Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

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June 10th, 2008

Most of what happened cannot be blogged.

There was The Biggest Salad Ever and a Bison Burger. Margaritas and Honey Pilsner.
Laughter looping across periodic boundary conditions. My blushing. (!) A handshake for the chinese zodiac. (Do you know what they say about Virgos?)

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The Italian mafia. A Columbian cartel. Romanian espionage and disruption services. A South African escapee. Bhutanese royalty. Some Americans and a Turk.
Seriously, one language or many? Interpreted (essential heterogeneity) or lingua franca (reduced homogeneity)? 🙂 Our debate draws forth a distinction: what do we value most and when – the depth and strength of relational connection or the collaborative effort to generate joint action toward a desired goal? I propose that

  • we are always interpreting – the interactive presence of a simultaneous interpreter only makes the fact more evident, and
  • more attention to this fact (of always and inevitable interpretation) could enable deepened collaborations to redress the critical needs of our time.

I am cautioned, again (and with great humor!), to be gentle with those who agree to talk with me: sensitivities about language skill can open vulnerabilities that could undermine the research endeavor. Refinements to the research problem have been percolating since the Committee exerted force on the prospectus. What matters – always – is the third, the locus of triangulation. There is the object of study – language use in an environment with an unprecedented range of language choice, and the emergent phenomena of an apparent preference for a (shared) lingua franca instead of a professionally-trained interpreter (to mediate linguistic difference). What, the committee asks, is the field of action within which language choice matters? What is the context that imbues significance to an individual’s decision to use their best language instead of a weaker one? (I will also have to take into account that small percentage who are truly balanced bilinguals.)
The site of the study is political, institutional, and driven by economics. The crux of action could be defined as leadership – not in the strict sense of hierarchical role, but in the generic sense of providing a necessary function in the crucial moment that brings a desired goal closer to fruition.
For the record: Zeynep, my Temporary Quasi Date, Sangria Girl, STFU, Roommate, Henk, Don, and Anuj. Earlier, assorted town officials, a bonedigger and the FBI (now required for a visa).

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Categories: Call this ACTION LEARNING!, group dynamics, Interpreting, Language
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