12 January 2010

Learning #3: Just because we speak the same language, doesn't mean we understand each other.

"...dialogue characterizes an epistemological relationship. Thus, in this sense, dialogue is a way of knowing...I engage in dialogue because I recognize the social and not merely the individualistic character of the process of knowing. In this sense, dialogue presents itself as an indispensable component of the process of both learning and knowing." (Paulo Freire)

As I reflect on my work in a cross-cultural context, I realize how much complication can arise from the lack of a shared language. Getting on the wrong bus, saying the wrong thing in a meeting and ordering the wrong food are but a few examples. But back in my own city, where I am able to do most of these things, I think I can take the shared language notion for granted. It may allow you to get where you want to go but it doesn't guarantee you'll really know or learn. In looking ahead, I hope to continue to work on projects that require cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary teams because I find that these experiences help equip me to avoid the perils of assumption.

One of twelve in this series

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