-Written By Charitarth Sindhu
Have you ever wondered why there are so many instances when you just cannot successfully convey your ideas and feelings to another person even though you have excellent communication skills? Even though we seem to provide a flawless and detailed form of information some people just don’t seem to understand what we are trying to say. We may not realize it in our day-to-day lives but our daily form of communication is highly subjective and quite frankly obsolete in a technology driven society. It may not matter how well you convey an idea to another person because if that person has been taught to interpret words in a perspective different from yours then there will definitely be a language barrier that will make it considerably difficult for people to understand each other.
Suppose a Person from Finland is speaking to a Person from Saudi Arabia, the Finn says “It is hot today, what is the weather like there?” The person in Saudi Arabia will say “It is hot here too.”
Looking at the average temperature in Finland during summer it is 20-25°C and in Saudi Arabia during the summer, temperatures reach 45 °C. Even the coastal temperatures in Saudi Arabia reaches 37 °C, with humidity averaging over 90%. The highest recorded temperature in Dubai is 52.1 °C. Now on a neurological level when the Saudi says it is hot, this information travels through the different filters and the information is interpreted in a very different picture by both individuals. In other words, they mean two different things. These types of issues cause a lot of misunderstandings and in many scenarios leads to conflict of ideas and conflicts in understanding.
Take another example- Paul R Porter, a famous economist who attended a banquet in Greece in which he was a guest. And in an attempt to connect with the host and audience he politely stated:
“…you Greeks and we Americans have very much in common. We like to eat, we like to drink and we want to sit around and talk.”
And the very next day the Greek communist party (KKE) wrote that he insulted the Greeks, calling them gluttons, alcoholics, and gossipers.
Different variations of language exist such as those in different jobs, different time periods, new knowledge (for example: the quite insufficiency of words like ‘sunrise’/’sunset’ even though it has been well established that Earth rotates instead), and in different nations, e.g. a British person will use the word ‘pants’ as a synonym for ‘underwear’ an American will use the word pants for ‘trousers’.
The language used by the average person is inadequate for resolving conflicts in understanding, but the language of science is free from misinterpretation and the conflicts found in everyday emotionally-driven language. It is deliberately designed – as opposed to having evolved haphazardly through centuries of social evolution in order to express one’s subjective emotions in terms that are verifiable and readily understood only by those who use it. Much of today’s conflict in communication is the result of our inability to state problems precisely. When one can state problems precisely, we are more than half way to the solutions. Technology has solved most of our problems, it is hard to imagine our lives without modern technology, like the washing machine, the automobile, cell phones, and the internet. Most technical and theoretical advances in 1) Our understanding of the universe (i.e. science) and 2)application of that understanding towards making our lives better (i.e. Technology) would have been unattainable without an improved language that serves as a universal mode of understanding. Without a common descriptive language of science, we wouldn’t have been able to prevent disease, increase crop yields, talk across thousands of miles instantly, or build bridges, dams, transportation systems, and the other technological marvels of this computerized age.
Unfortunately, the same is not true of conversational language. Attempts to discuss or evaluate newer concepts in social designs that defy conventional forms of culture and thinking are greatly limited by existing systems and beliefs within the majority of population that has not learnt to use the definition based language of science. The decisive advantage that the language of science has over conventional forms of education is the presence of ‘Technical Terms’.
We can safely hypothesize that communication amongst primitive humans was slow and subjective. When someone wanted to say “This is not something I like” they would push it away. When they were injured they would express themselves through utterances similar to the ones used today, such as moaning and groaning. If they held their leg, moaned and groaned, this communicated pain in that particular region of their body. When they wanted to show where the food was, they would point towards a direction. When danger was close, they might have made a loud noise, something like screaming.
That initial language development came about by using the senses that are in direct connection to the surrounding environment. Unlike the intermediate stages of the eye which have left behind fossil records, the same has unfortunately not been possible for language, bluntly speaking because the language does not fossilize. We can only briefly mention examples of kinds of linguistic behaviours that seem to have been identified by archaeologists.
If we can find anything in common in all forms of primitive linguistic behaviours it is that all of them have some minimal structure, i.e. sentences are made of words which have been given distinct meanings, and the understanding of the sentence is in a very limited way composed of those designated word-meanings.
Even though this conventional forms of communication fulfil our daily needs it is counterproductive to progress. As needs change according to biosocial pressures so does the requirement for more complex or simpler communication systems depending on the situation. The world is in need of a language which is relevant (i.e. updatable) to our current understanding of our environment in order to reduce misinterpretation just like in mathematics or chemistry.
Technical terms are words with a fixed definition and are not open to interpretation by different perspectives, such as Deoxyribonucleic Acid. This is a specific term that if said to another person with the relevant background and who speaks English, has no way of being misinterpreted. On the other hand conventional language consists only of non-technical terms which are open to interpretation by people with different perspectives hence leading to conflict in understanding, such as ‘good‘, ‘bad‘, ‘right‘, ‘wrong‘.
A technical term always gives precise information, but non-technical terms are mostly subject to our personal interpretation. When we say subject to our interpretation, we mean when we hear or read these words, the brain tends to associate those words to past observations and current understanding of its environment, the process involves several filters such as culture, politics, memories of situations, religion etc.
In other words when it comes to conventional languages the listener hears the words and he/she always interprets them according to what he/she thinks it means and not according to what it was actually intended to mean. People reading the same source but understanding different aspects may be explained on a neurological level where the nervous system abstracts, therefore, selecting, picking out, separating, summarizing, deducting, removing, omitting, disengaging, taking away and stripping the actual parts of the message that was communicated based on its own background, experiences and memories.
Conclusively, the sooner we realize the need to teach students as well as professionals how to use technical and scientific definitions in their daily life the faster our society will progress, as mutual understanding and conflict resolution is the foundation that civilization must be built on.