Monday, April 24, 2006

Ethnography and SLA (part 1, I hope)

Ethnographic methods, which have their roots in the field of anthropology, have over time been adopted by other social science-related disciplines. (I need a little more on how this has happened.)

As I approach my first attempt at ethnography from the dual perspectives of a student in an anthropology course and a novice scholar (let me just say right now that I love this term that I learned from Atkinson and Hammersley's book: "acceptable incompetent." That's what I am. I want to be an acceptable incompetent for the rest of my life.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and applied linguistics, I am beginning to avail myself to the embarrassment of riches available to the scholar whose focus is, very broadly, an ethnographic approach to the study of how language is taught, learned, and generally used. Specifically, my project examines the use of language in a multilingual ESL (English as a Second Language) classroom, and in my cursory readings as I prepare to write my ethnography, I have identified a number of fields whose scholars can point the way toward a framework – or at least a scaffolding – for my own research, and which may be influential in shaping the direction of my future academic work. (My ethnography has roots in second language acquisition, sociolinguistics, sociology of language, linguistic anthropology, discourse analysis, TESOL, classroom research....and a lot more )

Helpful Reading:
Understanding Communication in Second Language Classrooms
The Classroom and the Language Learner: Ethnography and Second Language Classroom Research

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Multidisciplinarity / Interdisciplinarity

Other than clocking in at a whopping eight syllables, what do these words really mean? I'm working on an annotated bibliography for my Ethnography project, and for the introduction I want to talk about how/where I'm "situating" my research in "the field" -- of which there actually isn't "one," at all. I've got one foot in two fields--Anthropology, which is actually the department in which the course is, and TESOL, which is more specifically what I'm studying ethnographically (I'm observing ESL classes. TESOL, of course, fits under the rubric of "Applied Linguistics" as well. Linguistics and Anthropology do a lot of cross-pollinating, and both could accurately be described as "multidisciplinary."

Anyway, I don't want to get bogged down in the details of what it means to be interdisciplinary, but guess I do want to situate my own work as being a product of both my own interests and of necessity -- I have to be doing anthropology for the class, I should be doing TESOL for my degree, and in a broader sense I think I want to be "doing" applied linguistics -- that is, studying language and culture. As ethnography encourages personal reflection on the research being done, this paper, as a supplement to my actual "mini-ethnography," is an ideal place for me to work out what it is I really want to do.

Possible Reading*: Interdisciplinarity: History, Theory and Practice by Julie Thompson Klein

By the way -- what is Applied Linguistics? Maybe the mission of the Center for Applied Linguistics will give us some idea. Their mission is:
"Improving communication through better understanding of language and culture."
To accomplish this mission, CAL "promotes and improves the teaching and learning of languages; identifies and solves problems related to language and culture;serves as a resource for information about language and culture; conducts research on issues related to language and culture."

(*which is to say, maybe you'd like to read it; I certainly don't have time to.)

Welcome; too little, too late?

I've created this blog in the final month of my second semester of graduate study in TESOL. I'm attempting to work out just what, if anything, I want to study in the future, and just what it is I'm doing now. I've name it "Applied Applied Linguistics" partly in fun, because I think it's silly when disciplines try to legitimate themselves by appending the adjective "applied" to their titles, and partly because I really am trying to figure out how the study of Applied Linguistics and a number of other disciplines with which I'm flirting will actually impact me as a student, a scholar, and a human being. Plus, I'll be "applying" all this stuff soon enough, I hope.

If all goes as planned, I'll be getting my praxis on in China or Mongolia, teaching English at the university level as a Peace Corps Volunteer, starting in less than three months.

I plan to explore, among other things:

Applied Linguistics
Linguistic Anthropology
Sociology of Language
Ethnograpic approaches to TESOL and/or Applied Linguistics
Ethnography of communication
Language and culture
TESOL and religion
TESOL and, broadly speaking, "cultural imperialism"

Some thinkers/authors/theorists/whatever I'm interested in:

Suresh Canagarajah
Patricia Duff
Howard Gardner
Benjamin Lee Whorf

I consider myself a novice at most of this stuff; I'm here to work out my academic future in fear and trembling. Stay tuned.