Re: Marcial Godoy Communications

Lief M. Hendrickson (hendrick@NOSC.MIL)
Wed, 15 Feb 1995 09:36:56 PST

On Feb 14, Marcial Godoy wrote:

>Once again, agitating on your beautiful little "english-only" net list,

and on Feb 14, Cliff Stone wrote:

>To think that an "English only" ethic would hit an anthropology list?

I don't recall any restrictions specifying that English is the
only language to be used on this list. However, as a practical
consideration, all of the over 700 members do understand English
while the corresponding number that understand Spanish is much
smaller. There are also numerous other languages spoken by list
members in different countries, and they are all just as
important. It just makes sense if you want to share information
with an audience you'd use the predominant language the audience
can understand. This is the reason anthropologists learn local
languages- so they can communicate with people in a language that
is understood by them. Would it make sense to force your
subjects to use your native tongue so they can understand what
you have to say?

When I visited Argentina several years ago, I would not have even
considered addressing a large group of Spanish speaking
Argentineans in English if I know many didn't understand English.
Some did speak English so there was an advantage. However, my
conversations in English were one-on-one or in small groups where
mostly everyone could understand what was being said. I think it
would have been rude to exclude a large part of an audience by
using a language they didn't understand. Visiting our border
town of Tijuana is another story. I try to practice my Spanish
there, but they all answer me in English! In general, however, I
think the best approach is to use the local language.

The local language on this list happens to be English. I don't
claim superiority of English in expressing all ideas. Granted,
there are concepts and ideas that are better expressed in another
language. I'm very interested in language, and gratefully
appreciate it when someone explains such instances- also giving
examples by passages in the other language. I'd like to be
fluent in multiple languages, but there are so many!

It's ironic that questioning standards of communication should be
a topic in a computer based forum since the ways computers
communicate are based on such rigid standards. There are
numerous computer protocols. You can not simply connect an Apple
MacIntosh to a DEC VAX and expect to have the two "understand"
each others signals. The very reason we're able to see each
others messages is due to agreement on standards of