Metaphors are great. They are a creative way to help people understand what you are trying to say. Metaphors are also great to help communicate what interdisciplinary studies is all about. Allen F. Repko wrote about a few different metaphors related to Interdisciplinary Studies in his book Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies but I will just focus on the metaphor of bilingualism.
Each discipline is like a language. It has its own vocabulary that has to be understood in order to communicate with other one another. When someone changes their discipline, it can be as challenging and time consuming as starting to learn a new foreign language. Therefore, bilingualism is like interdisciplinary studies because being bilingual means that someone can speak multiple languages and being in interdisciplinary studies means you work in multiple fields.
There are two drawbacks to this metaphor, though. The first one is that bilingual means that you have mastered two languages and insinuates that you can’t work in new disciplines without mastering them first, but this isn’t true. Interdisciplinary studies requires that you are competent in disciplines that apply to the situation so you can “access their insights and understand them” (Repko 44). The second and more important drawback is that people think that interdisciplinary work is just translating or sorting the vocabularies of different disciplines. The definition of interdisciplinary studies is, “the integration of insights from the relevant disciplines” (Repko 44). To be competent in interdisciplinary studies, you would have to be able to understand where conflicts come from using your knowledge from different disciplines.
This relates specifically to me because I actually want to learn multiple languages. I will be able to live through both aspects of this metaphor. Since I will be living through this metaphor throughout my schooling and work life, it will be a good reminder of what the purpose of interdisciplinary studies is.
Batram. Bilingual Keyboard. 2008. N.p.
Repko, A. F., Szostak, R. & Buchberger, M. P. (2014). Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.