I met with my boss again at the end of this week to pick up our discussions where we left off, and I definitely feel much better about things. We went over, in detail, the events of the meeting, what they mean and where we are headed now. He explained to me that it was unprecedented and a difficult situation to discuss, so he opted to do it in Japanese to minimize the time and trouble it would be with the intent of involving me one-on-one afterward. When he explained everything to me, I understood where he was coming from, and we had a little shared laugh at my “Don’t do it again!” joke.

Aside from the meeting, I also discussed with him some of the other things I mentioned in my previous post. I appreciate the fact that he took about an hour and a half out of his time to talk with me about all these things, as he definitely helped to put my mind at ease.

One of the big things we discussed was the topic of the research group meetings. The Ultra-High Pressure Group is the largest group at the GRC, and as such the meeting commonly runs close to two hours. So far this semester, we have had 225 minutes worth of meeting, less than 4 minutes of which were conducted in English.

This, for me, is quite problematic. If it was only me, then I wouldn’t complain as the onus would be on me to learn the language and catch up (which in many ways it still is, and I am trying, slowly but surely). However, one of my main responsibilities as an educator at the GRC is preparing their students to be able to engage in scientific discussion in English for international meetings and the like.

Basically, I’m the English Police.

Looking at the participants in the meeting objectively, I don’t worry so much about myself and the post-docs who don’t speak Japanese, but I do worry about the students. There are three undergraduate students and two Master Course students in the group, all of whom are Japanese and have varying levels of English proficiency. English is NOT a requirement for their degree programs, so the meetings are held in Japanese largely for their benefit. However, the problem arises with the three Ph.D. students who regularly attend the meeting. First, English IS a requirement for them, which is one of the main reasons I run my seminar courses in the GRC for Doctor Course students. More importantly, however, is that all three of them are from China.

None of them speak Japanese.

This leaves us at an impasse of sorts, because no matter which language we have the meeting in, someone will be left confused. I would push for English, simply because it wouldn’t hurt for the students to be exposed to it more frequently, but it would be a major change from the way things have traditionally been done. Also, it seems that a couple students over the last year or so have actually dropped out of the GRC because it was too English-heavy, which is why I think the pendulum has swung so far back the other way in our meetings this semester. It’s a difficult line to walk, and unfortunately for now, we have no real solution other than to be aware of the problem and do what we can to accommodate everyone as best we can.

The other major topic was the issues with collaborations that I mentioned briefly in my previous post. As it turns out, it’s just a difference in the way things are done here that was causing the problem. All it requires is a specific approach. I am happy to say that after taking the advice from this discussion with the bossman, I now have three new active collaborations on my hands, and I couldn’t be happier (or busier) about it.

Overall, we discussed a lot of things, and I feel like I made a lot of headway in our discussions. I feel a lot better about things moving forward, and am learning more about the small, subtle differences between here and the U.S. in day-to-day operations and such. I’m doing my best to overcome my ignorance on such matters, and thankfully the people here are willing to work with me toward that end and others, which is all I could ever ask for.

Now, I need to get back to writing this proposal for a Topical Session in the International Symposium at the 2011 Japan Geoscience Union Meeting. I’m hoping to get some good multidisciplinary discussion going this year regarding the Earth’s core.

Good days ahead, even though they’ll be busy. Wish me luck.

-Matt

One Comment

  1. Adam says:

    ♪…We’re at an Impasse here, maybe we should compromise…♪

    Jonathon Coulton is always a good start to solving any problem.