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ScoutDad2001

Advancement for non-English (or Spanish) speaking scout

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Have a new 11yr-old scout, whom I'll call John. Family adopted him from mainland China during the summer. John speaks a little English and reads hardly any English. His patrol leader and our troop guide have worked 1-on-1 with him quite often, but just can't get around the language issues.

 

Once demonstrated, John does well with rank requirements that are "physical", ie, tying square knot, scout salute, handshake, etc. But he's not been able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, describe the Scout badge, show understanding the Scout Oath, Law, etc.

 

Our Guide pointed out that a Mandarin translation of the Handbook would be a big help. I have recently just given a "heads-up" to his parents (whom I don't believe speak much, if any, Mandarin themselves) about our dilemma.

 

Short of hiring Mandarin/English translator, does anyone have any suggestions as to how to help John accomplish his remaining Scout rank requirements (to say nothing of higher ranks?) BSA seems to have developed a number of aids for Spanish-speaking members. (All the handbooks can be purchases in Spanish now.)

 

What do other troop/packs do when faced with members for whom English (or Spanish) is not their primary language?

 

Thanks,

Greg

 

 

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Try contacting your local Red Cross chapter...they usually have a database of local volunteer translators. Or a local university? Heck, I would even visit my favorite Chinese restaurant and explain your dilemma (seriously). Someone there may be willing to donate "one hour a week" as a volunteer to your troop!

 

How is the scout managing in school? I know in this school district, the school is required to provide an interpreter if the parents choose to mainstream the boy in public school.

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Ask your DE to get ahold of the National Council. There are support resources out there!

 

Additionally, you don't tell us where you are, so we can't look for academic language programs in your area. Dig throught the local universities, seeking ones which have Mandarin Chinese as a program. I will bet you there's a former Boy Scout enrolled in one of those programs, who'd be glad to help.

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I don't want this to be taken the wrong way, but what about the parents? ScoutDad, you said the parents don't speak Mandarin, Maybe communicating with the new mom and dad is more pressing now than Scouts. Scouts is great, but if he can communicate, maybe some immediate lauguage training is in order.

 

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GOnzo has a point. If the family unit needs strengthening and reduction of the language barrier is in order, a 12 month delay in getting on the Trail to Eagle will not be a major issue.

 

OTOH, this young man probably already qualifies for an Interpreter's Strip.

 

A quiet talk with Mom and Dad is in order. Then, we need to see how to obtain and leverage resources.

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He's half way toward earning the interpreter strip. Now he just needs to learn to read, speak, and translate a 2nd language.

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Keeping in mind that advancement is only one part of scouting, perhaps this young man will not advance for a while, but he may still enjoy and benefit from being part of your troop. Let him do all that he is able to with the expectation that his ability will expand greatly once he develops basic English proficiency. In the meantime he can still make friends with other boys. I've always been amazed at how kids can overcome or ignore even very significant language barriers and still become good friends. In fact scouting may be one of relatively few venues open to him to meet kids and make friends where verbal communication isn't a huge obstacle (unlike school). So yes by all means talk with his parents and use whatever community resources are available. But encourage him (and his parents) to stick with the troop regardless of the advancement issue.

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Another easy thought - ask his parents to supply the troop with a Mandarin-English dictionary for your troop library and make sure the librarian brings it to meetings.

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What a great opportunity to develop relationship amongst the boys! So, it takes a bit longer to explain to "John" the meaning behind the Pledge of Allegiance, the Scout Law, the Scout Oath, etc. It's an opportunity for the scouts and scoutmasters to learn how to interface with someone who does not have the command of the English language. Trust me John will learn the language before you know it. How can I be so sure? I was in John's shoes 31 years ago! ... a twelve years old lad who only know how to smile and say "hello and thank you." Yet, I was able to make to 2nd class! Learning and reciting the Scout Law and Oath is the easy step. The understanding them took me a little longer because I have to learn how to speak English first! Let's put it this way, after 6 months in the States, I went from 0 to 55 mph and then some! It's amazing how quickly young mind(s) can learn. Now, I have very fond memories of the friends that I made when I was a scout; as a matter of fact, I still am in touch with my SPL!

 

Help John just as you would have if it were a scout with special needs. Just don't make it "an issue" that the troop has to deal with! How does a new scout learn how to lash without previous knowledge of it or the technical terms such running end, frapping, wrapping, etc.? Learn, practice, and demonstrate.

 

YIS,

 

1Hour

 

 

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I can only imagine the sense of accomplishment that John feels when he has learned a new skill. As you teach him a new skill, you can teach him english. Tent, sqare knot, campfire. He will pick it up. Lisabob has a great thought. Maybe Scouts is the one place he feels accepted right now? I don't think we need to cram advancement down kids throats at the pace we are today. It took me five years to earn Life. What's wrong with that?

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In any language, it's the same.

6 ranks: T, 2, 1, S, L, E.

7 years to complete them. (ages 11 through 17) It's not a race.

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Bingo, Gonzo! Let it be a learning experience for all the boys in the troop! I'm very sure that John can teach the boys in the troop a few things about China and the Chinese culture/language ... in return, the boys can teach John about his new home and scouting family!

 

Communication is not impossible! I was working in Russia a few years back. My command of Russian is 0 to nil with 6 weeks of crash course in Russian. My hostess' English was as good as my Russian; however, we were able to communicate via broken English/Russian/and French!

 

local1400 ... when I was in John's shoes ... scouting was the one place that I felt most comfortable!

 

ScoutDad2001, one thing that I hope that the boys in the troop won't do is to patronize John.

 

YIS,

1Hour

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