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Monday, February 13, 2012

Ce Que Nous Avons Ici, c'est un Manque de Communication

I spent the last week in Paris.  The entire week presented interesting challenges in communication.   I read French much better than I speak it (As far as my French accent goes, I believe that the French do have a word for it, but I'm also pretty sure that it is unprintable).  My wife has this uncanny ability to hold entire conversations with barely a few words of French (also Spanish), an incredible expressive face, combined with a willing confidence to make the attempt without being embarrassed of her lack of skills.  This is something that my eldest daughter has also learned.

So, I was quite able to enjoy a few days after the IHE meetings in Paris with my family, who I had brought with me.  We ate French food, got around on the Metro and RER, and saw many sights.  While I was in meetings earlier in the week, my family spent time with my mother and her boyfriend, who had decided to join us in Paris.

Over the course of the week, I had several different kinds of encounters where communication was paramount.  On Friday, after visiting the Musée d'Orsay we headed to the Metro to return to our hotel.  A elderly woman passed out and rolled down half a flight of stairs as we watched in horror a few people behind her.  Two people stopped to help her.  I ran into the Metro station and notified the attendant at the information desk.  My miserable French expression of "D'Urgence!" didn't help, but she understood me when I explained in English that a women fell on the stairs and called the French equivalent of 911.  My mother, eldest daughter and wife had also sped off in three other directions and also ensured help would arrive, if with some difficulty.  While none of us spoke French, we communicated.  It was a proud moment for me.

On the plane back to the US, one of the stewardesses had no French (she couldn't even say "Je ne parle pas France"), and was very challenged by two young boys who were clearly gaming her inability to speak any French (They clearly knew some English, as later they spent a bit of time exchanging French and English expressions with my two daughters sitting close by).  I was appalled at her behavior.  She had taken the approach that if you spoke English simply, slowly and loud enough, that it would eventually get through.  Definitely a failure to communicate.

But by far the most interesting example of good communication was a DMP CDA Implementation guide that one of the developers at the IHE Meeting was showing me.  I could easily use it to create a correct implementation of the DMP specifications.  The guide was still in draft form, but was quite readable.  I said to her, "That's not French, that's CDA!  It's perfect!"  As I mentioned, the guide is still in draft form, but I'll be notified when it is published, and will post a link here. It's so clearly written that even a US developer would be generate conforming CDA documents.


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