Week two Scollon post

Creating intercultural documentation requires attention to differences and variations in cultures. Specific, adjectives, verbs and phrases can be misunderstood resulting in failure to understand content and or context. There are many tools to help strip text of culturally specific content and even graders to determine if phrases are easily translatable. However, there are also simple solutions such as additional descriptions and even visual elements that can help an audience understand a message.

Visual Elements

If we are trying to teach a random group of people how to bake a cake, there are several elements and steps that could be miss understood. The steps and science of baking also requires careful attention to process and measurements. Multicultural groups can mean a variety of education and literacy proficiency; some people might not know what a table spoon is or the importance of step by step directions.

Introducing images to documentation can provide the right representation to allow a person to understand the directions they are reading. For example, the recipe could start with a list of ingredients with a picture of each one in order. There can also be size representations of how much of each ingredient to add at each step. Many cultures have very different diets and a person may have never eaten a certain food or used a certain utensil.


Sometimes cultures are very straight forward or too the point, and tend to use situational jargon that can be misunderstood. In the same baking example, the action of mixing two ingredients is very different than folding them.

A more in-depth explanation of certain steps of a process or specific actions can bride the gap for understanding a concept. Imagery might be necessary as well, but instead of just saying “fold the ingredients”, this can be further described as a “scooping motion where the spoon gathers contents from around the bowl to be folded or scooped on top of the other contents still in the bowl; this is supposed to be done gently, etc”.

Creating better context or in-depth description of actions can seem overwhelming or unnecessary, but not everyone has had the same experiences. It is important to be aware of general experience and to consider limitations of others around you.

Andrew Sherman, week2, IMS 416


Published by

Wikimedia Blog

Digital Communications Intern, Wikimedia Foundation

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