Translating does not equal understanding

I think it’s a true writer’s ability to see life reflected everywhere, including in college classes that might seem to have nothing to do with “the big picture”.

Today is my second day of classes, first day of Technical Writing and Spanish (both of which I loved). But in Technical Writing, my professor said something I thought was genius and explains a lot of the problems we have with each other.

Unfortunately, I didn’t write exactly what she said, but the meaning is still there.
Translation assumes that there is knowledge we can see neutrally and that we can give that neutrally seen knowledge to you and that you will get the same thing that I get out of it.
In communicating properly, it is our job to provide the context necessary for our specific audience to understand the message we are trying to get across, not just what we are saying.

Now when she said this, she was talking about Technical Writing, but honestly I think this concept can and should be applied to our daily dealings with the people around us.

For example intuition can mean what one feels in their gut to one person, but it can mean something you believe to be true to another. So if you use that word, assuming that the other person has the exact same meaning attached to it as you have and you take no further thought to clarify, to put the word in the proper context, that person WILL NOT get the message you intend for them to get.

This is hard for a lot of people to practice, as it requires that you take the time to make sure that your message has gotten through. With the world demanding so much of us and telling us that we need to be busy all the time, we often think that we don’t have the time to make sure that a message has gotten across, but trust me, doing so is worth the time.

Proper communication will prevent most relationship troubles and it will enrich your understanding of another person. When I make sure that I am understanding what someone else is trying to communicate to me, I am showing them that what they are saying to me is important and that I want to get it right the first time because I respect their time and their efforts to communicate this idea to me. When other people take the time to try to understand what I am telling them, it shows me the same.

Now this isn’t easy. Writing a technical manual for computer usage for someone who has never used the internet has completely different context than writing a similar manual for someone who knows five different computer languages. To truly know what context to use in the right situation, we have to understand the limits and knowledge of our specific audience.

I can explain my love of Cillian Murphy to Jacob in a word or two, but for someone who doesn’t know who Cillian Murphy is, I have to give them not only the proper context to then learn who Cillian Murphy is, but also the reasons and behaviors that I love about him. If they’ve never seen a movie that he’s acted in, I may have to sit with them through the movie and compare his actions to my tastes later on. And if they don’t know me very well, I may have to give them reasons for why I like Cillian Murphy’s style and aesthetics over Brad Pitt’s.

The examples I am using are rather simplified. So when it comes to emotionally difficult concepts, the context isn’t as easy to provide. But if you can find a way to work through that difficulty and ensure that your intended message is reaching your intended audience, I promise that your lives will have gained another level of understanding with the people you are communicating with.


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