Flavia Viana and Ana Tales are postdoctoral researchers who left Portugal for their studies or research. They both volunteer with Native Scientist, a non-profit organization based in London, which runs science-communication workshops for children across Europe.
The organization aims to inspire children to pursue higher education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by conducting workshops in their heritage language. Viana has lived in Denmark, Germany and France and is now in Northern Ireland. Tales has been living in Germany for over a decade.
Flavia Viana: Finding Home Away From Home
In March 2015, I left Denmark, where I did a PhD at Aarhus University to join my partner in Paris. A few months ago, I decided to try my luck as a postdoctoral researcher. While looking for a job, I came across an advertisement asking Portuguese-speaking scientists to participate in science-outreach activities conducted by Native Scientists.
I had heard about the organization and its activities in the United Kingdom, but did not know that it was expanding into other countries. In a new house in Paris, it felt like the perfect time: I really needed something to help me connect with the people in the city and reignite my passion for research. I applied, and I got a chance to give a workshop a few days after I moved to Paris.
After collecting the materials and samples and getting the drawings and materials ready for my first workshop, I realized that it was going to be a challenge. I have spent almost all of my professional life talking about science in English, and now I had to explain it to a group of young children in Portuguese, some of whom were native speakers.
When the day of the workshop arrived, I met other scientists who were going to participate, and we went to a class where the students of formed-12 years formed groups. We all joined a group. I noticed that some students struggled with the Portuguese, and sympathized with them, explaining how I was having a hard time with the French, as I was new to the city and still learning the language.
As the session progressed, the students asked about my move in India and abroad. When I told him that lab teams are usually fairly international, essentially, he asked me, “How is it possible to communicate with your own colleagues?” “We all use a common language, English, which most of us had to learn,” I replied.
It is challenging for students to communicate science in any language. Concepts should be different, simple, simple and explained to the general public from talking about results and experiments with their peers. Communicating in a language that is not English is a language of science adds to this challenge because some words are not commonly used in other languages or have no direct translation.
This becomes an even greater challenge if the disciples only begin to learn the language of their heritage, and often demand a creative approach to explain complex scientific ideas in an easy and simple way to understand what they know Huh. After that first workshop in Paris, I really felt like I’m not done with an academician, or at least, not yet. Fortunately, a few days before the workshop, I was invited for an interview for the postdoc position.
For me, outreach is an important part of what we do as scientists, and a way to reignite a love for science. But doing it in my native language gave me more than this.
During my three years in Paris, I continued to participate in scientific activities for natives – an experience that brought me closer to home, my culture, my heritage and the challenges facing migrant communities.
It also allowed me to connect with fellow scientists who faced similar challenges from being expatriates and scientists. Above all, I feel that I have become a better scientist and communicator. The joy and curiosity of students will never cease to amaze me as they discover new things.
Ana Tales: Sharing my curiosity with others
Every year, visitors of all ages and backgrounds come to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany, where I work. They are eager to learn about science, but also where we have come from and what we are doing in such a small village in northern Germany.
I relive the opportunity to practice my German, and it is satisfying to share the institution’s curiosities and ideas with the general public. However, despite living in Germany for over a decade, I still struggle occasionally to express myself fluently, and I often feel that I am more conversational than my German allows and Want to communicate.