Episode 5: Language and Imagination: A Conversation with Andrés Pi Andreu

It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 5: Language and Imagination: A Conversation with Andrés Pi Andreu

Andrés quotes Einstein: “Logic will get you from A to B; imagination will take you everywhere.” What thoughts and reactions does this evoke from you?

In human history, imagination preceded language. What are the roles of language and imagination in a “metahuman” future?

As you listen to my lively conversation with Andrés Pi Andreu, I invite you to think about the roles of imagination and language in your life and the world. After you listen, let’s continue the conversation! Share your comments here, or join me on Twitter (@NorahLulicJones) or on LinkedIn.

The TRANSCRIPT follows the podcast.

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It’s About Language – Episode 5 – Language and Imagination: A Conversation with Andres Pi Andreu

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Episode 05 – Language and Imagination: A Conversation with Andrés Pi Andreu – Audiogram with Captions

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0:00:01.3 Andres Pi Andreu: If you are an educator, if you are a teacher, try to find a time and a space every day you can to let your students go free and be creative, to be bored a little bit and you can give it a theme or something in which they can create whatever without direction. Just say, create something that amaze me. And you will get surprised by what they do. And that way, when you give them free reigns of their imagination, you will get better relationship with them, more trust, not only based in that you’re a teacher but in a different way, in an intellectual way.

0:00:38.8 Norah Jones: Hi, I’m Norah Jones. Welcome to It’s About Language. This podcast connects language and culture to life, learning and hope. You’ll experience insightful conversations with creative leaders in the fields of education, business, arts and science. My guests shed light on the impact of language and culture on individuals in society as they share their stories and experiences. You’ll be informed and inspired as we explore how language and culture make us human and bring hope in the midst of a challenging world. Well, Andres, it’s a pleasure to welcome you again. Andres Pi Andreu, welcome to the podcast.

0:01:25.9 Andres Pi Andreu: Oh, thank you, Norah. It’s a pleasure to be here with you.

0:01:28.9 Norah Jones: Always enjoy talking to you. And you know, Andres, there are many things about imagination and energy that you bring. And I really have referred to you before as a fire hose of a man. I just love that you just have so much that you bring, so much energy and so many insights. So you had written to me and you used a quote that I think you said was from Einstein that logic will get you from A to B but…

0:02:00.0 Andres Pi Andreu: Yeah, imagination would get you everywhere. Yeah.

0:02:05.0 Norah Jones: And why does that appeal to you? Tell me about how that touched you.

0:02:09.6 Andres Pi Andreu: So well, from the beginning of time for man, imagination was their first language. Actually they didn’t talk, the first homo sapiens and they used their imagination to communicate. And that was through, for example, drawing pictures or using mimicking and all that power language they used to communicate. So basically I think imagination was the first basis of language. So and creativity, it’s close related with imagination because of course… Some people think it’s the same thing, it’s not but it’s close related. And the best way to use our imagination in nowadays world is of course combine it with language and then you get a way to communicate and to apprehend the world as it is. The thing about language acquisition right now, it’s that if you know only one language, you know nothing about your own language, you can’t know the patterns, you can’t know the grammar but if you don’t have any comparison to a different way to communicate in the world, because every language has not one but many cultures communicating the same language, like English language, Spanish or… How many cultures are Spanish speaking countries?

0:03:49.6 Andres Pi Andreu: But we don’t have a point of view to appreciate the extent in which your language allows you to communicate and to be affected in that and to use your imagination and your creativity to achieve things through your language if you don’t know another one. And that’s the thing I think is the biggest advantage of being bilingual or trilingual is that gives you that perspective, you get a better sense of your own language. So if you… The limits of your language is the limits of your world. So and also the acquisition of, for example, concepts that are… Abstract concepts and things like that, it’s necessary to have a better grasp of your own language. And if you have more than one language, it’s better for understanding of abstract concepts that in many occasions they are not formed by language of description if they’re only abstract. So a different language is always a different vision of life. And if you are multilingual… If you are bilingual or more, you have different visions of that. And that gives you… You are closer to the, let’s say, truth even if there is no total absolute truth because that depends on your circumstances and where you are. But you can never understand… I stand by this, one language until you understand at least two.

0:05:32.3 Norah Jones: That’s an interesting statement. You cannot understand one language unless you understand at least two, from some of the reflections that you’ve just spoken about, the perspective.

0:05:45.7 Andres Pi Andreu: Yeah, many people in the past, monolingual have done great work. The thing is that the world in which they lived, it was like that world was completely different than nowadays world. Now the circle of your friendships, I’m talking about a teenager or a middle schooler or your friends, your online friends, which is the new socialization is a mix between the digital and physical. They could be a friend that lives in Ireland, the other is a Korean. My kids, they have play friends, playmates on there for three, four different countries, Latin America too and they share a common language. And in this, for example, in their case, they speak Spanish and English the whole time. Some of them, they are bilingual, almost all of them are trilingual or bilingual. But at the end, the language they share, for example, in English or Spanish, it’s not made of grammar or structure. It’s simple, a different language, a language that has to do with the platform in which they interact. They already have preconceived terms and they… Then language and culture collide or are the same because what they really have is a new culture.

0:07:25.3 Andres Pi Andreu: And they are a classic example of a mix of what language and culture is. So for them to be imaginative and use their creativity, of course, they interact at that level and the world is going in that direction, okay? We live in a world in which we already are meta-humans. We are people that are closely attached and in connection with devices that make us a thousand times more, I would say super humans than 50 years ago.

0:08:02.2 Norah Jones: Interesting.

0:08:02.6 Andres Pi Andreu: So in that world, it’s only gonna get more complicated and more powerful. Humans are gonna be more powerful as individuals, not only because how they interact with each other but how they interact with knowledge. So that’s the reason language teaching or language education needs to be 100% related to culture and to acquire culture. That’s the reason this is… The cultural competence is so important now and in the future. They have the product, you have all the three piece and that’s very important when you are gonna make a curriculum development for a course… Language course nowadays, because we also have the scientific methods, which in education you name it like instructional design. So instructional design is not only that the scientific method that was invented in the last industrial revolution. And since we are close to the next one, so people need to see language and language acquisition and cultural acquisition as a necessity in the future. It’s not… If you want to be wise or you want to have more culture or whatever, that doesn’t have anything to do because the world is changing to a very interconnected world between people but also as people have individuals with a powerful… More powerful individuals. So culture, language and creativity go hand by hand.

0:09:52.5 Norah Jones: And you pulled it together beautifully there, culture, creativity and language going hand in hand. And then you brought in the idea of the metahuman and so forth. There’s so many cultures, your children, for example, are working within the culture of how they are interacting with the activities they do together, you said.

0:10:16.3 Andres Pi Andreu: Yes.

0:10:17.4 Norah Jones: How does education or how does literature… We look at you as an author, you do literature, you do educational texts, you do it in various languages and so forth. How do we help young people to learn and understand these cultures, bring in this imagination but also channel it in a way… Or do we need to channel it in order for them to be able to grow in this skill set that you think is needed so much for the future?

0:10:50.4 Andres Pi Andreu: Well, I think the first thing you need to do is you to get to understand their culture and how they interact. If you don’t have a grasp of it, you don’t have a chance. You need to… Because at the end when you have a culture that is so so closely related to the language that is used in the codes, you need to weigh it in. In their minds anything that is not… Has a path through that type of communication is boring. And that’s the world they find. The world they find is boring because they are used to a different and fast-paced communication. But the thing is that if you do that initial homework, good content is always gonna be good content. We need to be aware that good literature in any way, nonfiction, fiction, is going always to be of interest of teens and kids if it is good. It doesn’t matter if it was produced in the 13th century or right now. The important thing is that you make the effort of going there and seeing it not like, “Oh, these times are so bad. Our times were better.”

0:12:11.2 Andres Pi Andreu: They spend like 80% in their room and they don’t socialize. No, they socialize. Only the way they are doing it is different. And of course, it represents less physical activities and things like that. But at the same time, that’s the way humanity is going. We are replacing jobs with machines since the last 100 years. And we created the Internet, now it’s globalization. I will say like more than 40% of the world is already interconnected or 50 or more. And the thing is that you need to see that not as they have a worse life. It’s a different life. And humans, they are gonna mutate in a couple of years if we keep saying… Doing this like Isaac Asimov said or Arthur C. Clark. And you see now science fiction becoming reality. And that’s the way it is. So good content is what you need to expose your kids to. And also look for this type of products that use that entrance, that path to them through their language and to the way to do it and then expose them to that content.

0:13:27.7 Andres Pi Andreu: And this has been doing… By all the industries, performance, literature or movies they are changing, too. They are changing their language and also the platforms in which they show, because how kids change, how new generations are changing at a fast pace. Only because I think deeply that in our DNA inside is written to be meta-humans that is part of our DNA, be creative, is part of our DNA, create a technology, is part of our DNA to be technology dependent. We always has been. Only now there are more incredible advances in things. We rather write in the computer than in a time machine or by hand because it’s easier and you can do things faster. And people always want accuracy and quickness. And that’s what we are doing. We have been doing for the past 200 years trying to be quicker and more accurate. And of course, the more we are, the more we physically and biologically are gonna change and also our society will change that way. And I think at the same time do… The standard of the work right now is the same as after the invention of the printer or after the theory of relativity from Einstein. It’s a turbulent time because big knowledge jumps generate the worst in humans. It’s that way requires an amount of time to all settle down, look at the Middle Ages, the dark… It was called what, the grey years, the grey decades, centuries?

0:15:20.2 Norah Jones: The Dark Ages. Dark Ages. Yeah.

0:15:21.0 Andres Pi Andreu: The Dark Ages. We are in a special kind of a dark age now. And if you see the world how it is and you remember where… I remember one thing that Carl Sagan said and he was… There was a celebration of ignorance in the world going on. That’s only because people are paying more attention to non-qualified opinions that are funny or more shallow in detriment of real knowledge and scientific facts. And I can easily see it’s because when you have a lot of possibilities, when your work of your words don’t require proof, of course, idiocy is gonna win. [laughter] Yeah, I call it the dictatorship of imbecility because of that. [laughter] And we need to fight it with knowledge, with good content and also and most important is to get to know the real world right now. Because at the end and being consequential, it’s a fight.

0:16:33.3 Andres Pi Andreu: It’s a fight that’s going to take time because people nowadays, they have many… These half-truths and the fake news, all that is in defiance of real knowledge and experience. Laughing about knowledge is a sport nowadays and all this, the earth flatters, the flat earth believers… You have people and very well-known people that don’t believe that climate change exists. It is… And they have no proof but it doesn’t matter. So the only way to go there is to have a core, like in fitness. In fitness, the core is what gives you and drives you and makes you run long distance and be healthy. And we need to be healthy intellectually and that is language and culture and creativity. And what kids… Kids many times, they don’t know what to do every day or solve problems in this dichotomical world because the dichotomy is big. Now digital and physical, it’s a real… It’s like a beam. It’s split in two. And there are cords that bind both parts and those need to be as good as they can be. No?

0:18:01.5 Norah Jones: Yeah, you were talking about that real world and you pulled it in there with the real world includes the connecting that you’ve just talked about here again, the ability to see what’s real and to talk about it. And you started out by mentioning that to get… If I can state it this way, a deeper sense of the reality of the world requires people to have exposure to get to know other languages and other cultures. Is this related then to the work of imagination, the work of this new development of human, which kind of, I don’t know, not returns to the imagination that preceded language but complements what’s going on in the new reality?

0:18:53.0 Andres Pi Andreu: Yeah, of course. I mean, if you really think about the role of imagination and how you can make it part of education, then you’ll see it’s even more important. We tend to… The education in the Western world, for example, 99% is that you have a military structure, no? You have a certain amount of time from different classes and you try to adapt it to the medium kid. I mean, it’s a cookie cutter system in which some of them do good and others do really bad or do normal. In many occasions, it doesn’t represent the real intelligence or the creativity of each kid. We have kids and people learn by seeing, by hearing, by talking and also by writing, therefore. And of course, you can, for example, see in our education, in our country, writing has gone down almost to… I mean, way less than before. Before, we needed to write the lessons when the teacher was talking, remember?

0:20:07.1 Norah Jones: Yes, I do.

0:20:09.0 Andres Pi Andreu: We wrote it down. So that was a way to get knowledge and to have it imprinted in your brain. Now we don’t have that. I mean, the less the teachers teach, the more they use things that are already pre-done, the less everybody is going to have a chance to acquire that knowledge. So we need to supply that with different strategies because we are not going back to write things by hand. We are going forward. So we need to plan for that forward. And that going forward is to deal with that problem with creativity and to give time for them to be imaginative and to create things. And then you see all this, Finland and Norway, all these systems that they give them like a lot of space to be creative. And that is because they are compensating, because it’s a different world.

0:21:06.2 Norah Jones: And the thing is, as an author you do a tremendous amount of writing. You’re writing all the time. You’re always thinking of new concepts. You’re always publishing something new. Talk about that a little bit, about the relationship of your writing to your commitment to imagination. But then also, please, Andres, turn it to what happens or what you would like to see happen or what you’re helping to have happen in the schools themselves to encourage the creativity and the creation of young people.

0:21:43.7 Andres Pi Andreu: Okay. So basically, 60% of the time I write literature, I mean my work and the other 40%, I do literature for education or educational stuff or I do also curriculum development, ideas on how to build a program, things like that, like more like scientific research for education. But when I write, I mean, in both of them, I always pick themes that I think they’re going to be of interest and also that are controversial. I think there are not themes in literature, it’s the way you treat them. You can teach kids about anything. I mean, all this politically correct view of the world, you are like showing them a world that doesn’t exist, an adult created one in which they don’t have the tools to… If they had that problem in their lives, how to deal with it. So if you hide the bad stuff, they’re never going to see that coming, so they’re not making… It’s a disservice. That’s the reason I treat a lot of things in like hatred, like racism, like xenophobia, like bullying and all the harsh stuff, death in my stories. And it’s not that there are no morals in that story.

0:23:19.0 Andres Pi Andreu: It’s simply I want them to have fun and at the same time see how they… For example, many characters, they solve their problems in a very creative way. And I write not only for the kids. I like from five year olds, four year olds to teenagers and also for adults. And I’m almost always have this principle, which is the habit of reading comes from your house, from your family. It is not built in the school. In the school you have assignments but it’s not going to happen. It’s at home. And when I write a book for like very small children until they are teenagers, I’m thinking the adult that maybe is reading them that, the adult that introduced that book to the teenager, which is the greatest influence. For example, if I tell my son I like some book, he will read it. We have that connection because he knows that almost always it will be something of interest. Of course we had… Before I create the habit of reading him and my two sons, they read a lot. As a matter of fact, my fourth grader has a level of seventh grade in reading.

0:24:37.6 Norah Jones: Wow.

0:24:37.7 Andres Pi Andreu: Can you imagine that?

0:24:39.5 Norah Jones: Yeah. He’s reading a lot. They’re reading a lot.

0:24:43.1 Andres Pi Andreu: He’s over the charts. And my other son is the same. They were very, very good in reading. I mean, they had always five things since first grade to high school. And that’s remarkable only because they read a lot and they had opinions. When you read a lot you have more creativity because you have more points of reference. I mean, you have a way to solve creatively your problems because maybe you remember a character that was in a certain situation and how it was. So reading is only a measure and a really good measure of reality and life because you’re exposed to different realities from different cultures and to different characters, which gives you a very… A more deep grasp of the world that surrounds you and gives you also… You are more cosmopolitan. No, cosmopolitan? Can you say that?

0:25:41.5 Norah Jones: Yes.

0:25:42.4 Andres Pi Andreu: So that’s the most important part. And that’s the reason I write, thinking in that. It’s not that I do it on purpose, it comes out that way. And in relationship with our educational system I think in a solution that using what we have, we will get like a thousand times better results. And it’s simple. It’s creating centers where you can find the vocation of students at an early age. If you manage to do that, then everything is going to make more sense to them. Why I’m learning this? It’s the very… I mean, reiterative questions from students around, why do I need to do… I’m not going to use this ever in my life. Every day for ages and ages and in college too. But if you have a vocation and the moment you see something, you’re going to relate that to your vocation and you know how you’re going to use it more or less. So it gives you a huge advantage in how to manage that knowledge that you’re acquiring. And I will say in a medium place, not in a long way, in a medium way, it will change the outcome of what kind of education or what kind of persons we have after school. And the principle is called the BCOM Project that I’ve been working on it for the past five years and is like exposing kids to science and arts in a safe environment in which they have all the time to go from one to another.

0:27:35.3 Andres Pi Andreu: You know how much time and money you spend in… For example, one of your kids goes to violin and then to programming? You need to pay for both. You don’t have much time for both. I mean, some kids go to three or four. No? Imagine a center where you go and there are like circles of interest, like eight, nine, they’re all relating in the same environment and your kid can float from one to another. And they make projects together by a project management center that your kid also can learn project management. Your kids also can learn financial education, which is so important. Nobody gives it in elementary. Your kid is in an environment in which bullying is not tolerated and in which they have a good nutrition. So if you manage that in each city, for example, in each neighborhood or whatever, it is a huge more percentage of success in finding the vocation of those students, of those kids or even teenagers, because they are going to be in contact with different sciences, different arts and also a project management center and an integration center, which will be the connection between that center and the community.

0:28:53.5 Andres Pi Andreu: So you will know, for example, that in your community they have problems, I don’t know, with water management and then you say, what kind of problem? They are not financing. Then you orchestrate a campaign for donations for the new… I only gave like an example. Maybe it’s not the best one. And then you identify a problem and then through your integration, you say to your project management center, “Hey, we need to help doing this.” And maybe we need to do a campaign, about, I don’t know, a college or a little art school that needs our support. Then you take the people from marketing and campaigns, the circle of interest, we take the people from literature or creative writing and we take the programmers and everything is put together and the music people and we do by ourselves a campaign or a commercial. So those kids could be in any of this circles of interest. They’re going to know how you project management for that and they will know how idea is born and how it turns into reality.

0:30:18.8 Norah Jones: Then Andres there’s so many things when you were writing about some of the biographical stuff that you shared, you were talking about creating social and educational projects to spread well-being in the community. And here you’ve just put together the whole experience of using imagination, language and creativity and this vision of students grasping what they are looking for in their lives to share a very complete picture. Turning for a moment, if you would, to our listeners of this podcast, specifically, what would you recommend they do? Ask that they do, ask that they think about. Do you have something for them that you’d invite them to do?

0:31:13.3 Andres Pi Andreu: Yeah. Yeah. No I would say that if you are an educator, if you are a teacher, try to find a time and a space every day you can, to let your students go free and be creative, to be bored a little bit. And you can give it a theme or something but in which they can create whatever without direction. Just say, create something that amaze me. And you will get surprised by what they do. And that way, when you give them free reigns of their imagination, you will get, I think, a better relationship with them, more trust, not only based in that you’re a teacher but in a different way, in an intellectual way. So a path to your own intellectuality is to be creative and to use it freely. And basically give them time, give them a space in which they can do literally what they imagine.

0:32:21.5 Norah Jones: I love the idea of planning boredom in. That was brilliantly said. I think that that should go into every lesson plan, at least a couple of times a week. Plan boredom here.

0:32:33.6 Andres Pi Andreu: Exactly. [laughter]

0:32:36.7 Norah Jones: In order to be able to tap into the creativity. Andres you have so many powerful directions that you take people in, in your literature, in your educational texts, in your community work. And I’m really appreciative that you’ve shared a lot of links to not only yourself but also to the work that you’ve done and some of the things that you recommend people take a look at. Thank you for sharing that. I’ve put it up on my website, fluencyonline.com so that people can access that and follow some of those pathways and see what you are up to but also begin to create what they’re up to. So thank you for that. So what’s your next project?

0:33:23.8 Andres Pi Andreu: Well, my next project… Well I’m writing two novels and a couple of picture books with them. And also I have an educational project I’m developing. In the BCOM project, I have a presentation next year to a big charitable organization. And next time we can talk about it. Now I can’t talk about that because of… But yeah, those are my next projects.

0:33:53.8 Norah Jones: Great. Well, we’ll look forward to then when you can reveal that future project, we’ll indeed get you back and let you tell us all about it. Thank you so much for being with me today. I really appreciate our conversation.

0:34:06.9 Andres Pi Andreu: Thank you for having me, Norah. It’s an honor and it’s glad to be able to talk to friends about all these themes.

0:34:13.4 Norah Jones: It is fun, isn’t it? And let’s go change that world. Thanks again, Andres. Take care now.

0:34:19.7 Andres Pi Andreu: Thank you, Norah. Bye.

0:34:22.0 Norah Jones: Bye bye. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you enjoyed it, please share it with your friends, family and colleagues. Let’s continue the conversation. Be sure to check out my website, fluencyonline.com to learn more about our guests and to check out the resources and information they’ve shared with us there. I have other ideas, resources and opportunities there for you too. Again, thanks so much for listening and until next time.

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