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Trapped in a Submarine with a Language Barrier

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders across the globe, our fellow spy had to video call us for assistance after she got trapped in a submarine somewhere in Northern Europe. Thankfully, she was reasonably fluent in English because, that is the only common language us escapeletes shared with her.

We were able to assist our trapped spy in getting out of the control room and into the engine room, where she was supposed to disarm a bomb before she could get the final hatch open to make her escape. We found that the enemy spies had created a bunch of dummy bombs, hiding the real bomb among them in a set of small lockers within the engine room. We were down to six minutes before the bomb went off, which is, of course, when the language barrier became a problem. As we were giving her directions on how to sort through the bombs, we had reached a portion of the English language with which she was unfamiliar. Since we didn’t know her language, we were unsure how to proceed.

Five minutes left on the timer – we decided to take 30 seconds to regroup our thoughts and figure out other ways we could communicate with her on how she should search through the bombs for the real one. With three minutes left on the clock, we were able to devise a solution where she pointed, and we said, “yes” or “no.” With 25 seconds left on the clock, the “real” bomb was disarmed, and the escape hatch popped open.

How often do we find ourselves attempting to communicate with someone, and it seems that we must be speaking another language? Sometimes this happens literally, but often, it is someone that does speak the same language; we just aren’t communicating in a way that the message we are attempting to convey is received. So what do we do? We take our message to the purest form possible and check for understanding. If the message is still not conveyed, we try to deliver it several different ways until it is understood, all while remaining patient and calm. Think of these types of situations as an opportunity to practice managing our emotions and work on our communication skills instead of getting upset at the other person for not understanding the message we are trying to convey.

Here are some resources to further your learning:

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