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English language: is it one of the bottlenecks that prevents projects from running smoothly?

Talking about the IT, big data, computer and data science communities, where teams are always a mix of Chinese, Indian, French (like me), British, American, Russian, German, Brazilian and other people - all speaking a distinct English dialect, with very subtle differences that can lead to confusion, misunderstanding, waste of time, or legal issues.

Oxford dictionary

Sometimes the issue is grammatical, sometimes just vocabulary. I give two examples below where my "English" (as a French native speaker) caused problems. Also, I am wondering how many times such issues are not even noticed, where everybody think they understand everybody while actually they don't, with negative incidence on projects. Am I exaggerating the issue? It looks to me like a small one, but then, maybe we only see the tip of the iceberg and the problem is more pervasive than we think? 


  • The word see has a different meaning in French and English. If you read a blog that I recently posted, many people thought that I thought that the image in my post was fake, when I did not. They thought that I believed in a conspiracy when I did not. It all boiled down to the word see, which has different interpretations in French and English. It took hours to figure out that this was the cause of the misunderstanding.
  • When I created the Data Science Foundation, all my American friends told me it looks like a non-profit, because of the word Foundation. Yet in French, Foundation does not imply non-profit, it has a very different meaning. Some people even told me that I could run in legal / tax issues because of using the word Foundation, although I was very clear about the fact that it is NOT a non-profit, (despite serving purposes typically served by non-profits).

Do you have examples of mis-communications impacting your projects, due to language barriers? 

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I am French, but I was also thinking that 'Fondation' and 'Foundation' had the same meaning and that of a non-profit organization. A case of the too much pervasive influence of English on French?

I had a look on the processed image of Earth and Moon taken from Cassini, but I did not figure out the differences of meaning between 'see' and 'voir'. For me, both are relevant for both naked eyes and enhanced vision.

But it is true that languages can put subtle barriers only to be left by more context clues.

@Herve: I checked the Larousse dictionary and "voir" (the translation for see in English) implies "eyes" in French: Voir: Percevoir quelqu'un, quelque chose par les yeux, les organes de la vue : Sans lunettes, il ne peut rien voir. Similarly, the French definition for fondation (same dictionary) does not involve non-profit.

The definition of voir contrasts with the one for see:

1. To perceive with the eye.
  • a. To apprehend as if with the eye.
  • b. To detect by means analogous to use of the eye: an electronic surveillance camera that saw the activity in the embassy yard.


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