Cross-cultural illustrations

I lead a team of six people. I am the only European amongst them. From west to east we cover 15 time zones, five countries, four continents and have at least three different first languages (though we work together in English which helps me a lot). We do not all see the world in the same way.

Graphic artist Yang Liu has a sharp eye for cultural comparison, honed by personal experience. In 1990, at the age of 13, she moved from Beijing, to Berlin. After exactly 13 years there, she started an illustrated project to document her dual experiences in China and Germany.

Originally created as 47 simple blue and red posters, Yang Liu’s nonjudgmental series playfully captures the difference between cultures: from workplace hierarchy to restaurant etiquette. It has since been shown at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Germany, and was published in 2007 by art book authority Taschen with the title East Meets West.
See the full post on Quartz
It’s not just about my team though. More and more aspects of society are made up of people from different nations and while these illustrations could be generalising (not everything applies to everyone regardless of where they are from) it’s always worth remembering that culture impacts the way people see the world. These illustrations are a good reminder of that.

Just some things to think about

I’m starting to notice that I’m becoming institutionalised. Three years ago, as a newbie with Wycliffe Bible Translators, I found everything new, exciting and amazingly interesting. Now, after being asked for the… well, I’ve lost count… time, which version of the Bible we translate, I’m just wondering if what I accept as blindingly obvious is really so far off the radar of everyone else that we should be making more of it.

For example, the New Scientist has published an article about the fact that the concept of time isn’t necessarily viewed in the same way by every culture.

“HERE and now”, “Back in the 1950s”, “Going forward”… Western languages are full of spatial metaphors for time, and whether you are, say, British, French or German, you no doubt think of the past as behind you and the future as stretching out ahead. Time is a straight line that runs through your body.

Once thought to be universal, this “embodied cognition of time” is in fact strictly cultural. Over the past decade, encounters with various remote tribal societies have revealed a rich diversity of the ways in which humans relate to time (see “Attitudes across the latitudes”). The latest, coming from the Yupno people of Papua New Guinea, is perhaps the most remarkable. Time for the Yupno flows uphill and is not even linear.

Read the full article here

Once I would have found that really interesting, now I just think ‘Duh! Isn’t that obvious?’. Especially as Sue Pearson gave a presentation on this very theme   in a public lecture at Wycliffe last year.

How not to do word studies

We’ve known and spoken about stuff like this for years, is it really still surprising?
OK, maybe the challenges of cross-cultural communication are still surprising to some, but now the website has managed to get a whole article out of the challenges of serving a remote community when a runway becomes unfit for use.

But Bible translation takes more than just sitting down with a native speaker and a Bible. Multiple obstacles must be hurdled. And the hurdles may look different than you think.

In the Philippines, the obstacles don’t necessarily come in the form of government limitations or even in lack of willing missionaries. Sometimes challenges come in packages as simple as transportation.

 read the full article here
Really, do people find that news surprising? Isn’t it obvious? Or is this just institutionalisation showing its hand?
So, for those of you surprised by the preceding observations, some quick bullet pointers.
  • Languages aren’t the same. Some countries have no words for snow, while others have more than one. We may think that the heart is the home for our emotions, others think it’s their liver. Bible translation isn’t as easy as substituting one word for another – if you do you could be communicating the very opposite of what you intend to say. (More info here)
  • Bible translation… missions… don’t just rely on the skills and abilities of a few talented individuals. We need people who can build runways too. Actually, teaching (western kids in western style schools in English), IT, Marketing Communications, video editing, project management, accounting, are all valuable skills without which we are sunk. Do you think you need a MTh to be any use overseas? Someone who can repair a car engine or keep track of the money are just as (if not more) desperately needed. (More info here)

And, in case you were wondering, the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, not English – so which version do you think we would translate? (More info here)

The apologetics argument

A few days ago I posted about the research I had done into the authority of the Bible. But, yesterday I was challenged about the reasonableness of always looking for the logical answer.

The big-name Christian apologists are, basically, modernists. Their method of apologetics is to show that belief in the God of Christianity is entirely compatible with human rationality. In other words, they are accepting the proposition that human rationality is the standard against which God is judged. This may not be particularly glorifying to God but it certainly glorifies human rationality.

They might say that they are accepting this proposition as a starting point because it is the mindset of those that they are going up against, and hey, we’re into contextualization and starting from where the other person is coming from, but you can’t be a Christian and leave that starting point unchallenged. The Christian starting point is that God is the standard against which everything, up to and including human rationality, is judged.

This is why I have no interest in debates between prominent atheists and prominent apologists. They both place their ultimate faith and authority in the human capacity for reason and logic and in the need to make rationally defensible choices. In that sense, they’re both arguing the same side.

Worse, if you do go down that road, what kind of a God can you end up with? A God who is rationally defensible may be the clockwork god of the Deists but not the surprising, challenging and sometimes confusing God of the Bible.

From the blog of Simon Cozens

HT Kouya

For a moment I questioned whether I was barking up the wrong tree and whether the research I had done was relevant to a generation that questions truth and authority anyway. Well,

1) Knowing that there is accurate and reliable evidence for God, creation through intelligent design, Jesus and his death and resurrection is important for me, even if it has no real bearing on my conversations with others.

2) My belief in the rationality of the evidence for God does not necessarily mean I believe that God is rational. In fact, I think I believe God to be totally irrational. Rationality would probably have put paid to the world at the point of the flood, even if it had been allowed to continue that far. I wonder even, if a rational God would have given us free will.

3) It’s too easy to assume that times have changed and that we now need to adapt our communications to a postmodern audience. The problem is that audiences are very rarely made up of just postmoderns, and even when they are, there’s a sliding scale with some postmoderns looking very like modernists. Although, I agree that debates aren’t the most effective form of communication. Were they ever?

Are we seeing the result of valuing possessions over people?

A brilliant interview from earlier this week on the Sky News Channel of an ex gang member who says, ‘I want to change London and the world’.

It’s well worth 15 minutes of you time to watch this all the way through, but especially the last three or four minutes – where the observation is made of one guy that has everything yet he still wants more. When consumerism becomes the driving force behind the national culture it impacts everyone – not just the poor, but the rich too.


Wake up to Wogan (no more)

Tomorrow morning will be the final Wake up to Wogan as the show’s host slips into some kind of retirement.

As a secure 32 year old I’m quite happy to admit for the past five or six years I’ve joined the masses and woken up to the sounds of Terry WoganTerry_Wogan on Radio 2.

In the UK, Radio 2 is the station for the middle-aged, slightly older and the ‘my you’re looking well’ genearations. All the cool kids, supposedly, listen to Radio 1.

Wogan has been the breakfast show host since 1972 – although there was a good long break for 10 years from the mid-80’s when he gave his attention fully to television – but other than that he’s been the wake up call for millions during the work week.

There’s lots that could be said, and will be said, about Wogan, but I’d just like to offer this observation. According to Wikipedia, his 8 million regular listeners make up the largest audience of any radio show in Europe. They don’t tune in for call-ins or prizes – there are none – instead they write. Comments, witty letters, wry observations… it’s all in there. In fact, Wogan really doesn’t need to come up with his own material, what the audience provides he shares. It’s like one big, slightly disfunctional family. A family that I, along with many others, will miss.