The Linguist

The Linguist 57,3 – June/July 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 24 of 34

FEATURES @Linguist_CIOL JUNE/JULY The Linguist 25 Fluid, complex and dynamic There is more interest, these days, in a different kind of 'programming of the mind'. Advances in neuroscience are beginning to offer useful insights into the functioning of the human brain. The greatest lesson we can take from the political turmoil of the last couple of years is that we are not purely rational beings; we act and react, and judge and even vote based on highly subjective impressions that may change from one moment to the next. The work of Daniel Kahnemann has highlighted how we have different modes of thinking, 2 and many other writers have described the range of unconscious biases that bend and shape our cognition of the world around us. We have a view of ourselves, but this may not be 'accurate' in any objective sense. In some ways, we are in denial about our own human fallibility. We overestimate our abilities, our popularity, or just how much other people are aware of us. We underestimate the extent to which we can be gripped by basic emotions, such as 'fight or flight', even in innocuous situations like business meetings. And we often assume that values are constant and linear, when in fact they are shifting all the time. Instead of having fixed ideas about culture, of desperately seeking to satisfy a need for certainty in a volatile world, we need to regard – no, to feel culture as something fluid and dynamic, which emerges from a context and a reason for contact. In place of simplicity, we need to embrace complexity. New solutions In the intercultural field, the emphasis has moved from communication to values and back again. We have been dealing with ignorance and close-mindedness sincerely and earnestly, but not effectively, because our solutions have only encouraged people to remain distant from each other. The author Ben Okri recently wrote, "Of all the qualities, the one I most value in the citizen is not political savvy, or high education, but awareness. Everything else can be bought or smothered or diverted or confused, but awareness asks questions of the world. There are many with excellent education who see the conditions of the world but then rationalise them. Awareness sees them as they are." 3 This is not merely awareness as a tool for gaining advantage over others. As interculturalists, we need to go one step further, encouraging a deeper consciousness of our own identity and how we are part of a living system, whether it be a multicultural city, a community of practice or the entire ecology around us. Overgeneralising and reducing cultures to static values can be divisive and counterproductive

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