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Methodological issues concerning research of plurilingual online communication Ana Beaven University of Bologna, Italy/University of Warwick, UK Researching Multilingually Seminar 25th - 26th April 2012 - University of the West of England
PhD research project• Investigating cross-cultural adaptation process in the context of Erasmus student mobility• Cohort of 21 Italian students going to 10 different countries (Cyprus, Czech Rep., Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Scotland, Spain)• Longitudinal study. Data collection: pre- and post sojourn interviews, weekly “diary-tables”, monthly interviews. For 8 students, Facebook.
Languages• Researcher: bilingual• Informants: Italian• Data collected primarily in Italian, some English• Data analysed in both languages• Data presented in English (translation) with original in footnotes
• … without doubt, this can be both a positive and a negative factor. Negative because of the language, obviously, but positive because somehow you don’t feel completely lost [spaesata], you feel relaxed, because you’re at…you feel at home, in any case… you feel that you’re surrounded by a more familiar environment, you don’t feel the separation that you might feel if you were on your own, or with very few Italians, right?•  … sicuramente questa cosa può essere un fattore sia positivo che negativo. Negativo per la lingua, è ovvio, però positivo perché in qualche modo non ti senti completamente spaesata, ti senti comunque tranquilla, perché sei comunque a… ti senti comunque a casa, in ogni caso… Senti che intorno a te cè in qualche modo un ambiente più familiare, non senti tanto lo stacco che forse potresti sentire se fossi tu da sola o comunque con pochissime persone italiane, no?
The problem is that when I arrived in London I discovered after theenrolment I had a clash between the … my timetable. So theyautomatically… they changed me an exam, and gave me anotherone. So now I’m dealing with this problem. And the problem is thatnow in Bologna there is no-one who is following me in any way. I’mreally, you know, upset about this. When I come back… I go back inItaly I will speak with the teacher who is in charge of this Erasmusexchange, because it’s not the behaviour to have with a person who isgoing to study for an year abroad, because, you know, not even an e-mail just to know if everything is going all right, nothing at all, but atthe same time he’s earning more because he is in charge of thisErasmus exchange. […] It’s not acceptable behaviour, even thoughalso the other people who attended the Erasmus last year told me thesame thing, you know – that this teacher is not a good one. And youknow, this is the kind of thing… this stuff make me really embarrassedin a kind of way because, you know, when I speak here with theteacher everything is so clear, they are really friendly, they try to solveevery kind of problem, this is the most… the bigger difference that Irealise between the Italian and the UK universities…
At first I could not tear myself away from the group of Italians, but in the beginning it is normal. After a month, I said: “I am not speaking in English, I need to get my act together and stop worrying.” Otherwise, you keep procrastinating and you don’t get anywhere, you only postpone the problem. All’inizio non riuscivo a staccarmi dal gruppo di italiani,ma all’inizio è normale. Dopo un mese, ho detto: “non stoparlando in inglese, vediamo di darci una scrollata efregarcene.” Se no si tende a procrastinare e non risolviniente, sposti solo il problema più avanti.
I think of adaptation as a way of being able to fit within a "new"situation. In general, it should be a good thing, since fitting in alsomeans being able to take part in all those processes we may not befamiliar with, but in which we can still take part and feel good. As faras my experience is concerned, for me adaptation was, at least tobegin with, a question of reaching a condition of whatever was the"least bad", i.e. trying to feel good even though there was very little tobe positive about. But if you then consider the second part of myErasmus, I think I didn’t just adapt, in a sense I integrated into thenew situation I was living. So I would distinguish between the conceptof adaptation and integration, as I believe that the former is inevitablyalso the first chronologically. It’s the first strategy you adopt in astrange situation. I’d say the only viable strategy if you want to getsomething positive from the experience that you are living. Not fittingin, or at least not trying to fit in, is likely to lead to a great emptiness, afeeling of loneliness that I don’t think you can sustain. If I hadn’tadapted to the situation I was facing, even to the worst situation,probably the only alternative would have been to go home.
•Lifestream: a time-ordered stream of documentsthat functions as a diary of your electronic life.• Status updates, comments, photos of cities,university campus, friends, trips, parties, videos,links to youtube…•Lifestream as a multimodal, semi-public,interactive diary
“…neither casual conversation nor small talk shouldbe taken as lacking in any purpose whatsoever oras peripheral; rather, they are a foundation […] for‘phatic communication’, the basic function of whichis the establishment, maintenance andstrengthening of social ties of companionship.”D. Block (2003) The Social Turn in SecondLanguage Acquisition
“keeping connected with a select group […] through a sharedspace. [posts] offer information about a person—likes, dislikes,frustrations — that might never make it into [other types ofconversations]. Some of the information is trivial, some boring,and some perhaps better kept private, but the sum of all thisinformation can be getting to know someone quite well, wartsand all.”“a ‘virtual water cooler’ where people talk about work, the weather,sports, or anything else that comes up.”“[Twitter] creates a new channel of communication, but it alsofacilitates a new way of seeing and understanding people: althoughmost individual [posts] say very little, […the difference comes from]following people over time, developing a sense of who they reallyare and knowing […] what they are doing and how they feel aboutit.” 7 things you should know about... Twitter 2007 www.educause.edu/eli
More generally, the current literature suggeststhat these sites offer students a useful way tovisualise their social connections (Donath andBoyd 2004), acquire social capital (Ellison et al2007), develop social networking skills (Selwynet al 2007), keep a written record of discussionsand dialogues, and maintain flexible and mobilecontact with their peers (Mason and Rennie2008). Rhianne Jones (2009)
Issues• negotiating cultural meanings• making explicit the dual role of the bilingual researcher as researcher and translator of his/her research• acknowledging that translation cannot be limited to its technicalities• allowing the individual voices of participants to be heard