Activity Information
Recommended Audience Int'l Students, Study Abroad, Community members, ESL, University faculty and/or staff members (registrar, financial aid, etc.)
Length of Time 20 minutes
Resources Enough index cards for everyone participating to have one each.
Number of Participants Unlimited
Source of Activity Michael Smithee (used by Bruce LaBrack in Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication training seminar)
Purpose To demonstrate oral and aural difficulties in communication.


  1. Write a script or use the one provided at the end of these instructions.
  2. Find someone who speaks a language generally unknown to the participants or conduct the exercise yourself using the script provided.
  3. You will need to set up the exercise so that the audience thinks this task is a normal part of the workshop. For example, say that you need to collect some information for the workshop, or research, purposes. Then ask the participants to follow the instructions you will give them.
  4. When you have completed the instructions, stop and debrief the audience.

The instructions essentially ask participants to write their name, country, marital status, motherland or native country, and family name at different places on a 3X5 card.


  • Ask "How many completed the instructions?"
  • Were there any difficulties? Where? Why?
  • How did they feel about their ability to function without understanding all that was said?
  • What does the exercise tell us about the communication process? What does it tell us about ourselves as listeners? As communicators?
  • What does the exercise tell us about how the communication process can be improved?

Questions for Trainers

  • Where would this exercise be useful in your training programs?
  • Do you perceive any difficulties in using this exercise?

Script (Hindustani version)

  1. Ask if anyone in the room understands Hindi (Koi log is kamre may hindi samajstee hay?)
  2. If anyone does, ask them to sit out the exercise (if it’s 1 person) or use a 2nd language option.
  3. Hand out 3X5 cards to each participant. (No pre-briefing is recommended – just present as a normal "information request")
  4. Ask participants to complete the following instructions:
    • Write your NAM (name) at the top of the card. If they ask for clarification at this stage, politely refuse to do so and ask them to do their best or just leave a blank on any request they cannot answer. You can repeat the instruction once or twice.
    • Write the number DESH (countries) you have lived in on the BAHN (left side).
    • Write your SHADDI (marital status) or BIRADARI (kin group/clan) status on the right side of the card.
    • Write your ADISESH (motherland/native country) near the bottom of the card.
    • Indicate how large your PARIVAR (family) is on the bottom of the card.
  5. Continue with debriefing instructions provided above.

**NOTE: This activity may be used as a sensitization exercise to get us thinking about how people react when they are put in challenging intercultural communication situations. It can serve as a diagnostic about attitude, in that it shows overt feelings. Some people demonstrate hostility, frustration, willingness to take risks, others won’t participate...It can be used with students to give them a taste of what they might encounter once abroad, or with faculty/staff to help them relate better to what their students (U.S. going abroad or international students coming here) might go through. With students you can raise or lower the anxiety level by treating it as high stakes (this will count as their first grade) or low stakes (afterwards brainstorm coping strategies as a group).