September 13, 2006


Dave Pollard has an amazing post on meaning, knowledge, hierarchies and understanding. It would take me more than my late-night 20 second attention span to do it justice, but allow me to point out a key graphic and some quotes that put it in context:
Most other languages use the term comprehend (=grasp) instead, though most have a second word equivalent to the French entendre (=stretch toward) to convey a nuance of the learning process that English seems to ignore. The 'understanding' process in other languages, then, is not just a means for passing on instructions, but rather a means of coming together, a meeting of minds, for no necessary purpose than the sheer joy of communicating, sharing thoughts powerfully and effectively. It was of course an anglophone, GB Shaw, who said "The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred". To us anglophones, I guess, the only way we know if our communication was 'understood' is if it was effectively conveyed on and carried out by our subordinates. No wonder there's no precise English translation for joie de vivre!

So how do we 'understand'? By what process do we 'grasp' and 'stretch toward' each other to gain meaning and value from the information we convey? And what tools and devices can we employ to do so more effectively?

To answer these questions I went through a cross section of my library, and websites about learning, comprehension and communication, and compiled the following table of processes, results of those processes, and supporting tools that can be used to enhance understanding.

The table that follows, at a 30,000-foot level, is green, yellow and blue.

Now, don't get me wrong, this post is worth the time it takes to wade into it with a good dingy at the ready. But I've spent the greater part of my life editing, which includes cutting copy when extra words make extra work for the reader. With those skills in hand, I have taken the liberty of editing Dave's post down to some key takeaways:

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