Tag Archives: language

When You Don’t Speak the Language, Literally: My Experience with the Japanese Health Care System and Radical Empathy

A common thing in my world of behavior change and design is a focus on building empathy by talking to people, sharing their perspectives, and living in their worlds. We talk about not designing for but rather with people, and empathy is required to do that. The truth is that even our best tools don’t really let us inhabit others’ lives. We can gain an understanding and emotional connection, but it’s not quite the real thing of experiencing what they experience. Continue reading When You Don’t Speak the Language, Literally: My Experience with the Japanese Health Care System and Radical Empathy

When Words Disrupt Relationships: Library Jargon and the Collegiate Patron

WhenDisrupt RelationshipsLast week I had the opportunity to speak at the EBSCO User Group, which was such a treat. In addition to the fact that I like to nerd out with people about motivational design, I was pleased to get to hear a few other talks that sparked new ideas for me. One was from Debra Kolah of Rice University’s Fondren Library, whose efforts to redesign the library website with user insights have resulted in a clean, easy-to-navigate resource hub. Kolah (Twitter here) reports jargon was a problem. Continue reading When Words Disrupt Relationships: Library Jargon and the Collegiate Patron

The Words We Use Affect the Foods We Choose

The Words We Use Affect the Foods We ChooseMarketing in some ways is applying the most appealing words to the truth, with an ultimate goal to sell, not to communicate the literal truth. Unfortunately, when it comes to food and exercise, it can mislead people into thinking they are making better choices than they really are. A recent article in The Washington Post describes how the language we use to talk about food can fool people into thinking that some types of food are universally good to eat, and others universally bad. Continue reading The Words We Use Affect the Foods We Choose

How to Describe What I Know: The Appeal (and Frustration) of Psychology

How to Describe What I KnowI took my first psychology class in college without really knowing what psychology was or what psychologists did. When I was a first-year student at Harvard, the policy was that you declared a major by your second semester. My foray into English studies was a flop, so I declared psychology and hoped for the best. Fortunately, what I found in those early psychology classes was a revelation: A language to explain the behavioral and emotional phenomena I’d experienced and witnessed my entire life. Continue reading How to Describe What I Know: The Appeal (and Frustration) of Psychology

Flipping the Cultural Lens: A European Take on Americans

Untitled designI recently found myself flying from Stockholm to London on British Airways. Looking to pass a few minutes before landing, I flipped open one of the in-flight magazines, Business Life.  I was delighted to stumble on an article called “The Art of Speaking American.”  For all of my fascination with how other cultureslanguages and vocabularies shape their experience, now I had a chance to see how other cultures view me. Continue reading Flipping the Cultural Lens: A European Take on Americans

Politeness Without a Please: Denmark’s Missing Word

Politeness Without a PleaseWhen I travel to a new place, I usually try to equip myself with a few basic vocabulary words: Hello, goodbye, please, thank you, English. I’ll try to begin encounters with a greeting in the local language, and say thank you and farewell in that language too. If you can phonetically pronounce menu items, you may even be able to completely transact a restaurant order with just this bare bones vocabulary. Continue reading Politeness Without a Please: Denmark’s Missing Word

Case Study: Duolingo’s Seductive New Look

Case Study-As far as online experiences that embed motivational design principles, Duolingo is the best I’ve seen. This free gamified language learning tool incorporates all three of the fundamental needs described by self-determination theory in a natural, engaging way. Although someone obviously thought very carefully about how to design the Duolingo program to maximize motivation, the experience feels very organic to the user (unlike some solutions that tack gamified elements on without a logical purpose). Continue reading Case Study: Duolingo’s Seductive New Look

Culture, Language, Chicken, Egg: Finnish Reticence

Culture (1)It’s fascinating to me how language both shapes and is shaped by culture. I recently came across another example, this time about the people of Finland. Apparently Finns have a reputation, even among other Scandinavians, of being tight-lipped and brusque. Two theories offered for the Finnish reticence are the geographical/meteorological (people live far apart in a terrain described as “forest wilderness” where winter temperatures routinely dip well below zero), and the cultural homogeneity (fewer than 3% of Finnish residents are immigrants): Continue reading Culture, Language, Chicken, Egg: Finnish Reticence

Dictionaries for Understanding

Dictionaries for UnderstandingWhen we talk about using the patient’s own language to communicate about health goals, we necessarily don’t mean English vs. Mandarin (although of course that type of language match is important too!). What we really mean is understanding what the patient values and how the patient expresses his understanding of his health, so we can adopt terminology that resonates with him. Understanding the patient’s language also allows us to better detect and comprehend statements about the experience of health. Continue reading Dictionaries for Understanding