, answer these questions. 
You can add the information to the Motivation section of your Learner ID:

My Motivation and my HOST
1.  Consider and describe how your motivation for this learning experience can be explained
     to your HOST
For example:
* if you want to be able to join in their special celebrations, you can tell them these are interesting to you and you value and honor them, and would like to - if possible - be able to participate appropriately
* if you have a job you need to be able to do using the language, you can describe the job and then find out what they know or think about this type of job, where it fits in their own world view or culture, how they might see you fitting in with them doing the job

2.  Talk with your HOST (again, at whatever levels you have chosen – see Dimension #2 – HOST) to begin to identify what their own motivations are toward you:
a) as someone who has come to visit/stay (depending on your situation)
b) as someone who wants to learn their language and about their culture
c) as someone who has things (relationships, skills, resources) to offer them
d) as someone who needs something (relationships, skills, resources) from them

3.  Move forward to the HARBOR where you’ll work with your HOST –
     stay tuned for next week!

                                               Share your comments with us below

This type of sharing about motivation will necessarily be superficial at first, and perhaps difficult in some cultures.   Don’t push it, and don’t get discouraged.  It’s good to at least communicate with people from the beginning what you are doing among them, and that you are interested in them, and  want to hear from them, not just expect them to hear you!  As you develop ties with your HOST, you will gain insights into this on your own and be better able to talk with people about it. 

See you next time!

Principle #1: Motivation at HOME

Let’s Talk
As I have coached learners over the years,
 it’s been so interesting to explore why they want or need to learn their target language
and how those parameters impact both their choice of learning process, and their progress. 
Think of your own experiences as a language learner,
and your current context, as you look over these examples. 
** Some learners have a job to do, and they need the language to do it.  Someone else may be requiring them to learn certain things in a certain period of time, so they fell pressure to learn what they need to know.  It’s an extra challenge for them to consider their learning as an important part of the journey, rather than just the means to an end.
** Others have family or friends they ‘just want to understand’.   Their learning is sometimes driven by special events or gatherings where the language is being used, and they want to feel like ‘insiders’ rather than spectators.
** Some have moved into a new place and the community where they will live and work speaks a different language.  To feel like they are integrated in this new community, there are certain things it’d be helpful to be able to say and understand. 
** A few simply think language learning is fun and they want to add another language to their repertoire!
Where do you fit in…or are you someplace else ?

Share your comments with us below.

The Task
Now that we have looked briefly at the 3 dimensions of cross-cultural communication which we can engage in our language learning endeavors, I need to introduce you to some basic principles about learning in general, and language learning in particular.  Our 3 Dimensional Dynamic (engaging HOME, HOST and HARBOR), informed by these principles, will lead us forward to effective learning.

The first learning principle I want to explore concerns motivation.   This is what we were talking about above.  Whatever drives your learning experience, what you desire and/or need to gain from it is what we call “motivation”.  

Principle #1: Successful learning is heavily impacted by learner motivation. 
a)  high motivation increases the probability of successful learning 
b)  low motivation tends to impede learning
Motivation includes:
a)  internal factors  (what do I want or need?)
b)  external factors (what is someone else telling me I need?) 

This being the case, it’s clearly important for us to examine our motivation as we move forward with our learning.  We can start at HOME - where we find ourselves as learners.  To do this:

** It’s helpful to review, document and reflect on past learning experiences’ motivations and how these impacted those experiences for better or for worse   Let’s celebrate success and see how high motivation might have contributed to it.  Let’s also become aware that difficult experiences may well have been due in part of low motivation. 
** We can then benefit from these reflections as we bring lessons learned into our current and future endeavors. 

** The good thing about motivation is that, to some extent, it is a choice – or it can be, if we are aware of what it is and how it will impact our success.

Share your comments with us below.

The Tools

Borrowing from the Learner ID (a useful tool suggested in Section 2):
1.  choose a previous learning experience you’d like to benefit from more fully
2.  work through the following questions about this learning experience’s motivation.


a)   Briefly describe the experience. 
      Was your motivation internal (from your own desires/needs)
                                   or external (some other influence making you learn)  

b)  How would you ‘grade’ your motivation for that learning experience?

      High - I really wanted to learn the language to be able to interact, to communicate effectively
      Moderate: it would have been nice to be able to interact somewhat
           (greetings, pleasantries,  meeting basic needs)
      Low – I felt uncomfortable when the other language was spoken, wishing the person could or
           would use my language but I felt like I should at least try at times to use the language
      Zero: I had no desire to learn this language
                It didn’t matter to me that I could not interact with what was going on around me

c)   Describe how your motivation level impacted the experience

Briefly describe your current learning experience.
Complete (a) and (b) considering your motivation now.
And finally, think about this choice which you have:

d)   How what you see from your previous experience can be used to help inform – strengthen – change your motivation level for this experience to help make it a successful endeavor.

Share your comments with us below.

Have a good, highly motivated tme working through this!