Failing to plan is planning to fail – especially where a foreign language is involved

This blog was originally published in January 2012

I have always tried to follow the philosophy ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ but that saying has deeper resonance when dealing with a foreign language.  I am currently leading a number of Problem Oriented Policing projects here in Abu Dhabi.  I have been teaching here for the Community Policing and Police Science Institute since April of last year. The courses are mainly delivered through the use of PowerPoint whIch consist of English and Arabic translation on the same slides.  

My normal routine is to check the slide deck before I leave the UK.  When I arrive at the training venue, usually a hotel, I will head straight to the conference room and test out the IT.  Do the plugs work?  Does my netbook communicate with the projector?  Is the screen in the right place?  Do the speakers work?  Once happy I can settle down and get my thoughts together for the following day.

However, I recently switched from a Windows based machine to an Apple MacBook Pro. I love this new machine and I have been getting to grips with the system differences in preparation for teaching this time around.  Due to this course being project based there is a limited number of slides required and I was able to copy and paste them from existing slide decks with a minimum of fuss.  

Another variable this time around was that I was teaching at a hotel that I have not been to before.  The Holiday Inn in Abu Dhabi is a very nice hotel with good facilities.  Instead of linking to a projector the Apple is connected to a large TV screen. There should not be a problem – or so I thought.

The afternoon before I started I went to the conference room and tried the IT and hit a number of problems.  First the TV did not work properly.  That is not my problem and the tech guys worked at correcting this using my MacBook and a number of Windows based machines.  After an hour we were good to go with their Lap tops and my iPad all working correctly.  But I could not get my Mac Book to connect.  Time to phone a friend.  In order to connect to the TV  AV connection the iPad needs a small adapter.  I thought that this adapter would be the same for the MacBook – WRONG.  The McBook needs a different adapter.  Fortunately I was able to borrow one, but as I would need one anyway I headed to Mushriff Mall and bought one in my favourite shop ‘Lulu’s’.  I nipped back to the hotel, connected up and hey presto – all working.  So I went to bed happy ready for the next morning.

Proud of my results, I connected everything up the next day and waited for the students to arrive. I ran through the first of my slides with my translator Adli only for him to declare that the Arabic was wrong.  This was somewhat baffling as I had not altered the Arabic in the slides.  I had been warned that Apple does something odd to the translation, but to my untrained eye it all looked fine.  It seems that the Apple software separates out the letters, so that instead of the letters running into each other they stand alone and do not make any sense.  Time to panic – a little.

The hotel had a lap top that they said I could borrow so I just had to copy all of the files and the videos that I use onto a memory stick, connect everything up, test it and try to look unflustered in front of two Police majors and a professor.  Fortunately all worked well and I am waiting to find out why this is such a problem.  The whole point of buying the MacBook was so that I did not have to carry two lap tops around. The IT guy at the Institute, Fuad, sorted the problem through the use of the Calibri font.  I am not sure what he did but it sems to have worked.  I will have to check with Adli tomorrow.

But it was a lesson learned and no one was any the wiser, but it reinforces the principle that planning and preparation are essential.  It will not happen again – Inshallah

Published by thebluelocust

Former police superintendent. Current university lecturer, police trainer and Director of Blue Locust Network Ltd

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