Question - bilingual opening

Deborah Hartmann deborah at
Thu May 24 07:01:47 PDT 2007

Hi Esther. Thanks for writing about this. What a great experience!

Did you note that the journalist (from Montreal's largest daily) who 
wrote up the event, mentioned that the opening was in both official 
languages? As an anglophone from Quebec, I'm sensitive to this issue - 
it's political, and could have become a distraction, had I switched to 
English only. Also, when that suggestion was made, I happened to be 
facing one of the our visitors (not an organizer) and her face said it 
all... I'm not sure she realised, but it looked like she'd bitten into a 
lemon :-) Bilingualism isn't a big issue for some Montrealers, but it is 
for others, perhaps particularly in academia.

So, we continued with the paragraph by paragraph translation. And it 
dragged. Everyone felt it, myself included. Yes, I too want to pull yet 
more out of that bilingual opening, get it to its essence. I believe it 
took a half hour this time, as opposed to 40 minutes last time.

But is there another way? I'm visualizing Esther's suggestion of having 
two circles, then joining them into one. It would have to be: inviting 
the less language-sensitive group into the more language-sensitive 
group, I think that would be most comfortable. Perhaps it could work, 
with two facilitators, as we had. I guess it would need two spaces, too 
(which we did have). I like the idea of then inviting the 2nd language 
into a single circle. It's like a physical manifestation of the 
linguistic reality in Montreal... it is both a French-speaking city and 
an International city. This adds a step of explicit welcome, a signal 
that now we are sharing the space in two languages. I'm still not sure 
about two circles, but I think it's a good thing to think about... 
perhaps it will spark another new idea, even.

I also think it could have helped to put some indication of language on 
our name tags. Different coloured dots for unilingual English or French 
participants would have allowed us to be more gracious, without their 
constantly having to ask for help. Many times I launched into an 
informal discussion in English, then had to ask: should I switch? Since 
I'm able, I could have started in French or translated as I went, if I'd 
known. People can be shy to interrupt and ask for translation, 
especially when it happens over and over again in the course of 3 days. 
Of course, using the stickers needs to be voluntary too.

I'm looking forward to input from others on this.

Communications Esther Matte wrote:
> Hi all,
> Yes, it was a great conference with Deb at Rococo. People there were 
> really impressed with OS. Hopefully, we'll gather a few people for our 
> FoFo in Val David this fall :-)
> Deb and I learned a lot, of course, as we do every time we facilitate 
> OS. One of the questions we played with was the bilingual opening. We 
> briefly considered doing the opening together, each in one language, 
> but quickly realized we couldn't walk the circle together. So we cut 
> down on the opening text so that Deb could do it systematically in 
> both languages (French and English). And she did a great job! However, 
> it was still too long. Later in the event, people started to ask that 
> we do just English since everyone there understood. But we were in 
> Montreal after all, so Deb maintained the French, and the organizers 
> were happy about that. They wanted to hold a bilingual event and they 
> wanted the French to be present.
> Now that I think about it, I'm wondering if we could have done two 
> circles just for the opening. To put people in the OS frame of mind 
> and spirit in their own language. Then, merge the 2 in 1 circle, have 
> them look around it, feel the energy and richness of knowledge, 
> experience, etc. and then start the agenda. For the other circles, 
> keep the bilingual format, but with bits of French here and there 
> instead of systematic translation.
> What do you think?
> Looking forward to reading your thoughts :-))
> Esther
> *
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Deborah Hartmann
Agile Process Coach
deborah AT hartmann DOT net
mobile: fouronesix 996 4337

"Learn the principle, 
abide by the principle, and 
dissolve the principle." 
-- Bruce Lee

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