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7 Working people

This chapter maps out an approach to terminology (and related linguistic

phenomena such as register) through the interpersonal contexts of its actual use:

working people talking. In comparison with the traditional terminology studies

approach, this person-oriented focus has both advantages and disadvantages. One

of its main disadvantages is that it is difficult to systematize, because it varies so

widely over time and from place to place, and therefore also difficult to teach. One

of its main advantages is that it is more richly grounded in social experience, and

therefore, because of the way the brain works, easier to learn (to store in and retrieve

from memory).

This unfortunate clash between ease of teaching and ease of learning creates

difficulties for the contextualized "teaching" of terminology, of course, in terms of

actual situational real-world usage. A systematized terminology, abstracted from

use and presented to students in the organized form of the dictionary or the glossary,

seems perfectly suited to the traditional teacher-centered classroom; it is easily

assigned to students to be "learned" outside of class, "covered" or discussed in class,

and tested. The only difficulty is that the terms learned in this way are harder to

remember than terms learned in actual working situations — and, unfortunately,

those situations are hard to simulate in class (they are better suited to internships).

The traditional middle ground between learning terminologies from dictionaries

and learning terms in the workplace is learning terms from texts: students are

handed specialized texts and the teacher either goes over the key terms or has the

students find them and perform certain exercises on them. This has the advantage

of giving students a use-context for the words, so that instead of learning terms per

se, they are learning terms in context. The problem here too is that black marks on

a page provide a much more impoverished context than the actual workplace,

making these words too hard to remember. Clearly, if the teacher is going to use

specialized texts in the classroom, s/he should give the students multimodal

exercises to perform on them, such as exercises 1—3 in this chapter. As we saw in

Chapter 3, experiencing a thing through several senses not only makes the

experience richer and more powerful; it physiologically, neurologically makes it

easier to remember and put into practice later. Above all, these exercises give

students the abductive experience of having to guess at or construct cohesive

principles or imaginative "guides" to a translation — an experience that will stand

them in good stead even when they are very familiar with the terminology in the

source text. The "cohesion" of any text is always an imaginative construct, something

the reader builds out of her or his active imagination; the only real difference

between an "abductive" construct such as we've been considering here and an

"inductive" construct based on more experience is that the latter is based on more

experience, and is thus more likely to be convincing, sound "natural."

One solution to the problem of simulating the workplace in the classroom, of

course, is to leave the classroom: make a field trip to a local factory where terms

found in a source text are used, or to a hospital, or an advertising agency. Go directly

to the source. Have students take copious notes or carry a tape recorder. Everywhere

stress interpersonal connections, getting to know the people who do the jobs, not

just the words they use. The words flow out of the people, are part of the people,

part of who they are as professionals, and how they see themselves as part of the

working world.

Back in the classroom, try exercise 2 — but with the field trip experience. See

how much can be recalled through the use of various visual, auditory, tactile, and

kinesthetic projections. Exercise 2 is designed to help people recall experiences long

past, along with the words that originally accompanied them; but it can also be used

to store more recent experiences in vivid ways that will facilitate later recall.