Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reflections on listening to conference presentations in German

I am at the MoodleMaharaMoot in Leipzig listening to people talk about Moodle.

First, the good news is that about half the words in English came from the same roots as German, so there are a fair number of words you can recognise, at least if you have time to read them from the screen. For words that seem really key, there is Google translate. Also, the Germans seems like using English phrases for eLearning-related things, like Learning Analytics, or Multiple Choice.

However, I don’t think I was even understanding 10% of the words. What really makes a difference to intelligibility is what is on the screen. If speaker just had powerpoint slides with textual bullet points, that does not help. If the speaker uses the screen to show you what they are talking about - screen grabs or live demos - that is much better. Of course, this is just: show, don’t tell.

It also makes a big difference whether you already know a little bit about what is being said. I talked to some people from University of Vienna two years ago when they started building their offline quiz activity, so I already knew what it was supposed to do. I followed that presentation (which contained many screen-grabs) better than most. What they have done looks really slick, by the way.

Regarding my presentation, I feel vindicated in my plan to spend almost all of the presentation doing a live demonstration of the question types I was talking about. Of course, I am sure that almost everyone in the audience has better English than I have German. Also, I apologies that I talked for the whole time, and did not leave an opportunity for questions.

Finally, I have been speculating (without reaching any conclusions) about whether the experience of sitting there, failing to understand almost everything that is being said, and just picking some scraps from the slides, is giving me any empathy for people with severe disabilities who need major accessibility support to use software? As I say, these thoughts are inconclusive. What does anyone else think?

By the way, Germans applaud by rapping on the table with their knuckles. Your trivia fact for the day.