SLS 660 - Assignment 1

The aim of this assignment is to give you some hands-on experience with the study of language use, and also to motivate you to incorporate discussions of socio-cultural approaches to language, social constructionism, identity, and subjectivity into your research and/or teaching practice. To this end, you will carry out sociolinguistic data collection and analysis and read some relevant literature. You will write a 12-14 page paper which will describe your research question, rationale for choosing a methodological approach, methodological procedures, data analysis, and discussion of findings. This assignment will rely on your interpretation of language data (as opposed to writing a synthesis of existing research).

Some potentially interesting research questions:
1. How are teachers and students' verbal contributions to classroom practices gendered?
2. How are heritage language learners different from foreign language learners, and what are the implications for teaching?
3. What sorts of Japanese do locals use in retail encounters with Japanese tourists?
4. What is the social language of academic discussions in graduate school? How do people learn this language?
5. How gendered is male talk? What is male talk in language X? How might males fluctuate in producing 'maleness' in their L2?
6. What discourses are present in learners' narratives about the need to learn English in Japan/Korea/Taiwan/Germany/etc.?
7. How do language learners become more acculturated (or not) through language learning?
8. How do MA students in SLS become socialized into academic presentations or classroom participation?
9. Do HELP students have opportunities to use English for communicative purposes in Honolulu?
10. What are the social languages involved in ELT in country X?

James Gee's (2004) framework for language learning/use as the learning/use of social languages is meant to be a central theme for this assignment. The point is to better understand how language learning and use involves social aspects. You have three options for this paper:

Sociolinguistic variation and S/F/HL pedagogy
Narrative inquiry

Option 1: An investigation of some aspect of sociolinguistic variation for the purpose of S/F/HL pedagogy

This option is meant to provide you with an opportunity to learn more about the sociolinguistic variation of a particular language and to make use of this knowledge in your own language teaching.   To do so, you will need to focus on the social meanings that varieties of languages convey. Within a particular pedagogical context, (primary/secondary/tertiary education, adult education, civics classes for immigrants, juku classes, private tutoring, etc.), develop a paper which engages with the role of a particular sort of social and/or regional variation in the target language. Once you have provided a thorough description of the context for pedagogy, your paper should provide a description of the social and/or regional variation that you are interested in incorporating into your pedagogy, which means that you should provide clear illustrations of the sociolinguistic phenomena you cover. Your paper should include a discussion of why these particular sociolinguistic features are relevant to learners, and it should also include recommendations for how to incorporate these phenomena into the teaching of the target language.

In order to focus your paper in a manageable way, I highly recommend that you narrow your topic as much as possible to a particular sociolinguistic aspect of language, such as:

Some helpful references:

Block, David, & Cameron, Deborah (eds.) 2002. Globalization and Language Teaching. London: Routledge.
Blyth, Carl (ed.) 2002. The Sociolinguistics of Foreign Language Classrooms: Contributions of the Native, the Near-native, and the Non-native Speaker. Heinle. (available via Interlibrary loan)
Candlin, Christopher, and Mercer, Neil (eds.) 2001. English Language Teaching in its Social Context: A Reader. London: Routledge.
Coates, Jennifer (ed.) 1997. Language and gender. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Hall, Joan Kelly, and Eggington, William (eds.) 2001. The Sociopolitics of English Language Teaching. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Itakura, Hiroko. 2001. Conversational Dominance and Gender: A Study of Japanese Speakers in First and Second Language Contexts. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Rose, Kenneth & Kasper, Gabriele (eds.). 2001. Pragmatics in language teaching. Cambridge.
McKay, Sandra. 1996. Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching. Cambridge.
Norton, B., & Toohey, K. 2004. Critical pedagogies and language teaching. Cambridge.
Reagan, Timothy. 2002. Language, Education, and Ideology: Mapping the Linguistic Landscape of U.S.Schools. Praeger.
Reagan, Timothy, & Osborn, Terry A. 2002. The foreign language educator in society. Erlbaum.

Option 2: Ethnography

Most ethnographies require a lot more time than you will have in this course. However, you can use the second assignment to become more familiar with ethnographic methodologies, which you may extend for future projects in SLS. If you choose this option, you will need to find a context that you are interested in analyzing through repeated observations, fieldnotes, interviews, and possibly, recordings as well. Because your time is limited, you will need to pick 2-3 ethnographic methods to employ in addressing your research question. In addition to observations and fieldnotes, you might also use interviews to address questions such as the following:

1. How do language teachers successfully create student-centered classrooms?
2. What aspects of Hawaiian culture and language do people who learn hula become familiar with?
3. How communicative is language teaching in a particular classroom?
4. What opportunities do immigrants in Hawaii have for using their L1 and English in their daily lives?
5. What role does gender or ethnicity play in choosing a foreign language to study at the college level?
6. How do international students who live together use English as a lingua franca?
7. How do employees of multinational companies in Seoul/Tokyo/Berlin/Taipei use English in their workplace contexts?
8. Why do people learn their heritage languages? How do they find ways to learn them outside of traditional classrooms?
9. What identities do second year MA SLS students develop and use in their interactions with first year MA SLS students?

Examples from the course readings that are ethnographies include Duff (2002), Hruska (2004), Ibrahim (1999) and Morita (2004). Your paper will be much less comprehensive than these studies, since they are all longitudinal. In effect, you will be doing a 'mini-ethnography.' Your analysis will be interpretive but will be based on the data that you collect through multiple ethnographic methods (e.g., interviews plus observation; interviews plus field notes; observations plus document collection). Interpretive authority is especially significant in ethnography, and I encourage you to make your analysis as inclusive and participatory as you can by inviting the participants in your study to share their views of the data analysis. Many people who do ethnographic work include the perspectives of the participants in the analysis, even when it contradicts their own interpretations.

Identity is an especially rich area of inquiry in ethnography. Consider framing your initial research question around issues of identity to start, and consider the following as resources for your literature review and methodological framework:

1. Kanno, Yasuko. 2003. Negotiating Bilingual and Bicultural Identities: Japanese Returnees Betwixt Two Worlds. Erlbaum.
2. Norton, Bonny. 2000. Identity and Language Learning. Longman.
3. Pavlenko, Aneta, & Blackledge, Adrian (eds.) 2004. The negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
4. Pavlenko, Aneta, Adrian Blackledge, Ingrid Piller, and Marya Teutsch Dwyer (eds.) 2001. Multilingualism, Second Language Learning, and Gender. Mouton de Gruyter.

Option 3: Narratives

If you are primarily interested in how people's social identities constrain and/or aide their learning and use of particular languages and language varieties, or other issues related to S/F/HLs, then you may want to consider narrative as an option. Narratives are a rich resource for learning more about speakers' emotions, perceptions, and interpretations of their everyday interactions involving their L1, L2, etc. Narratives can be obtained by doing interviews with language learners and language users, and they can also be obtained by asking participants to write responses to questions or discussion points that you pose (on paper or electronically). Recently, in the field of applied linguistics, narratives written by applied linguists themselves have become accepted as 'legitimate' language analysis as well. Examples from our course packet include Pavlenko (2007), Kinginger (2004), parts of Shin (2006), and Ide (2006). Ideas for carrying out research on narratives include:

Data collection and transcription

You do not need to transcribe the entirety of your narratives, as interviews that last 10 minutes can take up to 20 pages of transcription. Instead, listen to your narratives (or read through them, if they are collected via writing) multiple times to allow for particular themes and recurrent ideas to 'emerge' from the data. Once you have noticed an element to comment on, then transcribe selections of the narratives to use as illustrations of your research.   These transcriptions can be written into your paper in block paragraph form, preferably using italics or through indenting the text so that it is separated from the rest of the writing.

If your narratives involve the use of language other than English, please provide both the original language and the English translation of the excerpts that you include in your paper. The original translation may be included as an appendix.

Special considerations for narrative and identity:

1.   In doing interviews, you want to consider the role that your questions may have in shaping the answers that your participants provide you. You should also consider the effect that your identity (as a grad student, as a NS/NNS, as a woman, as a man, as an older/younger person, etc.) might have on your participants' answers. Note that narratives are not simply answers to research questions, but presentations of the self.

2.   To make sense of your data, you may see a need to collect background information about your participant(s). This may be difficult, depending on the personal relationship that you have (or don't have). Narratives are much richer, however, if researchers can include information about the participants' backgrounds. Make sure to provide pseudonyms for the speakers to protect their anonymity.

660 Home