Community and language dexterity

Jigsaw puzzle 01 by ScoutenCC BY-SA 3.0

I just came across this  post on community by Jonathan who recently joined the community with a project combining language learning and music.

It brought to mind an ongoing discussion about the effects of anglocentrism in the way we work and communicate in especially online. But even more here in Edgeryders.

David De Ugarte and others in the Las Indias collective have been doing incredible work, and have deep relationships, in worlds invisible from the anglocentric Internet. Our conversations are helping me see and understand hidden patterns and structural weaknesses in how we currently approach the work of creating conditions for addressing socialecological, economic and political problems. They are intimately tied to the two areas touched on in Jonathan’s post: language and community.

A little context.

At the moment we are preparing the Edgeryders annual community gathering, called LOTE (Living on the Edge) taking place in October ( Sneak preview of work in progress, 23-26 October, save the date!). This year’s format is different from previous ones: the physical gathering is part of a long and slow solutions-oriented conversation around community stewardship of physical, digital and sociocultural assets. Rather than a mad sprint towards an event as the endpoint.

Why slow?

Making sense of any complex issue requires diversity. If you care about it being evidence-based, rigorous and effective, you need to give yourself time to ensure a critical mass of people find their way to the conversation. There is a less obvious aspect to this which is tied to language. If we are to build real understanding and cooperation, we need to learn each other’s languages. As well as be able to read  and translate between contexts within which we live and work.

I think here a key issue is language dexterity. Being able to pick it up, make it your own… even develop different languages. Even in the same language there are many different worlds, like business speak or street slang or artistic experimentation. Language shapes our thinking and if you do not command that language you are often rejected in that context… And so on. Translation or interpretation services just are not feasible in our context, we never have the resources to cover those costs to begin with. No, what we need is for a critical mass of community members to be able to move between languages.

Where to begin.

I think there could be a lot of benefits of us exploring this as a community, maybe set it up as one of the goals for Edgeryders: promoting and supporting language dexterity of members, conversations, relationships and projects. It will require us to explore and build effective tools and processes in a culture that takes these needs seriously.

Perhaps one way to get this going is to include posts around this theme in a monthly newsletter to the community?

Another possibility is to engage on a community learning journey where we commit to learning one other language in the community and test and develop further the various parts of the learning package you develop as a collective.  Perhaps we could even discuss this in a session at the #futurespotters event in Tbilisi on june 24-27?



To be true, I would be more modest in a first step. Imagine as a first step, we develop inter-comprehension inside every great dialectal continuum. So you have those big European group of languages: Latin, Germanic, Slavic continuums. Imagine a Rumanian person can speak in Rumanian and be understood by Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese speakers… who only commit to learn enough for understand other latin languages with their nuances. The same in the Germanic world (English, German, Nordic languages etc.) and Slavic (Polish, Russian, Bulgarian etc.).

The EU has invest a lot in linguistic research for making methodologies for incomprehension affordable quickly and easily. The hard work is already done :wink: and it would reduce the problem in a first step a lot.

The question is: even universities had played the inter-comprehension research game with the institutions they didn’t give the step towards real implementation because there were no transnational multi-linguistic subject wanting to experience it. So, could be Edgeryders this subject?

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am just curious , was there some researches done also on the inter comprehension between European and non European languages like chinese or arabic

Nah :slight_smile:

I think broken English is underrated. In Europe it comes really close to a lingua franca that everybody speaks – the best one since Latin by far, probably even better than Latin since it is spoken by ordinary (young) people. The megadialect approach lacks the elegance of a comprehensive solution – communicate with everybody, accept some grit and assume good faith to absorb 90% of misunderstandings. Again, Protocol!

Would you share some links and information about the results, researches, data gathered by EU? Where can I find what’s already been done?

Naivety and languages

When I was a kid I figured that if I could learn all the world’s languages, I could bring about world peace. I might be a lot older and a bit less naive these days, but deep down I still feel that. Language is the pinnacle of human creativity - we are all lexical artists in our daily lives. I want to gather a group of like-minded people to change the framework for how languages are studied in our schools - not in terms of what is easy to teach (grammar, lexical structures etc) but in terms of what is easy to learn.

And it all starts with motivation. I would love to continue this conversation with some of you as I feel this is a very like-minded community.

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+1 for naivety

Jonathan, a warm welcome into what we like to call a global community. We are global in so far as we come from and move across different geographic spaces, and found the Euro-English Alberto is referring to as a common language disguised in a social norm that we gently push to encourage those who are less confortable using it. Yet it is not surprising this sometimes can work little worse than expected when assessed against all greatness that could happen were it not for people getting lost in translation- an example here, other considerations here.

PS I myself as a child was fortunate enough to learn English just by watching cartoons (the Romanian Cartoon Network channel wasn’t dubbed), same with some Italian, not even being aware that I am in fact learning (like you wisely put it when describing ReBeats).

Multilinguals Have Multiple Personalities?

Came across this article today. Not sure if it holds water though. What do you guys think?


Thanks N for pointing this out.

I think there is some truth to this argument that we have different personalities when we speak different languages to a varying degree. But I don’t believe it is because of inherent structural differences within languages. It is to do with cultural context and how we want to be understood as we say the same things in different contexts.

An example - when I first went to Russia, one day I was standing and waiting in the metro for a ticket (or plastic token as it was then). When I got to the window, I started out like a true Englishmen in my relatively unaccented Russian: “Excuse me, I’d like to buy a ticket for the metro please. Could you tell me how much it is please?”

The cashier gave me a death stare. “What?” I repeated myself. The cashier sighed loudly. People in the rush hour queue behind me started to complain. Finally I got my žetony after a couple of minutes. I felt very stupid - I’d obviously done something wrong so I waited behind to watch how the other customers behaved. After a while I understood: not a single word was exchanged in the transaction. The customer put money down, the cashier gave them a token. There was only one thing for sale. There was literally nothing to talk about.

The next time I behaved like an impeccable Russian - silently.

What would the researchers have said about this if it featured in their research? That in Russian I was ruder? Not according to the Russians who did that every day. I was happy because I was communicating more effectively. The cashier was happy because she understood me more clearly.

Rudeness or otherwise was literally beside the point.

Language is just a tool for communication. Context is everything. And fear plays a big part. I’m a big fan of the concept of the idiolect - the unique web of linguistic ideas that we carry round in our heads, the snowball that rolls through our lives gathering linguistic debris as we go downhill through each day.

It’s not language itself that causes us to appear differently. It is our desire to communicate most effectively in a particular context, using the words and ideas that we have experienced most often in that linguistic context. The last para is the key one: ‘Whether that’s due to the different context in which she learned French and Portuguese, an inherent difference between the two languages, or some combination, researchers have yet to figure out.’

For me this latter idea seems to have been quite widely disproved. For further reading I recommend Through The Language Glass by Guy Deutscher.


Community and language dexterity

Hi,  I appreciate what you have written in your blog discussing about language dexterity and the effects it may give a certain community.  Exploring different languages makes it easy for everyone to communicate and understand each other. It may somehow contribute to development as whole. It can also add a positive impact to the rise of our technology.  I hope this idea will continue and have more possibility to a learning journey all over.

Was reminded of this post and thread while listening to the talks and panel discussions at yesterday’s conference on “citizen engagement” held by European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy. Halfway through I realised that we had been listening to people speaking in Italian, French, English. A good chunk of the audience listened through headphones (simultaneous interpretation). When I looked around I saw that many others were not - myself included. It’s a beautiful thing being able to have this seamless switching between languages, it gives a certain sense of intimacy and community. At least for me. And I wish that this were also the case when it comes to slavic languages or chinese.

Especially when it comes to following current events or public conversations in different places. I learn a lot from discussing current events in China with @hugi because of his familiarity with the context and language.

Maybe time to pick up a few more…