Index: Action Learning (implementation for SI squared, part one)

Fall 2008

For the most current updates, see Recently in Call this Action Learning.

The foundational premise of my dissertation research, Simultaneous Interpretation and Shared Identity in the European Parliament, is that the ways we communicate with each other influences everyone’s identity: “mine” and “yours,” and – when you add the relational element together, “ours.”

That brief overview continues in the Index: SI squared (first round of conversations with MEPs), which includes links to research-related blog-posts in the blog-category, Parliamentary Adventures. In that blog-category, I summarize first impressions from the direct ‘discourse data collection’ of conversations with Members of the European Parliament.
The links indexed in this blogpost, Index: Action Learning (implementation for SI squared, part one), are theoretical and methodological in scope. They compose a blog-category named Call this Action Learning – a somewhat defiant title (!) chosen in response to a dissertation committee member who seemed frustrated that there is not one convenient pigeonhole that neatly categorizes the knowledge being strategically deployed and, hopefully, generated through this research project.
(You can also get to these categories via links in the main header, The Dissertation = Parliamentary Adventures and the lifework = Call this Action Learning.)

Call this Action Learning

Early developments:

    Although the quote refers to my first visit to Luxembourg, I like to think it applies to this research project, too: “it must be unforgettable!” (12 December 2008). This blogpost is about an internal training for staff of the European Parliament about “communication and its languages.” I asked a question of the academic and institutional experts that was premised in a ritual view of communication, receiving responses that were a bit ‘sideways’ of what I had hoped for. In this blogpost, I try to explore what happened and provide more background for my central question:

    Can we imagine simultaneous interpreting as a cultural practice that retains difference while creating a shared communication ritual, thus contributing to a sense of common identity?

    Why such negative framing? (1 November 2008) is the main question to arise from a combination of reading about languages in the European Parliament and the first batch of conversations with Members of the European Parliament.

    In road bump: asymmetrical patterns of language access (24 November 2008), I come up against the hard reality of selective access to the privileged resource of simultaneous interpretation. I explain the worry that research results will be skewed because it may be that the Members of the European Parliament who need interpreting the most are structurally-inhibited from talking with me. :-/

    Trying to learn Dutch is giving me brain cramps (25 November 2008). I extrapolate to the challenges other language-learners face under different circumstances.


    Explanations and reasons for using English abound: this is data (6 October 2008). I recognized the pressure to conform – to go with the easy, dominant flow – previously, and was still stunned by its strength. For the record (!), responses to the translations have been quite positive – it is worth all that effort! ­čÖé

    Background to Foreground (15 October 2008) explains how this research project hopes to cast new light on an aspect of daily working life in the European Parliament that is generally taken as mere routine. “Once we decide,” I argue, “to keep the fact of constant, continual interpretation in mind, what matters is not the matter of interpretation itself, but the frames of reference that inform the interpretation.” The blogpost continues to explicate and question my own frame/s of reference, however the main ‘work’ of this blogpost is to articulate the fact of tangible, material effects from the use or non-use of simultaneous interpretation.

    In “Dare to Know” (Kant) (25 October 2008), I argue for the relevance of simultaneous interpretation as a site of tremendous importance by using three different texts to discuss language, interaction, and knowledge. This long post tries to show the philosophy from which I approach this research on simultaneous interpretation and shared identity: an equation I imagine as SI squared. Can the terms be sufficiently defined so as to produce a result widely agreed as valid? I borrow the standard for success proposed by Appleby, Hunt & Jacob, 1991:

    “Success comes when the found knowledge can be understood, verified, or appreciated by people who in no sense share the same self-interest” (p. 9).

    Their definition of success is metonymic, in my view, with the co-construction of understanding among people using different languages.


    Over a superb lunch (26 September 2008), a wide-ranging intellectual discussion inspired musing on conditions requiring standardization in tension with the variable mix of desired and unwanted results of standardization. I assert that results of this study will “enable more efficient, efficacious, and effective use of simultaneously interpreted language as a creative resource, rather than as a perceived barrier to intercultural, inter-institutional, and interdisciplinary understanding.”

    I make an effort to understand the language crisis in Belgium in “the fragile, groping thread of communication” (17 September 2008 quoting Isaac Asimov).

    Many positive signs accompanied my journey over the Atlantic, “…flying over a cloud” to a multi-hour layover in London prior to the last legs to another magical place in Antwerpen. (14 September 2008)

Growing enthusiasm!

    I made a fledgling attempt to learn some French – la belle langue! (1 August 2008) – before arriving, not knowing that my incremental progress would be shifted – and repeated! – with Nederlands (Dutch/Flemish).

    waving my light saber (11 August 2008) is a celebration of establishing links in the blogheader that (hopefully!) make it easier for people to navigate only to the blogpost in reflexivity relevant to the study of simultaneous interpretation in the European Parliament.

Discourses are not contained:

    grant hurdle 41 – cleared (6 July 2008) reflects a citizenship moment that brings the privilege of international travel into sharp focus.

    I think I’m pregnant! (9 July 2008) reflects a moment of optimism about creating a Facebook Group concerning the process of translating the research invitation into 23 languages as part-and-parcel of the participatory, action-learning premises of this study. I wonder if I am a node participating in an emergence of new consciousness/es.

    I tease myself about challenging institutionalized authority (emphasis on the institution, not the authority) in just a few details . . . (13 July 2008). (The point was also to remember and recognize friends without whose support I would be beyond lost.)

    In foreshadowing (28 July 2008), I reflect on friends’ thoughtful responses at being asked to translate the research invitation into the 23 official languages of the European Parliament evokes the questions and concerns (i.e, the attitudes and worldview, perhaps even an ideology?) about language diversity and simultaneous interpretation that I intend to study.

Method is applied theory, and theory inspires method:

    A colleague introduces me to Homans: The Human Group (7 June 2008) and I expound on a tension between cognitive science and communication theory.

    I use my friends as sounding boards, always (and tease them at the same time) in risque (10 June 2008). My argument (explained) is that we are always engaged in “interpretation” – the presence of a simultaneous interpreter only makes the process more obvious. The problematic is to define the field of action in which SI has tangible social, cultural, political and economic effects.

    The earliest formation of asking for participation in this research study: an invitation to help me gaze (24 June 2008). It concludes with the suggestion that

    the most important question to ask of your interpreter is not “did you say what I mean” but “did you say what will accomplish for me the end I seek?

    Overlapping with the content category, Parliament Adventures, as the time for fieldwork approaches:

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