You say Tomato…

October 14, 2012

George Gershwin was on to something with “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”.

I was not the best in foreign languages. Even though I took many different languages in high school and college, I simply did not excel in the subject, which is fine, we all have gifts differing. I knew that being a professional translator would never come to pass!  So, imagine my surprise when I realized that, while not French to English necessarily, I was in fact translating language every day. With the many challenges we face in workforce and economic development, reforms in education, and changes in our demographic make up, we have yet another layer of complexity to the problem with the different dialects we use.

The two languages that I dwell in are the languages of Education and that of Business/Industry/Corporations. If you think they use the same words, that is far from the case. For example, consider these examples:

Business/Industry Speak                            Education Language

Advertise                                                                  Story
Agency                                                                      Office
Bottom Line                                                             Outcome
Brand                                                                         Identity
Client                                                                         Partner
Deliverable                                                               Milestone
Marketer                                                                   Communicator
Promotion                                                                Outreach
Sell                                                                             Cultivate
Weakness                                                                 Opportunity to Improve

And on, and on, and on. I had no intention of making a complete list here, as that would take hours, but I think you see the dilemma.

How do we solve the problem? Well, first, is it a problem? In fact it is, when conducting business calls, its clear that the language barrier does exist. When you hear words and phrases like  “return on investment/ROI” (ed. translation: perception of others) and “Target Market” (ed. translation: audience). You have to quickly decide what exactly is being asked or explained. Translate this to the classrooms and the languages that educators use and businesses use become muddled and unclear.

Not that we need more examples of why collaboration between business/industry and education is a good idea, it would seem that just knowing what the other is talking about would help. While we will not likely all adopt one universal language, we can adopt a philosophy of sharing and understanding before we call the whole thing off.


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