Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

foreshadowing

by • July 28th, 2008

There are concerns being raised about translating the research invitation to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). My friends and colleagues composing the Translation Team (!) are encountering the challenges of linguistic rotation. I am borrowing the technical term, rotation, from matrix algebra. (Disclaimer: four decades later I begin to learn math!)
Which should I write first: the metaphor (a three–by-three matrix) or the data (the questions and concerns)? Let’s go with the data.
Immediately the question was raised, “Why translate at all?” Alongside the deep philosophical implications (which I need another few decades to work out) are practical concerns. Isn’t the effort to generate a “single” invitation in twenty-three languages rather absurd?

unnecessary?
the production of more work?
impossible?
just a nice gesture?

Possibly. Depending upon one’s logic, certainly so; given an alternative reference frame, however, perhaps the benefit, in the end, will be worth the trouble. Crafting the translations has, actually, been a bit of trouble – not just time and effort, but a source of some consternation. Three versions have been completed to date: Bulgarian, Romanian, and Polish. A few potential translators have dropped out because of the terminology: as much as I

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Breaking Role to Serve Justice

by • July 11th, 2008

“One could feel the moral fabric of society coming apart beneath it all.”

I will be interested to know how things unfold for Professor/Interpreter Eric Camayd-Freixas, “Immigrant of the Day“, for whistle-blowing on an oppressive criminal prosecution against agricultural migrant workers. My curiosity regards him as an individual, interpreting as a profession, and the complicated ways institutional meanings are made among persons interacting with each other through various languages.
“The questions they asked showed they did not understand what was going on,” Professor Camayd-Freixas said in an interview for the NYTimes. The video accompanying the printed text details some of the evidence by which the defendants (read, human beings) were denied voice.
The detailed disclosure by Professor Camayd-Freixis struck a chord with Helly, who describes “working within the Hong Kong legal system to achieve justice for domestic workers. Although there are legal processes in place that should protect migrants as well as citizens, in reality, the protection of the law is far weaker when applied to migrant populations.” This is also the case for the American Deaf Community (who are domestic citizens). Interviews (unpublished, 2005) with Turkish immigrants in Germany attest to a similar phenomenon, there. I am also

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risque

by • June 10th, 2008

free will?.jpg

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?)

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

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rituals of interpretation: to move or not to move

by • May 20th, 2008

As students take finals, a chance arises for more feedback about how the interpreting has worked this year. First, the old school: a moderator asks if I’ll be set up somewhere so the signing “won’t be a distraction to other students taking the test.” In fact, unusually (!), I’ve arranged a chair near the deaf student so that I’m right here for consultations – if any are needed – with the teaching staff. One teacher approaches me to let me know that some students in her class, a discussion section (not lecture) had told her in private that they really appreciated the presence of an interpreter. Watching me retrace what she’d just said, pointing out the specific parts on the board, was helpful in giving them a second chance to absorb the material. Not that they understood the sign language, but just signaling (by literally pointing out) the relevant part of an equation enabled them to gain a firmer grasp of the material.
Also, as we wait and the student distracts herself from the upcoming test, I gain some feedback from her perspective. How does she feel about my moving around? “I understand more

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community interpreting (oh, the layers!)

by • May 15th, 2008

When one of my interpreting colleagues materialized out of the ether in the midst of a job yesterday, the fact of my nearly exclusively work in college classrooms was glaringly apparent. What, a team?! She was doing what “we” do, out in the field: logistics had transpired such that the four interpreters hired for a conference with four deaf participants had to split up. Normally, since the whole job was eight hours long, we would work in pairs, restricting the four deaf participants to negotiate and compromise with each other in order to chose workshops so that the interpreters could remain together. Being flexible, and hating the ways our provision of communication acess sometimes turns into a limit on intellectual/personal choice, when it turned out there were three events desired during one and the same timeslot, we split up accordingly. When my teammate’s session ended early, she did what community interpreters do – came to join me: offering relief and backup. Only I didn’t see her. According to Wanda (the assigned/anonymous name for all colleagues who get blogged), I looked directly at her at least once, and she managed to catch the attention

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visual perceptions

by • May 14th, 2008

Work on optical illusions show how the distance from which one views a face alters the expression you think you’re seeing. Some constructions are creepy!
I’m intrigued with the function of distance. Part of what me and my committee need to sketch out is the scope of the lens I’ll use in exploring the practice of simultaneous interpretation at the European Parliament. Since each of our relative distances from the object of study differ, establishing a reasonable range might be a challenge.

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“interesting”

by • April 12th, 2008

I’ve been interpreting this semester for eleven weeks. Undergraduate classes meet either two or three times a week, so Friday would have been roughly class session #30 (with some cancellations/holidays factored in). That is some 25 hours of interpreted interaction (50 minutes each session). About two weeks ago the instructor of one course started actually prepping me during the few minutes between my arrival and the start of class. This could be structural, meaning that the first activity in class now requires students to solve a problem based on formulas learned the previous session, giving us this “window” in which to converse. However I think there’s also been a different kind of noticing….as if – finally?! – all that moving around as I track writing on the chalkboard across its fifty-foot expanse suggests that I am doing something.
Well, of course it’s obvious that I’ve been doing something, but what, exactly? 🙂 As the semester progresses the material becomes more challenging and complicated. This has meant I need to be closer to the instructor as she writes on the board, thus (I hypothesize) more visible: in her field of peripheral vision at least, if not

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potential downside to anticipation?!!

by • April 10th, 2008

Ok ok, anticipate, but don’t judge too quickly!

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It just ain’t the same!

by • April 7th, 2008

Weird how certain things come up in bursts, isn’t it? In the past month I’ve encountered three situations involving some combination of Deaf people, American Sign Language, and Koko, the “signing” gorilla.
To be fair, as I consider this, I would probably have to converse with Koko myself to know whether I thought there was actual language happening – you know, the kind of communication that we consider the particularly special feature of language. My understanding is that Koko knows some “signs,” responding “appropriately” to some of them and and generating some “signs” herself (is Koko a she?) Please don’t misunderstand me, I think it is awesome that there is such strong evidence of high-order cognition from other animals besides ourselves, and I want gorillas to persist on the planet. In fact, I would be stunned and amazed and thrilled, actually, if humans could develop languages or other means of communication that enabled us to learn from the other animals what they know about living on earth. Maybe signed language is one of those modes – just like human babies can learn to project meaning with signs sooner than they can project meaning with spoken words

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Push of Chang, Pull of Cronen

by • March 29th, 2008

A vigorous debate between two faculty members dominated conversation about Marc Crépon‘s “What We Demand of Languages,” an extended footnote to Derrida’s Monolingualism of the Other.

I had been worried about arriving late to the Center for Communication Studies event, however Briankle Chang and Vernon Cronen were deep in discourse, ranging from the mistake of theology (not a feature of all religions), the influence of the Platonic opening, Aquinas’ linkage of physics with the New Testament, to structuralism as the antidote to transcendentalism, and whether “topos” is a place that contains all topoi and all vocabularies or a place that can be talked about in infinitely many ways.
I always learn more from faculty interactions with each other than from monologistic pedagogy!
A colleague translated Crépon’s article from French. Srinivas Lankala explains:

“Crépon summarizes Derrida’s argument, provides references to the argument that Derrida did not provide, and extends the argument to new areas:

the question between what language is and what language means in terms of politics of nationalism or politics of identity
the definition of identity
the definition of the self

“One important thing called into question is the notion of a singular cultural identity: identity is formed in advance by language &emdash; the whole question of

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