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mid-week Connect: 11/1/23 ~ Spelling across cultures

Greetings and Happy Midweek!

And it’s November already, so let’s enjoy another Word Connect today. We do this once each month to remind ourselves that words do totally connect us cross-culturally and in so many other ways.[*]

Instead though of exploring one word this month, I want to look with you at one characteristic of all words - their spelling. This topic fits right into the PROfile component of our Global SKILLs PROACTive Framework, since a word’s spelling is very much a part of its profile - how it looks and what that represents. [**].

First of all, let’s expand our spelling focus to include pictograms or logograms, which are written symbols that represent words instead of sounds, like Chinese characters and Arabic script. And let’s also acknowledge that, just as the meaning of a word is tightly woven with how a speaker uses it and a listener understands it, a word or logogram’s spelling expresses meaning as well as cultural clues chosen by the writer and conveying meaning to the reader.

As a field linguist, one of my roles for many years was to help develop alphabets or writing systems (in our region) using Arabic script. Many careful considerations and choices went into this process including how easily non-literate people of all ages could write the symbols being considered and how available the symbols were on keyboards or how easily they could be developed and distributed for use in technology. Also, for any given symbol, the cultural benefits or baggage it might carry were investigated and debated. For example, a benefit would be creating a new system based on a familiar existing system which will make the new one easier to learn. Baggage comes in by, for instance, choosing symbols used by one cultural group which might have negative connotations for a different group. All of this and much more has to be considered for each language being developed, before correct (or incorrect!) spelling becomes the norm. And it’s an exciting dynamic for sure, albeit a risky one at times.

Which brings me to what spelling has to do with cross-cultural communications and global community building in general. As we live and work across cultures, we need to be very aware of even small differences and nuances in the cultural contexts we encounter and interact with. Like with spelling and the choice of a letter here or a unique symbol there, we need to carefully weigh our attitudes, our behavior and even cultural artifacts we decide to use or not. Just one misspelled word, or one incident of inappropriate behavior, can have really dire consequences…but paying attention can be very rewarding!

How about for you ~ what’s one cross-cultural spelling moment you have experienced??

Share about that with a friend or note it here.

And check out the Global SKILLs LINKs below for more on spelling across cultures.

Thanks for being part of this Connect community.

Until next week,



~ an awesome effort to save endangered written languages, partially by highlighting the cultural beauty of their writing and spelling: (I have followed this Project for several years and recommend it to you as a great effort…not as a plug to donate - but it you feel so led, feel free!)


[*] Related Connects - previous words we’ve had fun exploring: Circumlocution (8/2/23), Hirsute / Hair (9/7/23), Laissez-Passer (6/7/23), Lizards (2/1/23), Mien (4/5/23), Remote (10/4/23), Slang (3/8/23), Tapestry (1/4/23) (use the blog link above to find these by date)

** Through my business Global SKILLs and several partner subsidiaries I offer unique cross-cultural consulting and training including: 3 Dimensional Dynamics Model: 1st dimension = HOME ; 2nd dimension = HOST ; 3rd dimension = HARBOR)

PROACTive Learning Strategies: PRO = PROfile (which we explored this week), PROcess, PROgram

ACT = Application, Collaboration and Transformation

~ contact me for more information on this model and these strategies and how you might use them in your current programming:

2023 ~ Celebrating 40+ years of working in

intercultural communications and global community building

“It takes a community to build a community”

Please Note: this is copyrighted content.

Please do not reproduce or share without my permission (

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