An Interesting Challenge in My Second Language

By Shane J. LaBrake, Bilingual Ag Educator and Consultant

[Vea este artículo en Español]

I regularly provide two-day trainings on ag related equipment – mostly operation, safety, and maintenance of tractors, chain saws, and small-engine machines. These are trainings I developed over the years, and I have now delivered over 250 of these to a variety of organizations and privately owned farms.

In 2020 I was to work with Jim O’Connell who then worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension – Ulster County. He had received a grant that included (among other things) two tractor trainings and two chain saw trainings that I would provide. One of each in English, and the other two in Spanish.

COVID-19 challenged the delivery of these workshops, which resulted in presentation of three in-person trainings in 2021, and the creation of a series of Spanish-language videos on Tractor Operation and Safety created in conjunction with NCAT-ATTRA in 2021.

At the end of the funding period, there were still funds available that he hoped to use from the grant. He asked if I might do a Spanish-Language chain saw video series. The plan was to produce three short videos.

We reached out to a local production company where I live in New Hampshire. They gave us an estimate for the project. As it was higher than the funds Jim had left, we reached out to the Cornell Small Farms Program to ask if they would partner on the project. They agreed and shared in covering the production costs.

I created a Spanish-language script, and we filmed at my property in southwest New Hampshire in May 2022.

It is one thing to be fluent in every-day conversation in a second language. It is yet another to learn the technical language for tractor and chain saws. While I had developed some relevant vocabulary over the years, these projects making videos took my language capacity to a new level, and to be clear – I am still learning. I should also disclose I first learned Spanish many years ago (43 to be precise), when I spent a year an exchange student living with a family in Venezuela.

I returned there a few times over the years, and besides a Spanish Literature course while in college, I have continued to use the language most of my adult life.

Making a video is a very different experience. When I am training in Spanish, or working one-on-one with a Spanish speaker, there is much that can be conveyed by context and simply back and forth questions and answers. There’s a certain amount of give and take, and an allowance from the audience for not being entirely perfect with the language. Most often, a solid attempt is greatly appreciated.

A video is different though, as it is only me talking into the camera, and there’s the awareness of permanence. It’s an entirely different sense of “pressure.”

The footage for this series of videos was filmed over four hours, and almost everything was one take. Is my Spanish perfect throughout – hardly. Is it sufficiently clear and accurate – almost entirely, if not completely.

This was a fun and exciting experience. It’s a true privilege to share my skills and knowledge with others, and we hope these videos will improve safety and productivity for our Spanish speaking colleagues who work with these useful and very dangerous tools.

Thanks to Jim O’Connell, CCE Ulster, and all the fine people at Cornell Small Farms for the opportunity, and to Eddie and Rory of Drum Production Studios in Peterborough, NH for their patience and excellent work producing the videos.

Shane J. LaBrake

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