Unpopular Opinion: Using Simple Language isn’t “Dumbing It Down”
Everyone knows the Enterprise crew is the best of the best. Captain Picard is the most highly-regarded officer in Starfleet.
However, when they encounter the Tamarians, no one — not even Jean-Luc Picard — can understand what they are saying. They speak in a way that uses words the Universal Translator can understand, but the sentences don’t make sense.
If you’re not a Star Trek nerd like I am and you didn’t understand a word of what I just said, I’ve made my point once again.
Ok, so how does this relate to the arts?
We often are afraid of “dumbing it down” when we use simple language to describe our organization’s events and programs. When a patron doesn’t understand all of our musicological or art historical jargon, it just means that they don’t speak our language.
Just because Captain Picard can’t immediately understand the Tamarian language, doesn’t mean that he isn’t smart.
What happens when we talk like normal people.
If you were trying to convince a friend/neighbor/colleague/person in line at the market to come to the opera, I am willing to bet that you would not regurgitate the descriptive copy that you’re using in your marketing campaign.
When we use simple, more descriptive language, it isn’t because we are assuming our audiences are not smart, it is a way of welcoming them. Using jargon will likely do the opposite and result in them being put off by terminology we expect them to understand.
When Captain Picard finally understands how their language is constructed — when he finally “gets it” — the joy is apparent. (“Sokath, his eyes uncovered!”)
Simple is best.
Using simple language that is easy for anyone to understand is the key to authentic communications that will strengthen engagement with new and current patrons.
And just because they don’t understand our language right now, that doesn’t mean that they won’t learn it over time as the relationship deepens. (Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel.)