Thursday, February 23, 2012

Where in the world does #IntJC reach out?

This is an extended version of a post over Google+.

For your information, this image is the current pageviews ranking by countries of the #IntJC blog since the beginning. Interestingly but not surprising, participation doesn't reflect the ranking. Notoriously absent and a particular interest to me are people in Australia where interpreting is an important professional and discussed sector. There are many other countries out of the radar where you would expect that exchanging in English would not be an issue. But it may be that English is a minor language requisite with many countries, especially in community interpreting. 

Spanish as A or B is strong and many participants in this bracket are powerful engines of RTs and propaganda (thank you!) so this probably explains the dominance of Spanish. 

Cultural factors are certainly at play, in Japan, maybe China at least where domestic communication is self-sufficient and/or coming out undisguised and participating to discussions nationwide, let alone worldwide is not common. This pattern most probably applies to many if not most countries. The world is not flat after all. 

It is interesting and a telling that you can be involved in bridging communication without acting as a bridge outside service delivery settings, maybe feeling shy to use your B and shunning at reaching out beyond your cultural borders. 

One professional Japanese interpreter over Twitter proudly advertises that she could turn an interpreter without leaving Japan. Another #IntJCtopic in perspective.

Is reaching out of the comfort zone of your cultural navel a domestic cultural trait, or is it fueled by domestic constraints that make you want to see what's next door or farther, even remote?

I am reminded of two things distant in times that are somewhat equivalent. 30 years at the university in Paris, a majority of students in English classes would not read beyond what was prescribed by the teachers. Book reading in English, talking about books (movies or music as well), showing off with books and magazines in English in the classrooms were a rare view and seen as a bragging act. Sure, there was no Internet and books in foreign languages were expensive as well as newspapers

In the class where I teach, I regularly inquire about student's self-imposed regimen of French. Many don't read books, let alone magazines. Time is limited despite the gazillions of free podcasts, video and reading materials, university courses you can grab for free.

One factor that must explain this, and not only in Japan, is how language teaching is severed from what is basically, the power that grants the learner, which is to start going into conversation mode with foreigners. Notoriously in Japan, languages are taught as mechanics, where you quickly get bored trying to cram the innards without any relationship to people. 

People involved in using language at a professional level are not immune of the same resulting symptoms. After all, natural speakers of foreign language who have gone through no formal training at all may end better natural bridges than the learned ones, and I include myself. My father was a polyglot who never went to school. One of his forte was the strong will to talk with people.

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