In my Master thesis, I used Critical Discourse Analysis methods to analyse official and social discourses on individual motives for learning Luxembourgish. Now for the PhD project, I intend to go beyond D/discourses and grasp the reality of learning through usage. The Residential Week was to be for me, a great opportunity to discuss key concepts, methods and issues in line with researches on multilingualism.
We first had to locate ourselves within different strands of research on multilingualism, namely methods for data collection, analysis and presentation of results. Marilyn Martin-Jones presented an interesting lecture on the history of researches on multilingualism from the three broad traditions in sociolinguistic research on multilingualism to the on-going strands in linguistic ethnography. As a young researcher, I did not find where to situate myself in the model she presented with a researcher being either “structural/functional, interpretative or critical”.
A talk by Adrian Blackledge on “Researching discourse about multilingualism and language ideological debates” addressed CDA as both a theory and a method. One key feature in the theory of CDA is the analysis of power in the world; i.e. the role of language in constructing relations of power. As a method, CDA addresses the link between texts, namely “intertextuality”, “interdiscusivity” and “recontextualisation”. Being familiar with CDA and DA, I wanted to further discuss these tools as we had the opportunity to analyse a BBC news segment on immigration and English-learning in the UK. Thus, I would use discourse strategies to discuss the power of verbal and non-verbal “texts” by BBC as an “action” sustaining their opinion that there is a “lost in translation”. Blommaert (2005: 2) defines Discourse as “language-in-action”; i.e. language makes things to happen. So, what was the effect/s of the BBC’s discourses?
We were taught on how to design a research project on multilingualism. Adrian Blackledge presented “overlapping terms” in multilingual research methods, namely “field notes, diaries, journals, headnotes, scratch notes, texts and running log”. Among other topics, we discussed language policies following the ethnography approach and the combination of ethnographic with critical works in classroom. Hence, layers of policy-making were discussed as explicit ways of translating policies into practices. The goal of language policy ethnography was to mind the gap between ideological and implementation spaces.
Arvind Bhatt, Adrian Blackledge, Angela Creese and Jaspreet Takhi presented a group discussion on their different works on Multilingualism in Complementary Schools in the UK as “team ethnography”. In order to situate team ethnography in research, they quote Bourdieu (2000: 122) who says that “the collective work of critical reflexivity should enable scientific reason to control itself ever more closely, in and through conflictual cooperation”. In this sense, in the “voices” of the researchers, one could analyse the “perspectives of teachers, parents and students” in complementary Turkish, Chinese, Bengali and Gujarati schools and their achievements. Team ethnography was presented as critics toward individual ethnography of communication (challenging the validity of one truth), conflicting perspectives, mitigating voices and discourses in the team. It is intended to make a difference in ethnographic research as different voices and discourses are mitigated and confronted. Yet, I would have liked to know to which extent the researcher’s “voice” is valid. For example, if a researcher discusses students being “forced” and showing “a certain resistance” for learning in these schools, can evidences of these feelings of force and resistance be retraced back either in the participants’ diaries or interviews?
Other group activities consisted on analysing field notes and a recorded CLIL classroom interaction. We also analysed some “silly questions” used as strategies for transformative pedagogy in the UK and vignettes from Skilton-Sylvester’s 2003 paper. A group activity on an audio-recorded interaction between researchers of the MOSAIC Centre discussing their different data and perspectives on Multilingualism in Complementary Schools in the UK was the occasion, for me, to question the validity and objectivity of the researchers’ perspectives as a data for analysis. The short but not less interesting discussion ended up with discussions on the difficulties of managing recorded data and the idea that no matter the data, the results will be the researcher’s subjectivity; an idea that I would further discuss.
The week was an interesting journey in the concepts, methods and issues used by the MOSAIC Centre. The key concepts discussed during the whole week concerned particularly the ethnography of communication and the literacies and practices behind this method. The only challenge I witnessed was my methods and intended theories being strongly discussed during the data-session organized on my data on Friday morning.
I still need to read for my own to define linguistic ethnography as theory and/or a method since this question was not answered during the round table. Among other things, this week was a good opportunity for me to learn how to stand for my methods and theories and to be able to challenge other researchers’ perspectives and ideas. Moreover, I had the very good opportunity to share and discuss my professional /and more methods and issues with great colleagues/flatmates.