Lost in Translation (with a Fellow English Native Speaker)

9 Apr

I had a recent problem occur along the lines of “lost in translation”, even when speaking to a fellow native English speaker.  I am a science teacher and I recently proposed expanding the science club at my school to be a club that combined science and technology, including, for example, robotics.  When I proposed calling the club something along the lines of “Sci Team”, my colleague who works in the technology department objected because he felt it would communicate that the club was focused on science.  Upon further conversation, we resolved that when I think about science, I think of sciences in general, ranging from social sciences to natural sciences (and really an iterative process that resembles the scientific method or design-centered thinking).  So when I used the term “Sci”, I meant to be broad and inclusive, whereas my colleague thought of the term “science” in a sense that was restricted to how it is used in our school to describe the academic department including Biology, Chemistry and Physics courses.  In some way, I think this reflected not just a way of using different language, but also thinking differently, possibly even because of culture.  Perhaps in this case the cultural difference that was reflected in our language was not because of regional differences, but because of the culture of our respective academic disciplines.   I think that this example shows that cultural differences in language can be an important part of our everyday lives.  Even within a small, close-knit school community we are often fighting each other over the language that we use when we really could be agreeing if we could just settle our language differences.

What are some other types of conflict that we fall into that are really language differences and not differences in are actual thoughts and ideas?


One Response to “Lost in Translation (with a Fellow English Native Speaker)”

  1. Basil Kolani (@bkolani) April 9, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    Nice post, Matt. I think the problem is that not enough people want to think about teaching as broadly as you do. I’m reminded of the subsequent conversation we had about how to break up/consolidate the school day in interdisciplinary ways that make sense. That kind of thinking is the exception and not the norm, and where we work still very much identifies science as science, math as math, etc.

    You’ve given me something to blog about…

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