language and learning

We have a new tester on my team. I recruit­ed her, and I talked her up to my team. They liked her, and I was excit­ed when it worked out. She’s not new to test­ing, but she’s new to mobile, and it’s a dif­fer­ent beast and a dif­fer­ent set of sys­tems from what she was doing before. We’re now four weeks in. I’m exhaust­ed.

I think the fault is mine. I expect­ed to train some­one like me, and not to talk a big game, but I did­n’t get tons of help when I start­ed, and I made it through okay. But I also expect­ed to be able to use my own lan­guage, with my own men­tal images and way of explain­ing things. That has­n’t worked so well. I’m being asked to show my work, like in math or law, for every­thing, and it takes so much effort to put things in terms that make sense to her rather than just to me. She’s a very visu­al learn­er, and though I make dia­grams in my head of things, they don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly trans­late well.

It’s got­ten me think­ing about how lan­guage is used to con­vey such com­plex ideas with­out many words. It’s like the Star Trek TNG episode Darmok, right? This soci­ety speaks entire­ly in metaphors, com­mu­ni­cat­ing deep ideas to each oth­er but mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for out­siders to come in. Carl and I have our short­hand, where one of us will men­tion a few words about a mem­o­ry or an emo­tion and the oth­er will instant­ly under­stand the mean­ing behind those words. We were at a con­fer­ence once, and we ate with a cou­ple who had been mar­ried for 50+ years and who were both deaf. Their trans­la­tor explained that she did­n’t know some of their signs, because deaf cou­ples will make up signs that apply just to them. I found that fas­ci­nat­ing, but it’s real­ly no dif­fer­ent from what we do with spo­ken word in our close rela­tion­ships.

I fear I’m just becom­ing lazy with lan­guage, and assum­ing that, if peo­ple don’t under­stand me, it’s on them and not me. I know that’s the wrong atti­tude, and I’m work­ing on it. But it’s just… exhaust­ing.