To All Presenters, Facilitators and Participants
Re: Asking for your cooperation
President, First Asia Focusing International Conference
Thank you for presenting, facilitating, participating at the First Asia Focusing International Conference (AFIC). As we have announced on our CONCEPT page, there is a challenge for us at AFIC. That is the language barrier. At AFIC we are not hiring professional translators. Instead of “leaving it up to the translators”, we value all presenters, facilitators and participants cooperating to build our conference together. We ask you for your understanding and for your cooperation.
As there are “moderators” in academic presentations, AFIC will have “facilitators” for each presentation. We believe that having facilitators will help us to get over the language barrier. In my experience of presenting overseas, particularly where both English and Japanese were not understood, I would sometimes worry if I am getting across to the audience. If I said “am I getting across to you?”, the translator would translate this. That is about all a translator can do in their position as a translator. However, if there is a facilitator, the facilitator can say something like “what you just said is not clear to the audience, can you say it in another way?” Or ask the audience directly “So and so, are you understanding this, you look puzzled”, or add in comments such as “this term the presenter just used has a historical context” and provide a sentence to explain the term, rather than simply finding a dictionary translation of the term. The facilitators’ presence will help the presenter.
Now, how would this translate into the realities of AFIC? In AFIC the presentation situation will vary greatly from presentation to presentation. Native languages of the presenters are different, the room size varies from a capacity of over a 100 to 15 maximum. A presenter may be inclined to give a lecture in a hall of 100 people, but the same topic will be more suitable for a friendly discussion if there are say, 10 participants in a small room. Giving a lecture style presentation and giving a workshop style presentation will also be greatly different. In short, each presentation needs individual attention, and there can be no single policy of what a facilitator is supposed to do.
However, one thing that can be said in all cases is: presentations are built together in cooperation with the presenter, facilitator and the participants. Presenters and facilitators are encouraged to consult each other in advance and discuss what kind of presentation they want to create. Participants are asked to play an active role at the presentation, rather than to listen passively. Here is an example of from a 4-day interest group that I facilitated in English. Chinese participants could not understand some terms that were discussed. A Japanese participant wrote in characters 「妄想」by which the Chinese participants understood. From this point on, Japanese and Chinese participants wrote characters on the board whenever they were not sure if they understood some English terms. In this way, I can envision certain situations where participants will cooperate with each other. “Everyone in the presentation room will cooperate to build each presentation” is a concept that we value at AFIC.