I had the great honour of keynoting the largest #GAFESummit to date in Ottawa this past weekend. It was a great experience, and I loved meeting so many amazing educators. Not only was it a massive conference, but it was also the first English and French Google Summit. When I was first asked to speak, I was told that I would have to do some of the keynote in French. Since I do not speak the language, I was extremely hesitant. But as I thought about it, I said to myself, “If I am constantly asking people to push themselves out of their comfort zones, I need to model this myself”, and then I agreed. Although I was all for it, I was extremely nervous to not only do this, but in front of so many people (over 1200).
With the amazing support of Lise Galuga, we created my presentation together. I took all of the text on my slides and translated it to French. Although I used Google Translate to help me at first, I soon realized that it was not accurate at all. Lise went through every slide and did the proper translations. We then created a google document that I had my main points of each slide, and she prepared a corresponding French tweet for all of it so that it could be “live tweeted” in both languages.
The final part (and the hardest for me) was to learn how to open the conference in French.
I wrote down what I wanted to say, and also added a joke that Lise suggested (which got huge applause!). So Lise took what I wanted to say, and translated it properly for me. Here is the translation:
“Bienvenue au premier Sommet bilingue de l’équipe EdTechTeam. Bien que je ne parle pas souvent le français, je tenais à accueillir les francophones – en français!
Un des objectifs que je souligne souvent est celui d’être un apprenant la vie durant, et je tiens à modéliser cet idéal moi-même. Entre vous et moi, si Stephen Harper est capable, alors j’ai pensé que je devrais l’essayer moi aussi.”
Since I had taken French up until grade 12 (I don’t want to tell you how many years ago that was), I recognized some of the words. Yet listening to Google Translate did not help. So Lise and I connected the night before over a Google Hangout, and she listened to me speak, and spelled things phonetically for me. Here is the text spelled phonetically that helped me say it in front of the audience:
“Bienvenue o prumyay Sommeh bee-lang de l’équipe EdTechTeam. Bien que je ne parle pas souvent le français, je teneh a adressay la paroll o frawn-co-fun preyzawn aujourd’hui!
Uh day zobjectif que je suelinge souvent eh suhlwee (celui) d’être uh napprenant la vee durant, ay je teneh a modaylizay set e-day-al (ideal) moi-maym. Entre vou zay moi, si Stephen Harper eh cap-pab-bla (capable), alors j’ai pensay que je devreh less-say-ay (l’essayer) moi aussi.”
Not all of it is phonetic, only the parts I struggled with. Lise tailored the learning to me so that I was successful, but she did it with me on Google Hangouts.
Then the day arrives, and I am extremely nervous. I am introduced, go onto the stage, and say the first sentence. HUGE APPLAUSE! That I was willing to try and do something that was meaningful to the audience meant everything!
Second sentence. HUGE APPLAUSE!
Third sentence. HUGE APPLAUSE!
Fourth sentence. Huge laughter?
I told a joke and they loved it! I successfully told a joke in a second language. I was buzzing the rest of the talk and I was humbled by receiving a standing ovation from the audience. What an amazing feeling.
So from this experience, I either learned or relearned some important lessons.
1. Educators are extremely receptive to others learning. For those that are so nervous to try something new and “put themselves out there”, what I have learned over and over again, is that educators will support someone is going outside of their comfort zone. Maybe that it is because they do this every day with their students, or that they empathize that they have felt that way themselves, educators are extremely understanding of someone trying something new. I know my French was not perfect, but wow, did that audience make me feel like it was.
2. What is now easy for us, might be tough for others. Twitter, blogging, google docs, and other technologies are second nature for me, just like speaking French is for others. I can easily get frustrated by someone who doesn’t get it, but I was reminded that I was once at the point where I didn’t understand any of these things. All people arrive at different places at different times, so always show patience and gratitude for the effort.
3. The biggest power of technology is not the technology, but it is the people. I used Google Translate for everything and I thought it was awesome, only because I didn’t know any better. When I connected with Lise through Google Docs, Hangouts, email, etc., she helped me more than any technology I could use, but it was through technology that I could get that help in the first place. She spent hours helping me and we only met the day of the summit. As many times as these things happen, it is always mind blowing.
4. When you find someone that believes in you, you start to believe in yourself. The first night I had a Google Hangout with Lise, I tried my French, and it was terrible. I knew it, and I said, “maybe you should get someone else.”. She said, “No, you are going to be amazing. Trust me.” I did. That made me go on and keep working and after the talk yesterday, I was buzzing. I would not have got there if she wouldn’t have shown that she believed in me. We (educators) need this as much as our students.
I just want to thank everyone in Ottawa for being so warm to someone who was nowhere near perfect, but tried. It was an amazing feeling. I especially want to thank Lise Galuga for reminding me how teachers, no matter who the student is, can always make a huge impact on the lives of others.