ACP

Explaining complex topics to people without the background?

31 posts in this topic

On 2017-03-13 at 11:47 PM, ACP said:

And no, my work is not available to read online yet. But in 1-2 months, it will be.

 

Yo, why isn't it on google yet?

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20 hours ago, Me. said:

 

Yo, why isn't it on google yet?

If you search "allen pennington schreier" on google scholar it's the first result.

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Yeah, you or your university has to have access to ProQuest in order to read the whole thing.

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A lot of my customers speak English as a second or third language or not at all and only speak Spanish. I've learned some Spanish to try and make them feel more comfortable, to meet them in the middle. It's hard as fuck to be somewhere no one speaks your language and looks at you like an asshole for being from somewhere else. Anyway, there are customers too that barely speak English but speak Mandarin or Tagalog or German...etc. The language barrier itself is instructive in trying to move from one conceptual level to another with very basic but flexible vocabulary, some of which is entirely visual via body language, etc. 

I tried today to explain to a man the nature of thoroughbred horse breeding, and the economy around it. He was from China, and spoke English with a very limited vocabulary; he was a tourist of course. As a gambler he wanted to know more about it, which is not unusual for Kentucky. Months ago a child from Paraguay taught me how to say that a machine was broken. The methods used were much the same.

Keep your sentence structure basic and your vocabulary basic. When you run into a word that probably isn't one they would encounter [breed], you have to make do with a shotgun blast of synonyms [make, create] and hope something sticks, then move on with the sentence so they can infer context backwards from your statement if they didn't catch it at first. It's okay if you can't get it at first, because you can always 'repeat yourself' with simpler forms immediately after, as that builds context further. Give yourself and your interlocutor multiple chances to get it. 

The Paraguayan kid looked at me strangely when I said "no puedo, er, no puede" <I can't. He/she can't> and pointed to the machine itself.  I then said "no trabajar" <doesn't to work (as in, employment)>. The verb wasn't even conjugated, and it was the wrong word anyway, because the literal translation didn't apply to a machine. Of course he put two and two together and understood what I meant, but in seeing an opportunity to teach, he spoke to me in very simple Spanish and fired off about three different ways to say that the machine was broken. I remember one of them, because it's an English cognate, "no funciona" <Doesn't function/work>. I will not forget that for the next Spanish speaker, but I also don't remember the other two synonyms he used. We communicated the concept that he couldn't use the machine because it was broken . "Lo siento, gracias" <[I'm] sorry, thanks>.  Much like the metaphor and simile bank, a browse through a thesaurus now and then won't hurt. You may have noticed that from some of my diction in this post. Now, back to thoroughbreds.

I was unable to communicate the precise makeup of a thoroughbred, the tradition involved, but I was able to communicate to him that it was an elaborate and difficult process that made them highly valuable; not that he didn't know that information already, but in conversation he just needed to catch what I was saying. The specifics were untranslatable between us--how the pedigree comes from a very small stock that can be traced with good accuracy, how Thoroughbred is a specific breed and thoroughbred used in other contexts just means purebred. He said that he selected horses to bet on based on their "beauty"; one can infer "the look of good breeding stock" from that, and I was unable to get more details but with more time I believe I could have found out which features of a horse he used in his intuitive betting heuristic. I was curious about his method or superstition, as all gamblers have one. Really this all was just small talk, picking a gambler's mind, expressing interest in a person based on the one detail they had given me about their personality. Note: being from China had little to do with that. I rarely ask about a foreigner's homeland, they'd rather know what interesting things there are to do while they're here. "Oh is it really different there?" is awful. Better to use a thought-terminating cliche or platitude to skip the "non-informational non-exchange 'I've said this a million times' part". "Oh, I've heard it's beautiful there." I like that one because it's always true; if they want to tell you about their homeland they will, if they don't it'll end there and maybe they can get a word in edgewise to ask where a good local restaurant is.

Humorously, I have encountered no shortage of Japanese tourists who really want to find a KFC while they're here. I'd rather direct them to one of our local soul food places downtown, or hell, Popeye's, but they want to do that so they can scratch a specific itch and tell their friends back home, so: "oh yeah, there's one on second street." [I don't actually remember where the hell it is, it's been awhile since I was asked and I don't eat there if I can get better chicken but you get the point.]


I actually hate gambling, but someone who likes something I hate might have something to say I hadn't heard yet so it was worth a try.  At a fundamental level, communication depends on being interested in people. As Bill Nye says, "Everyone you meet knows something you don't". In the words of Kendrick Lamar, "Bitch, be humble."

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The expert on this subject is Neil Degrasse Tyson.  He takes one of the most complex subjects and simplifies it into terms laypeople can understand.  Of course, sometimes, making complex ideas too simple comes at the cost of people trying to solve real world problems with introductory knowledge (i.e. "let's stop printing money because econ 101 says inflation is bad").

 

A good way to teach Yugioh would perhaps be the May 2002 format.  It teaches the basics of battle, life point advantage and card advantage. 

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