The Value of Bilingualism and How to Communicate with a Non-technical Audience, with Dr. Pilar Archila – Ep #31

Are you bilingual – have you used that skill to assist you when speaking to a non-technical audience? Bilingualism is such a fascinating topic and a relevant one when it comes to science communication. NASA’s Dr. Pilar Archila joins Mark on this episode to talk about her experience as a bilingual Research Integrator and how she communicates with non-technical audiences.

Pilar is an International Space Station Research Integrator for NASA working out of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She has completed five research projects that have led to the publication of eight peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts (six as the first author). Pilar received her Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts in Psychology, and her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Houston.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [1:00] Mark welcomes his guest, Dr. Pilar Archila.
  • [3:00] Pilar explains how she got involved with her work at NASA.
  • [7:20] How bilingualism can help researchers with their work.
  • [15:45] What language does Pilar think in?
  • [20:30] How to communicate to a non-technical audience.
  • [22:30] What role should video play in presenting information to younger audiences?
  • [25:40] Pilar talks about her work on the “Results Team.”
  • [27:00] Interesting facts about the International Space Station (ISS).

Connect with Dr. Pilar Archila

Resources & People Mentioned

Why we need more bilingual researchers

As our nation continues to grow and change demographically, many are signalling the need to pour more time and resources into helping the workforce diversity its skill sets, especially in the area of language. As you look around your field of study, how many of your peers are bilingual? Most people are unaware of the value that bilingualism brings to the research field.

According to Pilar, bilingualism forces you to think about how you communicate and which words to use through a more acute filter than the average researcher. While many people assume that if you don’t learn another language from a young age that the boat has sailed – Pilar stresses that is not necessarily the case. Learning another language is no walk in the park, but if you do decide to pursue the endeavor, you’ll find your communication skills will only improve.

Tips for communicating to a non-technical audience.

As we’ve covered here before, all researchers should become more adept at communicating with diverse and non-technical audiences. The challenge with communicating to an audience is overcoming that initial surge of fear. We are hardwired to avoid exposure and painful circumstances – speaking in public puts those fears front and center.

A great way to move past your fear of public speaking is to embrace tips and best practices that other researchers have used to convey their message to non-technical audiences. Thankfully, Pilar was kind enough to share some of her helpful tips for presenting to a non-technical audience.

  1. Don’t belabor the point. Keep it concise and concrete.
  2. Try to include video in your presentation if possible and appropriate. Don’t force it.
  3. Does it pass the “Dinner table” test? Is it simple enough to convey over dinner?
  4. Save your most important information for the beginning and end of your presentation.

Which one of Pilar’s suggestions will you try? Go even further with Pilar’s unique perspective by listening to her full conversation with Mark on this episode of When Science Speaks.

Connect With Mark and When Science Speaks


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