Taking audiences’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds into consideration when communicating at mcgill


A recent publication entitled Twelve tips for promoting learning during presentations in cross cultural settings provides “tips for educators to consider when planning and delivering formal presentations (e.g. lectures and workshops) in cross cultural settings” (Saiki, Snell, & Bhanji, 2017, p. 1). I’d like to highlight the relevance of these tips to communication at McGill—through classroom instruction, meeting presentations, Town Hall talks, etc.—in light of the cultural and linguistic diversity at this institution.

Noun_project_-_Presentation_with_screen.svg
By Hans Gerhard Meier (The Noun Project) [CC BY 3.0 us (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

International Student Services (ISS) report that McGill’s 2016-2017 student population comes from 147 different countries. Enrolment Services (ES) reports that as at Fall 2016, 53.9% of students reported a mother tongue other than English. These data suggest that there is cultural and linguistic diversity among students on campus.

This diversity extends to faculty members. For my doctoral research, which addresses, university instructors’ perceptions of their ability to teach in their second or other language (Samuel, 2017), I contacted McGill’s Academic Personnel Office (APO) in 2013 to find out what McGill faculty members’ first languages are. I learned that McGill does not collect such data; however, other relevant data are collected by the APO and the following information was provided to me:

  • Faculty members’ country of birth: 76 distinct countries including Canada
  • Citizenship at hire: 43 unique citizenships including Canada, excluding dual citizenships
  • Recruitment country: 30 distinct countries including Canada
  • Countries where the recruited did their PhDs: 26 distinct countries including Canada

comments-150276_640While McGill does not collect data on faculty members’ first languages, the federal government does. (Well, it used to. The Canadian government has actually ceased to systematically collect this information.) Per 2006 national data, 44% of university teachers reported mother tongues other than English, and nearly 25% of university teachers reported a mother tongue other than English or French (Canadian Association of University Teachers, 2012-2013, p. 35). These national data (which likely still apply and perhaps in even greater numbers), along with the McGill-specific data from the ISS, ES and the APO, strongly support the existence of a diversity of cultural and linguistic backgrounds at McGill. The Twelve tips for promoting learning during presentations in cross cultural settings are, therefore, a worthwhile read for McGill community members.

References

Canadian Association of University Teachers. (2013-2014). CAUT Almanac of post-secondary education in Canada. Ottawa. Retrieved from http://www.caut.ca/docs/default-source/almanac/almanac_2013-2014_print_finalE20A5E5CA0EA6529968D1CAF.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Saiki, T., Snell, L., & Bhanji, F. (2017). Twelve tips for promoting learning during presentations in cross cultural settings. Medical Teacher, 1-5. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0142159X.2017.1288860

Samuel, C. (2017). University instructors’ perceptions of their ability to teach in their second or other language: An exploratory study. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation.) McGill University, Montreal, QC.

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