Tag Archives: Social Sciences

Native Speakers

Think back to when you first learned English.  If English is your first language you probably can’t remember learning the rudiments of it.

english language

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Oh sure – when you got to school you learned to improve your grammar and spelling, but you could already speak the language pretty well.  You think in English too.  You’re a native speaker.

Compare that with any other languages you might speak.  I speak a few and it took me a long time to learn them.  OK, maybe not to learn a bunch of words and basic grammar, but a long time to learn which version of a word was appropriate and to develop an accent that sounded more natural for the language.  The hardest part is getting to the point where you can think in the language so you’re not constantly translating, in my case, from English.

Think about communicating with a non-native English speaker in English:  you can hear the unsure vocabulary and the accented speech.  Now think about your business.  Odds are if you’re using digital channels for communication, you’re not a native speaker.  You probably are translating many of the marketing or other business lessons you’ve learned into digital.  As with other languages, you might be speaking with an accent or using the wrong word.  In fact, unless you’re under the age of 15 or so you’re not what some folks call “digital native.”  That notion is having some big impacts and many more are on the way.

One example is the Google Chromebook.  These inexpensive computers are making their way into schools and kids are learning to live with cloud-based software.  No hard drives, no program updates, no ongoing software expense.  If you’re Microsoft that’s a killer.  There are other things digital natives do that are changing things over time.  Cord-cutting is one we’ve discussed quite often.  Traditional TV is based on programming and counter-programming to draw in the biggest number of eyeballs all at once so you can sell advertising against broad demographic targets.  What happens when the cord is cut and people are their own programmers?  They’re very comfortable doing this – how has the language they’re speaking changed your business?  How has the technology of programmatic media buying and advanced behavioral targeting changed the need to aggregate those broad demographics?  If you’re trying to get women 18-49 and the market demand is for people who have looked at a mommy-blog in the last week, aren’t you speaking a different language?

The point is this: digital natives speak technology just as you speak English.  They grew up with it and don’t know a world that existed before it.  If your business model isn’t taking that into account or if you’re not becoming fluent in that language, you’re heading for failure.  Maybe you need a great translator but do not assume that this is the equivalent of going to a place on vacation where they speak enough English for you to slide by for a little while.  The digital natives are restless – have you learned enough of their language to address them in an understandable manner?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media

Inquiring Minds

Since I try to write a little something each weekday, you might have noticed that I burn through a lot of topics. One thing I do is to clip articles that provoke a thought (although frankly I’d like it if you guys would send me more topic suggestions – hint hint).
A story I clipped back in December had to do with the release of a study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press about how much of a factual grasp we all have of basic facts with respect to current events. Let’s see if your reaction is the same as mine. Continue reading

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Filed under Helpful Hints

Today’s Intelligence Test

I was watching CNN this morning and on came a local cable break. It’s generally easy to tell which are the local breaks, either because the sponsors are clearly in-market or because the volume cranks itself up about 3x.
In any event, this was an ad for a seminar by the crooks fine folks that bring you the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books. As I understand it, this brief seminar is basically a sales pitch to get you sign up for their 3-day seminar for several hundred dollars which is, in turn, a sales pitch for their 3 week training for several thousands of dollars. And yet, this isn’t the intelligence test. Continue reading

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Filed under Reality checks


We all use them even though we shouldn’t. They’re the fast food of language use – cliches. While I could spend another few hundred words writing about people who fit that description, today I’m going to focus on the non-human kind.

Cliches have their uses. Native speakers of a language instantly understand your meaning when you use them. Of course, there are regional and generational gaps in that notion.  Even as some folks try to use them to make them selves clear they wind up becoming less clear by the use of cliches. People may understand your words but not your intent.

At first blush, you might say I’m off base but let’s give it the old college try (no, dummy – quit while you’re ahead). You want to sit tall in the saddle when you write and speak? Don’t gild the lily with cliches. You’ll cut the mustard with your readers who won’t feel as if they’ve bought a pig in a poke –  it will speak volumes about you, and hopefully they’ll go to school on your well-crafted writing.

Do you think something fishy is going on?  Something’s rotten in Denmark?  Do I speak with a forked toungue?  Don’t split hairs.  Get down to brass tacks, to the nitty gritty – let me know what you think.

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud

The Issues

Washington University...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I know I keep writing that this screed isn’t about politics but you have to admit that politics is front and center right now and will be for the next 5 weeks.  Then, hopefully, it will go back to being somewhat innocuous, sort of like the really ugly thing your kid made that you have to display but, as my Italian friends say “non troppo” – not too much.  Fortunately, the politics of late give us a number of business lessons (you knew I’d get there). Continue reading

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud