All Posts by James Archer

About the Author

James Archer is the founder of The ShareLingo Project - a Social Enterprise that connects English and Spanish speakers for face-to-face practice. This model breaks down both linguistic and cultural barriers for individuals, businesses, and non-profits.

Eye Contact and the Latino Culture

Eye Contact – and the Latino Culture.

By James Archer | General

Have you noticed differences between the Latino Culture and ours?

Here in the United States, we value eye contact – but it’s different in the Latino Culture.

Look at me. I’m talking to you.

What many North Americans don’t understand is that many other cultures are just the opposite.

When I was growing up and my Mom or Dad wanted my attention, they would say, “Look at me, I’m talking to you.” They wanted me to focus on them.

When a child from Mexico, or Colombia, (or many Asian or African countries) is growing up, and especially when they are in trouble, their mother or father may say, “Don’t look at me! I’m talking to you.”

The child is to look at the floor, or their hands, or anywhere but eye-to-eye.

If they were to look at their parents eye-to-eye, it would be taken as defiance.

“Bring it on! Give me your best shot!”

Now—what happens when the two cultural differences collide in the form of a job interview?

An immigrant is interviewing with an American manager.

The manager is asking questions: “What’s your name? Where have you worked?”

Where does the immigrant look?

At the desk. At the floor. At their hands. Anywhere but directly, eye-to-eye, at the manager.

THEY DO THIS TO SHOW RESPECT.

What does the American manager think?


“This person won’t even look me in the eye.

They must be dishonest. They must be lying.”

 By painting someone else with our own cultural norms, we introduce our own bias into the mix. We may not even know this is happening.

Addressing a cultural difference like this requires education.

  1. We can let the manager know that looking down is an immigrant’s sign of respect.
  2. We can let the job applicant know that eye contact, in our culture, is very important.

Even better, we can let the two of them explain it to each other. Then it really sinks in.

[The text above is an excerpt from my book Beyond Words – A Radically Simple Solution to Unify Communities, Strengthen Businesses, and Connect Cultures Through Language.]

 

I left the Air Force when I was 18

By James Archer | General

Col James B Archer – Arlington National Cemetery

Any BRATS out there?     You know – right?

Each Labor Day, I post an image like this one – for my Dad – because I truly appreciate the service that people like my father have given to our country.    Like many, I grew up in the military lifestyle.  I am a BRAT.  I spent my youth travelling from base to base – changing schools – always the new kid.  I learned how to talk to anybody – but I learned that it was dangerous to really get attached to anyone – either I, or they, would be leaving soon.  There are people from my youth that even Google can’t find. I have no idea where in the world they are… (Pablo… you out there, Man?)

Do I miss it?  Yes.

  1. I still have that wanderlust. It’s actually HARD for me to stay in one place year after year.
  2. Even now – nearly 40 years later – I miss my ID card – and being able to go through the front gates.
  3. I miss the mess halls, and USOs at the airports.
  4. I miss the travel, and the people.

I’m so grateful for the experience that time gave me. Even now – when I cross paths with other brats, we have an instant bond.  We don’t come from the same “home town in Iowa”.  Our “home town” is the whole world. But we share that.

I tell people that when I turned 18, instead of joining the military, that’s when I left.   I say it in a joking manner, but under that is a strong bond with that life.  I’m proud of it.  Those were the most important formative years of my life.  And I wouldn’t change them for anything.

 

 

 

It’s time to stop wasting talent.

By James Archer | General

The following is an excerpt from the book Beyond Words, by James Archer…

At The ShareLingo Project, we see a lot of immigrants in our English/Spanish conversation classes. We like to learn more about each other, so we ask what they do, and often we get responses like:

  •        “In Mexico, I was a system’s analyst.”
  •        “In Bolivia, I was a lawyer.”
  •        “In Peru, I was a musician.”

When we hear this, we encourage the people to change their thinking, and to say, “I AM a system’s analyst. I AM a lawyer. I AM a musician.” Moving to this country doesn’t change what they are, any more than me moving to Costa Rica would make me not an engineer.

Unfortunately, being able to WORK in one’s profession is often another matter. (I mentioned this problem in the previous chapter when I spoke about the Spring Institute.) There are far too many professionals here in the U.S. (and, indeed, around the world – have you seen what is happening in Europe?) who are working in very basic jobs, rather than in their professions. I believe that this is a terrible waste of talent.

In one of our ShareLingo classes here in Denver, I met Maria, a systems analyst who came to the United States from Mexico. When Maria moved here, she got a job cleaning hotels.

One day, while making up a room, the guest at the hotel asked Maria for a pillow.  

She didn’t know what a pillow was.

But the woman just kept saying, louder and louder, pillow, Pillow, PILLOW!

The closest word Maria had in her vocabulary was “pelo” (hair). So, not knowing what else to do, she brought the guest a hair brush.  

That didn’t go well – for Maria, the guest, or the hotel.  The woman just yelled at her more.

Clearly, Maria is intelligent, but the guest, because of her frustration, made Maria feel inadequate. Maria said she cried. A lot. She wanted to help that guest. And she didn’t want to lose her job.

It gave her incentive to study hard, learn English, and get out of the hotel and back to her profession.

But for some people, that’s not possible.  Simply learning English is not enough.

After ten years living here in the United States, Blanca, a lawyer from Bolivia, still works the deli counter at Target.  Blanca’s story is a little different than Maria’s. Like Maria, Blanca has worked hard to learn more English. Her kids, all now grown and living here also, as citizens, are fluent in both English and Spanish, and Blanca was just blessed with her first granddaughter, so she couldn’t be happier in that regard.  

But she knows that it is very unlikely she will ever become a lawyer here in the U.S.. Blanca is passionate about lots of causes, but can’t use her talents to address them.

The time and expense needed for her to be able to practice law in this country are just beyond her means. I think it’s a shame she couldn’t find work in the legal field, in spite of the enormous need for trained bilingual lawyers here in our country that understand the problems and can work with the immigrant communities.

Think about it. Suppose you are a doctor, engineer, accountant, systems analyst, nurse, or teacher.  Whatever it is, you’re good at it. You’ve invested years getting your education. Now, suppose that, for some reason, you decide (or are compelled) to move to a different country. Maybe it’s to be with family, or for health reasons, or your government is corrupt — whatever the reason, you move. And when you get to your new country, where you have such high hopes, you find that due to lack of language skills, or because your credentials are not recognized, you can’t get a job within your profession.  

What would you do? Would you work in a deli? Would you clean hotels or people’s houses?

I am happy that, partly with the help of The ShareLingo Project, Maria and Blanca now speak English and are able to tell these stories.

To put another perspective on this idea, suppose your company hires a $100,000-a-year  civil engineer from Chile to do a $20,000-a-year cleaning job.  In my mind, that’s an $80,000-a-year waste of talent, not to mention lost productivity and tax revenue.

I hope you will agree that we, as a society, MUST help immigrants learn English, and ALSO give them an affordable path to work within their professions.

  • Do you have a story like Maria or Blanca?
  • Did you, or your parents, or someone you know set aside a profession when you or they came here?
  • Or, if you’re from here, have you been to another country and tried to work in a professional job?
  • Did you speak the language of that country?

Please join the discussion. Comment below, and tell us your story.

ShareLingo Students

Just two things to learn a new language.

By James Archer | General

ShareLingo StudentsReally – there are only two main things to learn a new language:

Foundation and Practice

Simple, right? I’m an Engineer. I like to break things down and simplify them.

Each of these two items has two parts:

Foundation

a) Vocabulary
b) Grammar

Practice

a) Listening
b) Speaking

The good news is you can do almost all of this alone – on your own.  But there is one VERY IMPORTANT part that you need to do with someone else. Keep reading.

First, the foundation.

Vocabulary.  You can’t tell someone to run unless you know the word for run.  (Correr)  You can’t say you have a dog unless you know the word for dog (Perro). You will need to gradually learn new vocabulary.

Grammar.  How do you distinguish between I run and I ran?   (Corro. Corrí.)  How do you say “Green Chili” (Salsa verde) – the noun and adjective are reversed in Spanish.  You need to learn these things – but they don’t have to be hard.

Where/How can you improve your foundations?  Everywhere!  There are hundreds of ways to build vocabulary and learn about grammar in a natural way. That is, by learning what sounds, or looks, right. Books, Youtube, Rosetta Stone.  Even leaflets at Lowes or Home Depot or other marketing materials have English and Spanish. Use all of these resources to pick up more vocabulary.  As you review these materials, you will pick up grammar aspects automatically. Like: Today I go to the beach.  Yesterday I went to the beach. This month, I have gone to the beach three times. (Hoy, voy a la playa.  Ayer, fui a la playa.  Este mes, he ido a la playa tres veces.)

Next, practice.  If you want to learn to swim, you have to get wet.

Listening:  Duh – you can’t have a conversation with someone – even to ask their name (Como te llamas), or where they’re from (De donde eres), if you can’t make out the words and accents. To do this, you have to “tune your ear” to the words. This means you have to spend some time just listening – even if you don’t understand what the person is saying, you will begin to make out more and more unique words – that you can then go look up to build your vocabulary!  You will also start picking up the grammar aspects from what the speakers are saying. Listen to something for at least 30 minutes twice a day.

Speaking:  This is the one area where you need someone else’s help. Let me say that again.  You need a real person to help you practice speaking. Practicing in front of a mirror. Or recording your voice and playing it back to yourself doesn’t cut it.  For this part, you need to practice with a person. Why? Because you need immediate feedback and positive reinforcement.  Say you’re teaching a kid to say hippopotamus or cinnamon.   You can’t just go tell them to practice on their own. It’s not like throwing a baseball or dancing. They can’t go practice till they get it right. It’s a back and forth thing.  They try to pronounce a word, you help them. They try again, you encourage them.

Where/How can you practice?  Again – everywhere!   Listen to the radio. Watch TV (with subtitles, if available).  Join a meetup group for English/Spanish (or another language).  You probably run across native Spanish speakers every day.  Guess what. They really want to practice English with you. But they’re not going to ask you.  YOU have to connect with THEM.  It’s a cultural thing. [If you want an Easy Button, check out The ShareLingo Project which brings native speakers together to help each other.]

Whatever you do – keep it simple.  Don’t overthink it.  The keys are Desire and Being Consistent.  You have to want it. And you have to commit to it.

Be a language Olympian

By James Archer | General

Is there anyone in the world that doesn’t know the Olympics are on in Rio right now?

[Traducción en español debajo – Gracias a Danny Mejia.]

As I watch the athletes, I can’t help relating so much of ShareLingo’s mission to these amazing people.

Languages, Cultures, and Dedication to a goal.

Many of you know that ShareLingo links people who speak different languages so they can teach each other.  And they share cultural lessons at the same time. We do this for businesses, individuals, and non-profits – so we have seen a lot of people from different cultures connect and become friends.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to go to an event like the Olympics and speak to people in another language, and to have a real understanding of their customs and greetings?

But for me, the thing that resonates most is the dedication that all of these athletes have. I think about the Gold Medal winners, for sure. But even for the people that don’t win gold – the people that win silver, or bronze, or just get to go to the Olympics – and even the people who have trained and didn’t get to go to Rio – I’m super impressed with their dedication.

Learning a language requires a similar dedication.  There isn’t any magic pill you can take to just instantly know a new language. You have to learn it. Work on it. Be focused, and dedicated, and persistent. Little by little, every day, you can get better and better.

The accomplishment makes the time and effort so worth it.

You can be a language Olympian!  Go for the Gold!

 

¿Hay alguien en el mundo que no sepa acerca de los Juegos Olímpicos de Río en este momento?

A medida que observo los atletas no puedo evitar relacionar, tanto, la misión de ShareLingo con estas increíbles personas.

Idiomas, Culturas, y la Dedicación para alcanzar una meta.

Muchos de ustedes saben que ShareLingo conecta a personas que hablan diferentes idiomas, para que puedan enseñárselos entre sí; al mismo tiempo, comparten enseñanzas culturales. Hacemos esto para empresas, individuos y organizaciones sin fines de lucro; por lo que hemos  sido testigos de cómo una gran cantidad de personas, de diferentes culturas, se conectan y se convierten en amigos.

¿No sería increíble el ir a un evento como las Olimpiadas, hablar con la gente en otro idioma, y tener una comprensión real de sus costumbres y saludos?

Pero para mí, lo que más resuena es la dedicación que todos estos atletas tienen. Pienso en los ganadores de medalla de oro, indudablemente, pero también en las personas que no ganan el oro, las personas que ganan medallas de plata o bronce, o simplemente los que tienen la oportunidad de ir a los Juegos Olímpicos, inclusive en las personas que se entrenaron y no consiguieron ir a Río. Me impresiona de gran manera su dedicación.

Aprender un idioma requiere una dedicación similar. No existe una pastilla mágica que puedas tomar y en solo un instante saber un nuevo idioma. Tienes que aprenderlo, trabajar en ello, mantenerte enfocado, dedicado, y persistente. Poco a poco, cada día, puedes mejorar y mejorar.

Llegar a la meta, hace que el tiempo y el esfuerzo valga la pena.

¡Tú puedes ser un atleta olímpico del idioma! ¡Ve por el oro!

About James Archer

By James Archer | General

JAMES ARCHER is the founder of The ShareLingo Project – a Social Enterprise that helps people who speak different languages connect and understand each other – both literally (the languages) and culturally. While the program was developed primarily to assist individuals and non-profits (schools, clinics, churches, etc.) it has proven to be a very effective solution within the corporate environment as well.

Prior to founding ShareLingo, JAMES ARCHER was active in many different ventures. He earned a degree in Computer Engineering and his first job out of college was assisting the Canadian and then the Australian military on large computer based training programs. This position took him to Australia, where he joined a conference and exhibition company as a computer programmer (writing, among other things, the world’s first real-time conference delegate registration system). While with this company, James earned his MBA with a focus on international business, and advanced from computer programmer to the Board of Director and became General Manager. During this time, he travelled extensively throughout Australasia to help promote Australian exhibitions to large delegations from countries like China and Vietnam.

Upon his return to the United States, James purchased an art gallery in Breckenridge Colorado, and developed Masterpiece Solutions – the first gallery management software suite capable of integrating online and in-store inventory, images, and meta-data for galleries and antique dealers.

After selling the software business, James invented Silpoura – a silicone kitchen device that aides pouring of almost anything. Of Silpoura, James says, “One can literally pour hot bacon or hamburger grease directly from a skillet into a coke can.”

But it is with ShareLingo that James feels he has found his mission in life.

“Helping people from different cultures connect and understand each other is something our society desperately needs. ShareLingo is working towards world peace – 10 people at a time.”

ShareLingo began when, later in life, James decided to really learn a second language, and selected Spanish.  Although he was living in Denver, where there is a very large Spanish speaking community, he found very few resources that helped him connect with people he could practice with. So, as an engineer, he decided to “fix the problem” and ShareLingo came about.

He worked with a local non-profit and brought English and Spanish speakers together. Rather than teaching them, as in a traditional environment, he created a method to help them teach each other. An unplanned, and beautiful, result of the program was seeing the participants really become friends with each other.  This program broke down cultural barriers in a way that James had never experienced before.