Saturday, September 19, 2009

Multiple meaning words

LAND a plane

LAND in China

I just read this week's assignment from the Jenkins article and was struck by the use of the term "negotiation" in the article. Since this is a contract negotiation year for Edina, that term conjures up a cloud of mixed, but mostly negative, feelings. So, I had to redirect my thoughts to another meaning for negotiation, found on p. 54: the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative sets of norms. I probably would have used the term navigation, although I suppose navigation implies you know where you're going. Negotiation can imply that you need to interact with (in this case) the multiple perspectives rather than steer around them. It's about context, isn't it? And also background knowledge, which, for example, our ELL students may not have.

One of my favorite stories is about a lecture my new boyfriend took me to many years ago. I had graduated with my BA without taking a psychology class. My new boyfriend was in a Ph. D. program in psychology and some bigwigs in the field were speaking. I sat in the lecture hall as these erudite speakers went on and on about "behavior modification." Now, I knew that behavior had to do with how people act and modification means change, but what did this new-fangled term mean? I spent forty-five minutes trying to figure out how to ask a question that didn't show my total ignorance of the topic (I wanted to impress this boyfriend) but gain me the information I needed to understand the speakers.

How often do our students--or their parents--sit and wonder how to make sense of this jargon which becomes second nature to us schoolfolk? What other language (word choice) is emotionally charged to the hearer/reader? Another story: my friend asked someone from another country to write a brief message for a program she was hosting. She was expecting a paragraph of greeting and maybe a thank you for inviting me. She received a seven minute long dissertation of heart-felt sincerity, which was indeed his message, but which was very off-topic for the event. Then, she was caught in social negotiation--how to say thank you, we can't use this; you wrote an excellent piece, but it's not appropriate to the occasion; there's not enough time for you to read your message, and people aren't coming to hear it, they are coming to the event for another reason altogether.

We should be aware that words don't always convey what we want them to convey and what we blog may be misconstued and become a barrier to communication.

1 comment:

  1. Hi JoAnn,
    I worry about multiple meaning words all the time too. As students get older, their peers and teachers' language becomes more complex. I watch my students' body language all the time - it tells me almost instantly that they are missing something that someone (possibly myself) is saying. My classes are small, so I wonder what happens in other classes. How much information flies by while the student tries to figure out what one word or the other means in this or that context...