On Learning Languages (a DH Fellowship Report)

empty lab office

by Ian Marino

 “My IEG fellowship experience can be summed up as a great place to learn languages.”

Emphasizing “languages” in the title of my digital humanities fellowship report may seem unusual. Yet, it has been the word resonating most during my 8-month stay in Mainz. My IEG fellowship experience can be summed up as a great place to learn languages. Let me explain.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, language is “a system of communication used by people in a particular country.” Coming from São Paulo, Brazil, living in Germany introduced me to new communication experiences. German and diverse English accents from colleagues created a unique soundscape. Working with Portuguese, Spanish, and French sources, attending (great) conferences in various cities – Budapest, Belfast, Berlin, Lisbon – exposed me to an array of languages and accents I had never encountered before.

But language goes beyond sounds and characters. It encompasses more. Ordering coffee in German and conversing in English with colleagues wasn’t enough. Germany opened a world of interconnected academic institutions-research colloquiums, DH meetings, international conferences, and academic journals – each with its own specific language. How do you frame your work to be understood in these spaces? How do you navigate the unspoken rules and influences? There was much to learn.

Another definition of language from the Cambridge Dictionary is “a system of symbols and rules for writing instructions for computers.” Working with memory projects and metadata, I knew about the importance of normalized metadata for computers – which I could improve during my stay at the IEG. But the language experience went beyond that. My mentor, Dr. Demi Vasques, patiently introduced me to programming. Additionally, the “Chat GPT Storm” accelerated the public debate regarding AI, requiring a deeper and critical understanding of its specific language.

Lastly, another layer of language emerged during my final weeks – the sensitive memories of the pandemic, which are my core sources. As a historian, dealing with traumatic historical wounds and not objectifying or victimizing those affected poses a challenge. It calls for a new ethical framework and appropriate language. I, like other historians, am still learning this language.

I express deep appreciation for my DH fellowship at IEG. It provided a fantastic environment to immerse myself in these diverse languages. Conversations with colleagues made English almost natural, and I improved my work-in-progress German. Friends helped me refine my writing skills. Conferences, colloquiums, and the DH Lab meetings taught me to navigate the institutions of this new research world. And who knows if AI tools acted as an assistant writer for this post itself?

As I finish this report in a now empty office, melancholy mixes with satisfaction. I have learned many languages at IEG, and probably more await me on my journey. For now, I can only extend a heartfelt thank you to all who made this experience so remarkable.

Aquele abraço.


Cite this article as: Ian Marino, “On Learning Languages (a DH Fellowship Report),” in Digital Humanities Lab, 29/06/2023, https://dhlab.hypotheses.org/?p=3814.

Featured image: photo by Ian Marino, all rights reserved.



Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
dhlabeditor (2023, 30. Juni). On Learning Languages (a DH Fellowship Report). Digital Humanities Lab. Abgerufen am 17. April 2024, von https://doi.org/10.58079/nl6o

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