Do you remember the Babel Fish? If you do then you remember how the Babel Fish could translate any language into something you could understand. All you had to do was put one in your ear and you were good to go.
If it was only that easy, huh?
We all need to use our own innate Babel Fish at times, don’t we? I like to think that I am somewhat intuitive and I do have a good grip on the English language but there are certainly times when a response to something I have said leaves me wondering if my Babel Fish is kaput. Its job is not necessarily to translate anything in your native language; however, mine gets confused at times because my native tongue is actually German. On occasion, the little bugger throws in an unwanted interpretation just by default.
I may have to have it extracted and re-calibrated to get it working properly.
If you could ask Arthur Dent he would surely tell you the Babel Fish was likely one of the best things he could have discovered in his travels around the universe. Having eliminated the challenge of language certainly opened him up to exploring all sorts of places with the confidence that he could get by without misinterpreting anything that was thrown at him.
If it was only that easy, huh?
The funny thing is that Canada and Toronto specifically is very much like the universe that Arthur Dent spent his time gallivanting around.
This city is filled with wild and wonderful characters from all different walks of life and with each comes a culture, language and communication style unto its own. The Babel Fish is very busy here.
Dealing with interpretation is a common challenge we all face on a day to day basis regardless of culture, heritage or nationality.
Notwithstanding the actual issue a foreign language presents we have to deal with barriers in our own language when trying to understand others. I find that quite regularly in my daily life. Influencers such as culture, education, demographics and even politics can turn what one person says when interpreted by another into a variety of possible outcomes.
Would you agree?
That’s why I think the Babel Fish is such an important commodity in our lives these days.
Imagine even 50 years ago.
Your world was much smaller and your local surroundings were filled primarily with people you understood well because they grew up in the same environment as you, they had the same values and understood the world in a similar manner. Sure, emigration was as big a deal as it is today but people sought out their own and created communities with others that were like-minded and culturally aligned.
Is that still relevant today?
I think so.
There are very distinct communities in Toronto which remain tight knit and as a result culturally rich. It’s one of the things that I love about this city. You can, on any given day, tune up your Babel Fish and experience pretty much any culture you like without leaving your own city. Most Torontonians are proud to be living in a multi-cultural city and take advantage of its rich culture regularly. We are blessed with the ability to broaden our perspective in an accessible and safe environment.
Has the internet opened up that opportunity to more of us?
It sure has but it comes with a responsibility and requires some skills development that challenges us all.
Interpretation, for one, is a skill that not everyone has honed at the best of times. Me included. IRL we face people every day and we have the innate social advantage of reading their expressions, body language and inflection in their voices in order to decide for ourselves how to interpret what they are saying. You don’t have to rely as heavily on your own influences, your own real life Babel Fish, in order to make an assessment and form a response.
Take away that natural ability to read someone and it becomes that much more difficult to understand someone’s true intentions.
Hey’ I’m not suggesting anything is impossible here but if you don’t consider it then you are kidding yourself, right?
At least I hope that I am right.
Not only now do you have exposure to demographics, education and politics but the influence of culture to understand when conversing with others on-line. Before you know who you are talking to how can you be sure your responses are acceptable and understood by others in the way you intended them to be?
Your Babel Fish was not built for this type of challenge in communication but the awesome thing about the Babel Fish is that it can adapt.
And adapt it will.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been shocked by a connection I have made on-line when I have found out where they live. It’s such a simple thing but it changes the relationship in a big, big way.
Or, what about this one?
I was conversing with another Canadian from Southern Ontario and I felt like I had a good sense of how they would react to something I say until I found out they were from a nationality I didn’t know much about.
I’m just sayin’……
Don’t you think we need to consider who we are talking to when we interact in this new world to ensure our message is not interpreted in an inappropriate way?
The only way I know to do that is to be courteous, respectful and as aware as I can be until I have spent enough time getting to know them a little better. Your own dialect, per se, you regional cultural sayings, your interpretation of day to day life are things that not everyone will understand implicitly out of the gate. Just like any new relationship it takes time to gain an understanding of who you are talking to and in this space, at least for me, it is critically important to keep your Babel Fish well tuned and well fed.
I love kidding around as much as the next guy and I do.
Both Bill and Danny know that about me; one I haven’t met and one I have. I take my IRL friendships as seriously as I do in the on-line spaces and people’s feelings are very important to me. I’m a softie but I am not soft.
So, if I seem a little formal to you at first it is because I am German….er….because it comes from a place of respect. That’s where I start every relationship. I am a benefit of the doubt kind of guy and I am interested in spending the time to get to know you as best I can.
To understand you.
Jayme knows that and from the rocky beginning of our on-line relationship it has flourished into what I consider a valuable connection and the start of an important friendship for me.
Now I have to go feed my Babel Fish.
Over to you: What challenges do you find building relationships while navigating the on-line world?
P.S. What do you think we can learn from these little critters?