Friday, April 15, 2011

Presenting in Blarg

Ain't that just the way? Finish one presentation (/book/semester), and you've just got to start the next one.

But this one's different: This one is to be delivered in early June at one of the oldest universities in the country of Blargistan. In Blarg.**

In Blargistan, they know how to build a university.
(central heating = optional; beauty = essential)

I've "presented" at one conference in Blargistan before, but the papers were precirculated, and I just had to give a 10-minute précis. This one is a guest lecture for a university class (two classes, actually: I'm playing a double-header). It's on the book, so I know the material, which is good. I've been told it should be fairly casual (as lectures are), and "only" about 40 minutes long.


I'm approaching the thing differently than I did the last one. Last time, I straight-up translated the most intriguing chapter of my book MS (still in progress at the time), then submitted it to a native speaker of Blarg for (numerous) corrections. But part of the problem was that academic writing tends to be dense and formal and use a lot of big words -- in other words, translating my own work stretches my knowledge of Blarg past its natural limits.

This time, I'm doing something different: I'm just writing off the top of my head (and with occasional glances at the book), making reference to a dictionary only in dire cases. If I know a simple way to express a complex concept, I'm going to use it. I'll submit it to the same friend for corrections, but I have a feeling that what I come up with will be less full of errors, and I'll have fewer problems reading it.***

Anyone else have foreign-language conference paper/guest lecture experience you want to share?

**My new name for my research country and its language, inaugurated with little fanfare on this post.

***And before anyone asks: No, I will not be attempting to vamp for 40 minutes in a language that I didn't start to learn until age 24 -- nay, not even for material I know well. Yes, it will be less engaging. But the risk of freezing up or being nearly incomprehensible is just too high.


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I haven't had to do this since I was an undergrad, but I majored in a foreign language, which was taught by the immersion method, and I think language teachers would approve your method. Certainly it will sound more natural if you compose in the target language.

Because I am a nerd, this actually sounds like a really fun thing to do. I hope it works out well and that you have a great trip.

Susan said...

I think your approach sounds right, especially since the book is out. You can highlight questions/key findings/interesting issues this way. And if you speak at your level, the odds of getting the questions you can understand are better.

Of course, since my research is in my native language (pretty much) I don't face this, but I like it.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Jeezus fucke! I can't imagine giving a presentation in a foreign language. You gotta lotta fucken courage!

Jonathan Jarrett said...

Yipe! There is one foreign language I might be able to manage this in but it sure ain't that of my research area. The which has left me walking through places about whose origins I probably know more than any of the inhabitants or possibly anyone, and then struggling to order a sandwich there, let alone tell anyone about it. I have to fix this. But it sounds as if you are a good distance ahead. Congratulations on the gig!

squadratomagico said...

Sounds exciting! I, too, am impressed with your ability to present in Blarg. I can read several languages, but speak them all too poorly to present work.

Will this occur over the summer?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Jonathan & Squadrato, I have one major research language that I feel exactly the same way about: I can read it fairly well (though slowly), but I can't speak a freakin' word of it, except to say, "I don't speak [language X]. I am very sorry."

Comrade, from what I understand, English has become the lingua franca (so to speak) of the sciences, n'est-ce pas? Imagine all your German, French, and Chinese colleagues -- they have to deliver almost every presentation in something other than their native language, yes?

(I think in History, the only non-English-speakers who regularly publish in English are the Finns.)

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Yes, and I am amazed by my colleagues' ability to do this! It blows my mind!

Jonathan Jarrett said...

I think in History, the only non-English-speakers who regularly publish in English are the Finns.

Also the Basques, or so I am told, because they don't want to use the *other* obvious international language most immediately local to them...

TWB said...


Not at the new campuses, unfortunately. Unless you think the bleak, poured-concrete look is pleasing!