Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Windows and Mirrors: A Program about Diversity for Grades 4-5

Activity 5: Ways to Communicate a Welcome

Activity time: 5 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • List or display of ways to write, say and gesture "welcome"
  • Newsprint, markers and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Compile a list or display of ways to write, say and gesture "welcome" in a variety of languages and cultures. Use the Internet, books, and multilingual friends and acquaintances to collect a variety of written, spoken and gestured "welcomes." Learn how to pronounce unfamiliar phrases. On the Northern Ireland Housing Executive website, you can read the word "welcome" in a variety of languages including French, Bulgarian, Spanish and Somali. The Omniglot website offers a long list of "welcomes," many with audio links. Gather illustrations of "welcome" in American Sign Language (see Lesson Tutor ASL website ) and images of "welcome" written in non-English alphabets.
  • Make a handout and copy it for all participants. Or, write/post a display of "welcomes" on newsprint and/or walls. You will need the handout or display for Activity 6, Window/Mirror Panel, as well as this activity.

Description of Activity

Gather the group for discussion and ask:

If you do not share the same language as someone, how can you communicate and be absolutely sure that person understands you?

Allow some discussion. Affirm or make these points:

  • There may be some universals in nonverbal communication, such as smiling.
  • Nevertheless, even when you do share a language with someone, cultural differences in body language, alphabet, speech patterns, and voice intonations can complicate communication.

Now offer the example of welcoming others to our congregation, family, or group of friends. How might participants communicate "welcome" to someone who:

  • Speaks their language but tells you they have just moved from a different town or another region of the country?
  • Arrives in a wheelchair?
  • Is elderly and walks with a cane?
  • Is a child their age who does not speak much English?

Allow some discussion. Affirm ideas for welcoming that express awareness of a newcomer's perspective or potential needs, such as asking a blind visitor whether they read braille and would like a braille hymnbook; offering to help an elderly person find a seat for worship, or asking a new child their name, where they are from and what school they go to. Say:

When people come to our congregation, we need to let them know they are welcome here, and we need to be sure they understand. The word "welcome" is not enough, but it would be a good start. It might be especially meaningful to make someone feel welcome who is more comfortable with a language other than spoken English.

Let's explore how to say "welcome" in a few different languages.

Distribute handouts you have prepared or direct participants' attention to the "welcomes" you have displayed. Encourage the children to experiment with these and help with pronunciation as needed. Also, invite participants to share translations of "welcome" that they may know.

Conclude by asking the children if they know of people in the congregation who use a language other than spoken/written English. Plan when children can share multilingual "welcomes" with some people who may especially like to hear them.

Including All Participants

If the group includes participants who know another language, including American Sign Language or braille, contact them before the session and ask if they are willing to teach the group the word "welcome" in their language.