Disappointment -- No soul? LO12039

ray evans harrell (mcore@soho.ios.com)
Fri, 17 Jan 1997 13:54:32 -0800

Replying to LO11994 --

John, This is IMO a terrific post and points up a vulnerability in the
English world that English speakers have been too busy gloating to notice.
"WE are the lingua franca!" The illusion is that the world will now be
shaped by English structures and even morals. IMExperience that is not
only false but deadly. For those who aren't interested or too busy to
deal with this just delete, maybe someone else will protect you when you
are dealing with a competitor who knows your language and can talk about
you in their's in front of your face putting them at a distinct
negotiating advantage in unofficial social negotiations.

John Constantine wrote:
> Mnr A de Lange makes a most interesting point regarding the difficulties
> in communication among and between peoples, and expresses a worry:
> "But I also have this other worry nagging at me. The more English becomes
> the super lingua franca of all the cultures in the world in order to
> communicate information on the lower levels of complexity, the more
> difficult it becomes for people of the English culture to steer its power
> to open up dialogue in the higher levels of complexity. snip------------------------------------------------------------------

I reply:

I would add that in English it is not prose but poetry that has always
asked for the exactly correct words to express the reality being explored
as briefly as is possible.

One relative, that I knew, of Kazantzakis wrote a poem of several hundred
pages and was asked by NK to condense it into three pages. When she did
he then said make it six lines at which point she gave up poetry and
became a psycho-analyst instead. The language on the net and in business,
on the otherhand complains if the use of words is too precise, because it
is prose, or if it is poetry, not linear enough with precise words being
too "academic." Scientific language differs from artistic language as Mnr
AM de Lange pointed out in that it is involved with "steady state" ideal
situations, where the words fit that situation and then are projected out
into the world as "facts". Dylan Thomas' "It was my thirtieth year to
heaven....the heron priested shores" are precise images that must be
examined for the holistic meaning of each word. It was so precise a few
years back that Senator Proxmire from ? tried to get a five letter poem
that the NEA had commissioned for $5,000, put on the agenda as a fraud
reason for disbanding the NEA. As John Warfield (on this list) has said
in his writings "Complexity disappears when one comprehends," (Essay on
Complexity GMU press) I might also add that visual complexity disappears
when one is blind as he points out later in the Essay one's colleague's
lack of comprehension gives rise to intolerance of his comprehension, thus
increasing complexity in a group. Prose demands more words and is less
precise. We walk the web and negotiate our business in prose. Simple
prose is just that, simple.

JC wrote:
> When speaking of English as the super lingua franca, which it someday
> might be (note the word might), are we seeing the variety inherent in the
> English language itself? snip---------------------------

REH replies:

JC wrote:
> Is English (UK) to be the lingua franca? Or is it American english?
> American english now contains so many references to other cultures that
> enrich its use, that the citizens of this multicultured rainbow society
> would be hard pressed to part with, assuming it had to be done, in order
> to retain the essence or the germ of soulful expression. snip--------------------------

REH replies;
America is by and large foreign language poor. In the past America has
switched ambassadors when they got too close to the country where they
were sent. Learning to speak the language was, in the past, considered a
suspect thing. Shakespeare's "my tongue hath become mine enemy" upon
being exiled to France seemed to be taken literally in America. Refer-
ences and inclusions of words and concepts from other tongues does not
constitute respect but instead is simple acquisition, a kind of linguistic

JC wrote:
> Some expressions cannot be translated, snip----------------------------------

REH replies:
Remember the blind men sitting in a circle all feeling an elephant
and trying to decide was it was.

JC wrote:
> I'm not worried about the potential impact of a super lingua franca...we
> have plenty of protection against the ruination of soulful expressions
> within all cultures. What we may need though is more openness to learning
> at some depth the languages of others, to "feel" what they feel when they
> converse. That is possible now.

REH replies:

I am considering this on a much more practical level than soul. My
experience at dealing with foreign businessmen who knew my language was
that I was at a distinct disadvantage in the negotiation since I didn't
know what they were saying to each other. Of course I could have my own
translator and do normally, however that is not always possible and the
subtle gestures, movements of the body, micro- movements of the face as
well as tone of voice are all carriers of information. Those are all a
part of any business relationship based upon agreement. If I am alone
then any foreign negotiator is free to discuss analytically my style of
being in front of my face without my even knowing what is going on. Like
being in a zoo.

I experienced this as a problem in a recording where I was responsible for
a foreign singer's English diction (she spoke no English). After several
months of serious, expensive work, when we made the record, her translator
who knew nothing about diction but who had a business arrangement with the
producer to protect (he was an instrumentalist from Canada living in the
singer's country and was not a diction expert from NYCity but he had built
a reputation in the country that the singer was from) intervened and
sabotaged most of the work that I had done. I was forced to use a third
phonetic process (the International Phonetic Alphabet) to simply say no
that is not correct it is this and would point to the symbol they didn't
understand, however the accent, the meaning and interpretive stress was
completely eliminated. Even with the phonetics, the recording was ruined
and I had to remove myself from the project discreetly. If I had known
the producer's language I could have simply negotiated but this third
party made a shambles of the project. There is a danger to everyone else
knowing or having opinions about your linguistic formulas with your only
knowing how to ask where the bathroom is, in theirs.

Anyone who believes this post was too long for this problem has not
experienced it, but they will if they are successful in the TNCs, unless
of course they are independently wealthy. The post was too short. Also,
if I might make one more point about nervousness. Take some singing
lessons and start singing for big crowds, 500 to 10,000 that will help
your concentration immensely.


Ray Evans Harrell, artistic director
Magic Circle Chamber Opera of New York


ray evans harrell <mcore@soho.ios.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>