Please read the following question and answer it: +¨¦ ⱡ¤∞ ∑§‡←? Let me guess—it looks like gibberish to you. I’m guessing the task would have be much easier if I had given you a glossary, a chart mapping each of those letters to a sound, or at least illustrations.

At GBJCL’s volunteer trainings this fall, we asked nearly 50 new tutors to use all three of those tools to translate a book written in a language that looked very much like the sentence written above. As the trainer, I delighted in seeing how differently each pair approached the problem. Some ignored the hieroglyphic-like words altogether, and focused on the pictures to piece together a coherent narrative. Others used the given translations, and, scanning through to find any repeating words that they recognized, wrote those word meanings next to the text. Yet others realized that the letters of the code corresponded to letters in the English alphabet, and attempted to learn this new alphabet.

Tutors finished the exercise with a greater sense of empathy for students and a more refined understanding of the skills involved in language learning and the importance that reading be meaningful. The new tutors left the sessions invigorated. One wrote in their evaluation, “I want to start to help as soon as possible!” Thank you to all of our energetic tutors who bring enthusiasm to students each and every week.

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