Sunday, January 20, 2013

Digging for Literacy

The Oxford dictionary defines literacy as the ability to read and write.  However, the idea in actuality is the ability to see relationships, patterns, and connections to make meaning of the world.  During the past week, several colleagues and I went out to a French restaurant on a "literacy dig" to observe the presence of literacy in a public restaurant.  Just to be on the safe side, the name of the restaurant and its location will not be mentioned.

They physical layout of the restaurant was simple and orderly with a dark, yet warm atmosphere.  The walls were plain with few decorations.  The only text that could be found in the restaurant were the "M" and "W" labels on the bathroom doors, the drink menu listed on a chalkboard at the bar, two small wall decorations at the front of the store, and the menus.

Upon entering the restaurant, the customer is greeted, directed to an available table, and provided menus.  A member of the wait staff introduces him/herself in a professional manner and answers any questions about items on the food and drinks menu.  Communication between the customer and the wait staff is the dominant form of literacy observed.  "Restaurant language" such as gluten-free and vegetarian options are commonly used.  In addition, many of the dishes on the menu have French names and correct pronunciation is also expected of the wait staff.  

For this particular setting, I suppose the important thing to note is the differences in conversation between customers with customers, customers with employees, and employees with employees.  There are differences in the language and tone used to convey meaning for each situation.  Just as this was observed in the restaurant, the world and environment around us operates in the same way.  

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