There were certainly difficulties in communication the first few weeks on the job. There was a lot of slow spanish, Spanglish, hand gestures, and demonstration when trying to explain a project. I was able to catch on quickly because of the fact that everyone was very friendly and willing to help me.
During orientation our supervisor, Alemendra, who was a great woman, made us aware of an article about workplace communication. The article was an interesting piece of work and stated that if you look at the workplace as a network of communication (100% of communication), 70% of which is the tone of their voice, 20% is body gestures, and the last 10% is the literal words being spoken. When she showed us this article during orientation I had a lot of feeling in my head, doubt, relief, nerves, etc… VEry little of the feelings were belief.
When I come into the office the first day it felt like I just came into the day with everyone speaking a million miles an hour and I had no idea what I was going to do. I took a deep breath and remembered that article. I thought about the article and wanted to see if it really worked. I read the room and realized the volume and direction of the voices. I could figure out when they were directing their comments at me and if they were asking a question or just making a statement by the tone and pitch of the voice. When I registered what they were trying to say, I would ask them to repeat themselves and then I would be able to understand fully.
The hand gestures were huge in Spain. The Spanish people love, and I mean LOVE using their hands to tell stories and emphasize a point. When I understood the tone and inflection of the voices, but not the literal words, I could gather the basis of the comments from the hang and body gestures. For example, once my boss asked me to go to reception to test out a new facial recognition camera they had just installed. I could figure it out right away because she pointed out towards the reception area and also did a walking motion (that reinforces the comments because the spanish was not too difficult). I walked out and completed the task with ease and they were very pleased!
Overall with communication, there were no real issues. When I did run into a problem I would look around the room another one of my colleagues would be eager to help me understand. I am really grateful for some of the colleagues I worked with. Not many people would be patient with a kid coming into their workplace and asking for clarification a few times a day. Granted, after the first two or three weeks it all worked out and the ease of communication was similar to an English job!
In terms of biofeedback, I was given informal feedback each month, but nothing out of the ordinary. My boss would sit down with me and go through each of the projects I helped out with for the term. First I would give my impression of the level of work which I have done, and then she would give her opinion of what level the work I had submitted. It would be a conversation with a piece of paper that she would fill out as we go along the tasks and qualities I have exemplified during the term. I believe this was certainly the best and most effective method of going about giving me feedback. This was very professional, but also carried out in a relaxed manner. If I had a boss that went behind my back, discussed with her coworkers, and then sat me down without letting me speak on my own behalf, then that conversation would not go as well as it did in reality. That would be unfair, mean, and unprofessional. I really do think the simple solution was what my boss employed: sitting down one on one and talking like humans.
I really had a very pleasant experience at my work this summer. They all treated me with respect, communicated effectively, and made time for the “interns”. I was very nervous coming into Spain, but luckily Almendra, Nuria, and the team at Cats made the transition extremely easy for me and I’m sure the other interns.