Spreken Ze Deutsch?

Teaching a pool class in Jamaica I am heading to Jamaica again soon and thought I would write about teaching to a group that does not speak English.  This has happened to me quite a few times, but I’m thinking particularly of a week I taught in Mexico and my 4:30 step class.  This group was fabulous, but nobody spoke English, and I mean nobody!  Unfortunately, I speak only English, so at first I was a bit intimidated, but made sure to welcome everyone with a smile and helped get them set up properly.  I also pointed to my tennis shoes, or “sneakers” and nodded “yes” to make sure they knew to have the proper footwear and did the same thing with my water bottle.   Hydration is critical in these hot, humid climates, especially when our participants are probably drinking more alcohol than usual!

I started some great music and got them marching.  From that point, I used all physical queuing and very basic movements in the beginning. Oh, I would verbally count down with my physical counts, as they knew English numbers from 1-8 and 8-1.  As we got comfortable with each other, I added more complex choreography on top of the basics and started to “layer” a bit.  As the group picked up the choreography, I would clap and give encouragement physically and smile……a lot.

The same people came back Monday through Saturday, with a few new people each day, so I was able to get quite complex with choreography by the end of the week.  I would review what we had done previously early in the class and then add new elements each day, so they would leave feeling successful.

At the end of each class I made sure to have a towel for each participant and made eye contact with each one of them.  This was my way of letting them know I appreciated them coming and that they had done a good job.  I also tried to put away each of their equipment while they were stretching after I cued them, so they were ready to leave after we were done stretching.  I always said “thank you” to each one of them as well, as this is a pretty universally understood word.

I used the same basic principles in the aqua classes I taught at this resort and they were the biggest classes I have ever had on my working vacations….between 50 and 70 people each day.  The resort entertainment staff would put on a house mix of music for me to use during class and the guests loved it because it was a mix of German, French, Italian, Spanish and American house dance music so everyone was happy!  It was a blast.  If the resort you are teaching at has an overhead stereo system by the pool, see if the staff has some music they will play for you during your class.

Trust your physical cueing skills and think big.  Over emphasize your physical directions and ability to convey what you want the guests to do.  They will do it!

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