quinta-feira, 22 de dezembro de 2011

Scientific Jargon Aphasia

Meu amigo Bruno R Souza, post-doctoral fellow da University of Toronto no Canadá, escreveu este texto para concorrer a vaga de colunista da NatureJobs. É comum encontrarmos diversas dificuldades ao nos mudarmos para outro país, seja para um doutorado ou pós-doutorado. O texto relata uma das menos lembradas, mas não menos importante: a comunicação.

Vale a pena a leitura.

Scientific Jargon Aphasia

By Bruno R Souza

It was August of 2008. Excited, I was looking forward to starting my new life in Canada, along with a new apartment, a new culture, a new job as a postdoc, and the new experimental model I would be using. On my first day I went straight to the bank to open a Canadian account. As expected, everything was the same as in Brazil: getting in line, speaking with the manager, etc… until the moment the manager mentioned my "branch". I had studied English for 5 years in Brazil, and so felt confident that language would not be a problem for me – but I had no clue what "branch" could mean in this context. My first reaction was to ignore it and pretend that everything was under control. Against my better judgement, I signed the contract without asking what the word meant, but as soon as I left the agency, I headed to the bookstore to buy a dictionary.

I experienced similar problems while trying to secure an apartment, to get my phone and Internet running, etc. But I took solace in the fact that I would at least be spared this kind of problem in academic life – or so I thought. In reality, it turned out that I had somewhat overestimated the "universality" of scientific language, and likewise underestimated the importance of informal and interpersonal communication in daily academic life. On my first day at the new laboratory, for example, my supervisor invited me out for coffee and a walking tour of the campus. I accepted gladly, but the tour and introductions soon turned into a very stressful situation for me. I had never imagined that such simple questions about my objectives and interests could give me such a hard time. Listening in English without translating in my head, and talking in English without planning out my sentences ahead of time was a challenge.

Even in more formal contexts like seminars – where "scientific" and purportedly "universal" language and concepts are used – I found I could not express my opinion or ask questions spontaneously. I had to prepare the question or comment first, writing the sentences down and double checking for mistakes. In the end, I rarely felt confident enough to raise my hand. In terms of understanding the presentations, even Latin- or Greek-based scientific language was not always immediately intelligible. One presentation on myosin (pronounced "me-oh-ZEE-nah" in my native Portuguese) remained completely opaque to me for almost thirty minutes until I made the connection, even though I was well acquainted with this protein.

But by far the most awkward situations were when I myself was presenting. Oftentimes, after explaining a subject or answering questions, I was met with silence – I had not been understood, even though what I had said sounded clear and correct to me. This silence ended only when someone else changed the subject or rephrased what I had said.

The usual stereotyped personality of a scientist is that of an introspective person, hidden deep in his or her own thoughts. But science is not only individual theorizing and bench work – it also relies heavily on communication. This can pose problems. For a non-native speaker, writing a manuscript in English is a double challenge. But thankfully, in this context, he or she can spend all the time necessary perfecting the final product. Seminars and discussions are a little trickier, since they require dynamic and spontaneous conversation. This is never easy at first, and can lead to frustration and lack of confidence – however, with persistence on the part of the learner (and patience on the part of his or her colleagues) this type of language barrier can be overcome, making life in a globalized academic world that much easier.

Como já mencionei antes, acho que o SBlogI deve ser também um espaço para promover e reconhecer o trabalho de promissores cientistas brasileiros.

Bruno é um jovem cientista que se especializou no estudo do papel da sinalização dopaminérgica no neurodesenvolvimento, no comportamento e no tratamento psicofarmacológico e tem feito importantes contribuições na área de Neurociências.

Segue o link do CV lattes do Bruno para quem quiser saber mais sobre ele ou contactá-lo diretamente.

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3 comentários:

  1. Bernardo, muito legal o texto do Bruno. São os desafios de comunicar-se bem fora da sua lingua nativa, tão importante quanto ter boas idéias e ser bom na bancada. Boas reflexões pra quem está partindo para o sanduiche, pós-doc..!!!

  2. Eie Kelly,

    Mto tempo q não nos falamos, heim!? Tá tudo bem por ai!?

    Bom te ver.

  3. Caros, excelente iniciativa. Eu acho que temos sim que divulgar o trabalho de cientistas brasileiros aqui no SBlogI. Temos os finais de semana livre e ainda podemos colocar posts extras durante a semana. Boa idéia.


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