Don’t make me feel stupid: the language of museum panels

This past week, I stumbled upon an old article from Art News, which discussed how museums around the world are re-writing museum interpretive panels (the text that tells you about an object or a site) to better communicate with visitors.  The article is entitled, “Your Labels Make Me Feel Stupid.”  This really struck a chord with me after an encounter with a fellow traveller in Spain.

We were at a Roman site just south of Barcelona when a gentleman, who heard me speaking English to my husband, asked if I would help him with the English panels describing

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How to communicate in English for Americans and Brits

In a recent one-to-one lesson, a student (we’ll call him Klaus) confided in me that conference calls are the thing he hates most about his job.  But only certain conference calls.  “I’m fine if I’m on a call with colleagues from Spain or the Netherlands.  But when I hear that it’s the London office on the phone, I panic.”

Why?  Because he can’t understand them.

They speak too fast.  They tell jokes no one understands.  They use idioms.  They mumble.

Now, Klaus isn’t a beginner.  Grammatically, he is a high B1 (intermediate).  Conversationally, he’s a B2 (upper intermediate).  That means … Read the rest