The learning curve

What a fantastic rehearsal we had (yet again) last Saturday! I’m still humming with the happy anticipation of getting to take a closer look at the video recording and starting to dissect the data. Not to mention that we had some lovely new people at the rehearsal (and I really hope they’ll stay until the end of the production!), as well as music, poetry, interpretive dance, a bit of drama, and a ton of fun.

The spring season for AAG II is coming to a close and so it’s time to go over some of the observations I’ve made over the past few months. The first of these is obviously the realization of how much there is to learn about the various aspects associated with the project. Something else is starting to emerge as well, though, and that is The Focus of the study: What is it that’s specifically interesting about the participants’ language use in this context?

The context is central! Community and performing arts, Joensuu as the location (not a metropolis of multiculturality exactly), the intercultural space.

The participants are central! Who they are, what their backgrounds are like, why they’re investing in the production, how they experience the process, what they get out of it.

ELF (English as a lingua franca) is central! But not so much the linguistic properties of English, noooo. The communicative context, the AAG community’s approach to interaction through their first, second or third languages. The communicative means of constructing meanings, the interactional patterns relevant for dance or theatre rehearsals, and the negotiations that take place in the process. I was happy to learn from Jenkins (2015) that this is the direction that ELF research has been moving in overall, from structural to interactional description, putting more emphasis on the social characteristics of situated, interpersonal communication. In AAG II, ELF is accompanied by language acquisition (whether of Finnish, English, Spanish or another language), interpretation, and code-switching. Boy there’s a lot going on.

The intercultural space is central! This is one of the things that I’m really curious about. How do the immigrant participants experience their cultural in-betweenness, how do they bridge their native language and culture with the local one and what’s the role of English in building this bridge? ELF is not a culturally neutral language, unlike one might perhaps expect, but it carries the speakers’ culture(s) along with it.

On a final note: Anna and I are in the process of putting together a seminar in association with the forthcoming premier of Vallan kahva in November. We’ll be advertising it more as soon as we have some minor details sorted out, such as how much money we’ll have to spend… Drafting the seminar description, contacting potential guest speakers and doing our own research plans is super-inspirational. If only there were more hours in the day for the research itself!

Reference:

Jenkins, Jennifer (2015) ‘Repositioning English and multilingualism in English as a Lingua Franca.’ Englishes in Practice 2(3): 49-85.

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