Re: Cultural stereotyping and internationalization

Subject: Re: Cultural stereotyping and internationalization
From: Tim Merrick <TimM -at- ILE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 1997 10:16:24 -0600

Jane Bergen wrote:

> While Susan's info gleaned from an STC workshop was very interesting,
> I
> am meekly raising a flag here. We need to be careful of not making
> cultural stereotypes. It seems to me that this workshop may have done
> that by assuming Japanese are incapable/unwilling to tolerate
> documentation written in active, direct forms, or that Arabs are all
> sexist. I've lived in both Japan and the Middle East and have taught
> to students from both cultures. Believe me, stereotypes go phhhttt
> into
> the wind when one has direct experience.
> There is, of course, a possible *grain* of truth in these (Susan
> Brown's/workshop) statements, but I think it would be appropriate to
> proceed with caution in attempting to apply cultural issues when
> internationalizing tech writing. Related cultural issues for audiences
> include social class and education. You won't find the same "culture"
> among educated, young, urbanites as you might find among village
> farmers. And who uses the documents?
> Just some thoughts to consider.
And very insightful thoughts, Jane. I believe that there is a
substantial grain of truth in what Susan related from the STC workshop.
However, you are correct in pointing out the danger of drawing
restrictive conclusions about any culture, whether one has firsthand
experience or not. You must remember that your experiences in Japan and
the Middle East are filtered through your own American perceptions. This
is why it is vital to have software and documentation reviewed by
natives of the culture to which one is marketing. Better still is to
perform in-country reviews because cultures and languages are constantly

Tim Merrick
Senior Technical Writer
ILE Communications Group
timm -at- ile -dot- com

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