OXFORD — On Monday, Aug. 8, the Oxford Chamber of Commerce held a networking event with Chen Zhao, Director of Confucius Institute at Miami University.
Zhao shared with chamber members the different ways everyone can better communicate with international students.
Some tips Zhao presented for communicating with students as they return to the area and need help during their time here include:
“•Be patient with international students when speaking. They are often translating in their head and need time to process what you are saying and how to form their response. Remember that lack of fluency in English does not indicate poor intellect. Students are working across cultural and language barriers. Be understanding.
“•Speak clearly and avoid slang, idioms, and acronyms. When in doubt about if a student understands, remember to SCORE: Simplify and Specify; Clarify and Confirm; Organize and Outline; Rephrase and Reframe and Explain with Examples.
“•Be sensitive to students who come from a collectivist culture. Try to be understanding when students want to stay connected to those from their own country, or make decisions based on their friends or families.
“•Go beyond just “where are you from?” and ask about their city or province. If you do not know much about the country or city that they are from, ask more questions about if it is urban, rural, big, small, etc. A student from Beijing will have a very different life experience than a student from a town in rural China, just as an American student from New York City will have a very different life experience than a student from the rural Midwest United States.
“•Do not assume all Asian international students are from China. We have students from Korea, Japan, Vietnam and other Asian countries who find it very difficult to be consistently lumped into the Chinese student population.
“•Talk about food! Food is usually one of the most difficult adjustments for international students, and it is an easy topic to discuss. Ask what they think of American food, or what dish they miss most from their home country.
“•Share stories about yourself. Students will appreciate when you talk about your family, home, personal life, etc. and will be able to easier connect with you.
“•Take the time to learn how to correctly pronounce their name. Even if they are shy about correcting you, ask them to pronounce it for you and make an effort to learn it.
“•Keep up with global current events. Be aware of any major news events happening in a student’s country, and inquire about how their family is doing in the event of war, natural disaster, etc. These can be large stressors on a student, and recognizing that something is going on can help them during a difficult time. In addition, show an interest in cultural holidays or other (more positive) current events.
“•Remember that cultural sensitivity does not simply mean understanding another culture, but also requires an understanding of one’s own cultural background and biases. Try not to assume that our way of doing things is the ‘right’ way, and that an international student’s way is ‘wrong’ or ‘backwards.’ Let international students teach you about their culture, and your own.”