Monday, October 28, 2013

A Day in the PhD Life

(last Friday)

7:45 am - Bus to to downtown to help take notes on interviews after being asked to work as a research assistant on a colleague's project
8:00 - 9:30 ish - interview
9:30 - 10:30 - catch up on email, planning, etc
10:30: Bus to wrong location for next interview
11:00: Bus to correct location for next interview
11:00 - 11:30 - interview
11:30 - 12:00 - bus home
12:00 - 12:15 - sitting outside because forgot keys
12:15: wife arrives home, get keys
12:15 - 12:30: drive to campus
12:40 - 1:00: class prep
1:00 - 2:30: teach class (subbing for colleague)
2:40 - 3:00: serious conversation with other colleague about (micro)political dilemma
3:15 - drive home
3:30 - 4:30 - to cafe, prep for meeting
4:30 - 5:30 - meeting with colleague about ongoing work on book chapter

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fair Employment Week

I make pretty good money as a sessional at UBC compared to what some people at smaller institutions (and especially in the USA) make. But I'm concerned at the huge disparity between tenure-track professors and adjunct/sessional instructors in North America. Adjuncts do more teaching, make less money, and have to hustle every 4 months to make sure we'll have jobs.

Check out,, and

Friday, October 11, 2013

Finally some awesome teaching evals

I just finally looked at my teaching evaluations from the summer. They are so much better than the ones I got 3 years ago when I first taught in the TESL certificate program. I guess I am actually getting better at teaching.

I won't toot my own horn too much but will paste one here.

"This instructor is passionate and knowledgeable about the subject, has a friendly teaching manner and is very approachable and flexible. He also had a sense of humour about himself, which helped to relax the class. I quite enjoyed this experience and I think I learned a lot about the basic principles/concepts of linguistics and how I could apply them to teaching. I had a couple of eye-opening realizations in this course, too, which were not just due to what I read, but to how the instructor presented it and discussed it."

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Still pushing back against the expanding circle in World Englishes, our hero has an epiphany

"to academic language without personal engagement... is to mimic not to speak" - Canagarajah

The epiphany:

Expanding circle Englishes are not performance varieties. Depending on context, we can say NNEST/EC speakers' use of Inner Circle Englishes is the performance.

(Furthermore the term 'performance variety' is troubling from a number of perspectives, especially if you accept (not that I do) that everything is 'performance' in a sense)

Is monolingualism real?

"...we have to ask if the term monolingual has anything more than an academic and ideological significance." - Canagarajah 2012.

Am I wrong to identify as monolingual? I spent the first 15 years of my life completely immersed in English, with foreign languages in tiny snippets for interesting diversions. I studied Spanish as an academic subject in high school and somehow got through my entire 10+ years of higher education with only one semester of Spanish. I did live and work in a Chinese-language environment for 2 years and greatly increased my knowledge of another language at that time -- but I simply do not see my background has having been anything other than monolingual.

Will think more about this. I think monolingualism has some interesting analagous paralellels to the idea of whiteness (plus they are often connected in tacit -- or blunt -- English-Only-ism). This could be interesting to explore someday.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Sociolinguistics, Writing, Language Difference, and Love

Deconstruction is nourished by a dream of the invention of the other, of something to come, something absolutely unique and idiomatic, the invention, the in-coming, of an absolute surprise.

So writes John Caputo in his introduction to deconstruction. I am increasingly interested in how applied linguistics deals with (language) difference, and I feel like I want to enlist a kind of postmodern/postliberal theological/theoretical approach -- but I am also keenly aware that the ‘post-modern’ philosophical language of the 20th century feels obscure and ugly to people who don’t speak it natively. And frankly, I don’t. (In fact, no one does -- all academic language is a ‘second language’ really.)

Derrida, says Caputo, is a champion of philosophy but doesn't want to see it limited to philosophy departments, wants to give everyone the ‘right’ to do philosophy. I suppose we have embraced this right, which is why “theory” (which is really just philosophy, no?) is so important in the humanities and the social sciences. Interdisciplinarity and the ‘in-coming’ of ultimate questions to ‘practical’ fields like applied linguistics should probably be welcome.

I am hoping that framing my own dissertation (at least in my mind, or in a kind of personal ‘mission statement’ that will set my own theoretical agenda for a while) as a small part of this project to (a) understand and (b) theorize the reality of language difference will make me a little more enthusiastic about the minutiae I am actually involved in with my data.

[I just had a frightening thought that I might want to take a super postmodern/deconstructionist approach to data analysis. I don’t think I do. We’ll see. I’m not really interested in Derrida for his methods -- more for (what I take to be) his theory. More on this soon.]

I say ‘language difference,’ but actually another big piece of the puzzle is advocating a sociolinguistic approach to writing. Lillis’ book has been slow going for me so far, because despite its very clear first chapter, I have had trouble following a thread (I’m about halfway through) that makes strong connections between a sociolinguistic imagination (my words) and studies of writing. She’s right that new literacy studies and a host of other recent approaches certainly take all literacy as a social practice, but I'm not sure that is sociolinguistics (again, I know the term is getting muddied, and that is probably OK).

I suppose in the end I want to see a “socially realistic linguistics” (is that Labov?) that embraces both attitude/ideology and usage (as I've said before, I see this connection as a strength of the Kachruvian world Englishes approach) put to use in service of understanding language difference and how we deal with it -- especially in writing, which has been neglected as authentic/everyday language use -- and I want ultimately to do this kind of work under a theoretical umbrella that embraces some old-fashioned virtues/values, most notably charity. Alan Jacobs' discussion of Bakhtin in the context of charitable literary interpretation is probably relevant here, and if I can say this without being obnoxious, it certainly fits my narrative of "Literature has lots of good thinking in it, but I got out of literature because I wanted to apply myself to real-world problems."

It has taken me a long time to get to a place where I can articulate this. Three or four years ago I tried to write something in a text file that connected my values or faith or whatever to my research interests, and I just ended up writing a page about my research and at the end I was like oh yeah, and also I believe  some things about God and humanity. But now I feel like I'm getting somewhere with how I think about these things.