My question is, in a global project how do you define what the common language is so that one culture or nation does not 'dominate' the other? Can we in fact develop a global language in English that everyone is happy with or do the inherent differences between countries, schools, education programs and teachers mean we will continue to have to explain what we mean after having said it or written it? It is natural for a person to be more comfortable with the spelling, phraseology and terminology they have been exposed to in school or while in their developmental years. Exposure to other cultures may help to broaden the awareness of alternative ways of communicating. Projects such as the Horizon Project can only continue to reveal to all participants that there are differences between us and that we do have to work hard to make ourselves understood.
Here are a couple of examples from recent activities:
- The use of terminology to label seasons: The pre-winter season is labelled Autumn in Australia/Britain, Fall in the USA. When both northern and southern hemispheres are involved of course Spring/Autumn are present simultaneously.
- The use of terminology to label school levels: In the USA Freshman, Junior, Senior etc. Which one comes first? How old are these students? In other countries secondary finishes at Grade/Year12 and moves to tertiary. The terms under-graduate, graduate and post-graduate are used, but do they all mean the same things across the world?
- Spelling for understanding and uniformity: an interesting example on the HP Rubrics page today where our good friend Durff edited the page and changed all of the words 'Artefact' to 'Artifact' (as I type this into blogger the red-line spelling error is coming up under the latter indicating the 'non-USA preference is with the 'i'). This word has always plagued me. A quick investigation reveals the Wikipedia page has the 'e' version in its URL but in fact the 'i' version in the page title. Dictionary.com claims that artefact is a variant of artifact.
On the other hand, we are moving into more multimedia forms of communication. Maybe these will eventually dominate over text (now I am sure that statement has upset somebody out there). David Warlick talks about the power of the new media on his blog today in relation to new forms of literacy and the development of film schools.
Hot off the Twitter press this morning I posed the question "..what is the dominant global way to spell in English? American or British?" Answer from Graham Wegner in Australia, "English, your honour. I realise that all these red lines under my typing say otherwise." and from Jeff Utecht (an American in China), "..that's a loaded question. :)"
The power of multimedia over text is exemplified in the introductory pages of the Horizon Project again this week. The student introduction page is where all participants have the opportunity to post an audio file (we are using evoca.com) to introduce themselves. Just hearing the different accents and the inflections in the students voices is a great way to start making connections and to get to know each other.
Here are a couple of examples:
Sabbab from International School Dhaka, Bangladesh
KuanJu Chen from Shanghai American School, China
In addition to the audio files, on the teacher introduction page we are encouraging communication via twitter (short messages of activity or thoughts) and video (with narration rather than images of ourselves in this case) and audio. Vicki has created an 'avatar' and talks through this image. I decided to share scenes of Bangladesh.
OK, now you be the judge. The power of multimedia is obvious however accessibility challenges participants with ongoing software and hardware and networking issues. The power of the word, the written form of communication is taken for granted but there are inherent problems with understanding and meaning for global communication.
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