Banting House Goes International

This summer, Banting House has hosted a large number of people from across the globe. From the remote northern Canadian territories to tourists from as far afield as the Chatham Islands of New Zealand, they have all come to visit the house where the idea of insulin was born.  And while this is certainly great for our statistics, we believe it isn’t only a result of our social media efforts. Thanks to our wonderful team of volunteers this year, we are able to offer our tours in a variety of languages, which serves a major draw to our international audience. While the quality of our English tours has always been excellent, along with our French language displays, the language barrier can sometimes limit the depth of the impression that Banting House can have on visitors. Though it is certainly no one’s fault, it can sometimes be frustrating for our guides to not be able to impart the true importance of Dr. Banting’s legacy. While this can be combated through the use of translation devices, such as the always useful Google Translate, these tools only allow us to impart the basic facts on our guests. With our volunteers, however, we can address the issue through providing a multitude of non-English language tours, which is one of our most popular services as an international tourist destination.

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Hanna, one of our volunteers, points out Slovenia, the home country of one of our visiting groups. 

One instance in particular emphasizes this experience in my mind by demonstrating just how many people are interested in Dr. Banting’s legacy. One day, a group entered the museum. Upon asking them if they would like a tour, they looked apprehensive. They explained to me that their understanding of English was limited and that the leader of the group wasn’t interested in running as an English to Slovene translator for my tour. Sympathetic, I agreed that maybe an unguided visual tour would be the best decision for their experience. Hannah, one of volunteers, is able to speak Russian, a natural consequence of growing up within vicinity of that country. She overheard the conversation and greeted them in that Russian. Their faces lit up with smiles in comprehension. Knowing that Slovene and Russian share some similarities as they are both from the Slavic language tree, our enterprising guide offered to take them on the tour, which they later mentioned made their trip all the more meaningful. Hannah had almost no difficulties in communication despite the fact that North Eastern Slavic languages differ from the southern variation, delivering the lasting message of Dr. Banting to them more intimately than simple images ever could.

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The comment left behind by Hannah’s visitors. 

As happy as I am with my little tin translator, I know our wonderful multilingual guides here at Banting House feel even more capable and proud when they can interact with our non-Anglophone guests. This year in particular has seen several of these guides provided their ever widening talents in translation, a fact that we at the museum have embraced in some of our marketing! Weekends with guides who, in addition to English, can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Farsi, Korean, Japanese, French, Russian and Arabic, have been extremely popular with our international audience, providing much more information accurately than what I can do even with a simple Google Translate. This influx of volunteers has shown our guests, and volunteers too, the true scope and importance of Dr. Banting to the international community. While Southern Ontario can lay claim to the man in his own local history, his work benefits people across the world and his story should be shared with them too.

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Hello and welcome to Banting House!

This post was written by Samuel Pitre, summer student at
Banting House NHS. Samuel is currently completing his M.A. in History at
Western University.

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