Thursday, September 29, 2011

Multicultural "Bread"

One of the cool things about teaching is the chance to, as Dr. William May put it today in a faculty forum, collaborate with students in the learning process. I had one of those moments today in Persuasion Theory class. We were talking about symbols and their arbitrary nature and how they come to have meaning because a group of people agree on a conventionalized meaning.  I used sort of a canned example by putting the word "bread" on the board and talking about how, in English, we've agreed that combinations of marks represents the physical thing we know as bread. Then I put up "pan," which I knew is the Spanish symbol (thanks, 9th-grade Spanish class!).

But that's when the class took an interesting turn. We have a Vietnamese student in the class, so she added their symbol for bread. These's also a young man from Costa Rica who has a Japanese heritage, so he put the Japanese symbol on the board. Another student added the word in Nepali, and finally, a Jewish student gave us the Hebrew word. This is the first time I've ever had such a diverse collection of symbols to use for this exercise, and I don't know if it will ever happen again. But it certainly added to the discussion -- from my perspective, anyway!

(The bottom word above is the Nepali one, and the original one was not in the list with the others. I copied it, and I hope I did an adequate job.)

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