September 11th and 12th found me sitting in a breathtakingly gorgeous room in St. Gallen, Switzerland attending a legal conference the presentations of which were in two languages which were both foreign to me a mere 6 years ago.
Yep. Same girl that wrote that book you all love. Now, I’m attending legal conferences. Go figure.
Regardless of my green status, I held my own.
Well, maybe not on day one. My brain didn’t trust itself. I translated everything that was said into English and wrote my notes in English, as well. I left with chicken scratch about most of the presentations (thankfully not the one given by my new professor, who was amazing and thankfully did not speak at the speed of a Texas bullet) and a gigantic headache.
I wasn’t sure if there was a point in attending day two. At three o’clock that morning, it hit me – let go. Listen to the words and write your notes in German.
I tried it and it worked. Thank God because one of the presentations yesterday changed the way I will approach my thesis (if it gets approved). Thanks to the Swiss guy who sounds like he’s from Luzern, but is actually from Solothurn/Cambridge, Mass…go mighty Crimson…moving on.
Swiss people do something by nature that continues to astonish me. They easily flow from one language to another. They can, and do, seemingly seamlessly answer a question posed in French with an answer formulated in German (and vis versa). Above that rests a familiarity and comfort with English that blows my mind given how complex this language is (for example, I can say, “The money I had had had had little worth in the end,” and this sentence is a perfectly acceptable sentence utilizing double past perfect. It’s also a perfectly acceptable reason to drink Vodka shots. Moving on…). Anyway, the ease of linguistics was my first lesson this weekend: keep my languages (specifically words and thoughts) flexible.
The second lesson was something I’ve seen in both conferences this summer (the other being the remarkable conference on Internet Jurisdiction, hosted by the University of Geneva in June). The Swiss rarely dig their heels in and, instead, will find a way to say “perhaps, I’m not sure, it’s possible that, well have you considered” in the most flowery way and end it with “you might be wrong?” We all will be at one point and time! Second lesson: keep my “feet” nimble and ready to move. Not easy for a Texas girl, no matter how liberal she has always been.
What I’m learning about these two particular “Swiss” approaches is how crucial both are to moving forward. We can no longer (especially in the area of law in the digital age) continue to sit still, review data, and “write legislation.” The majority of legislation in this field, for the foreseeable future, has the lifespan of a fruit fly. It needs almost constant reworking, rewording, amending, reviewing, re-creating, etc. The moment after it is accepted as law and applied, chances are good it will already be obsolete or facing obscurity. Let me put it this way for all you Torah/Bible folks out there:
Each of us owns a tablet, but the age of stone tablets is over.
Don’t dig my heels in. Stay agile. It’s common for me to be dewy-eyed and optimistic, but I remain optimistic about my thesis and what it might add to the landscape. I learned many things this weekend that will help me a great deal.
This country continues to teach me life lessons.