Why (purpose): You will demonstrate your learning about one person’s experiences and beliefs or attitudes with regards to their native language, the person’s relationship to speakers of English in the US, and possibly to speakers of other languages in the US as well. You will also demonstrate your knowledge of Ling 129 content by connecting this person’s experience with at least 3 readings you have done in the Ling 129 course, and at least 3 outside readings you have done on your own.
Who? The person you interview should be a native speaker of a language you don’t speak. The person should have resided in the US long enough to have experienced the benefits and challenges of living here (at least 5 years). The person you interview could be an old friend, new friend, a family member, an in-law, a co-worker, a fellow student, or a stranger, as long as you yourself are not a speaker of that person’s native language.
How: Develop a set of 8-10 interview questions based on what YOU find most interesting in Ling 129. For example, you could focus on identity (how this person defines his or her identity); bilingualism; the maintenance (or loss) of immigrant languages across generations; pressures this person experiences to either keep or stop using the language; discrimination or support the person has experienced; domains in which the language is used, and so on. The course syllabus, readings, and power points will give you plenty of ideas about one or more angles to pursue. You can also jump ahead and ask about topics not yet covered in class, such as gender, sexual orientation and language, accent discrimination, etc. Ask follow up questions to initial responses so that you can get more details. Remember that a lot of the specific terms we are using in Ling 129 will be unknown to most people. You will need to “translate” your questions into everyday language (unless your interviewee has a background in linguistics). I will check in with you in a couple of weeks about your preparation.
Research ethics: Tell your interviewee that you will not use his or her real name (unless he/she specifically wants you to!), and that this interview is for the purpose of a class assignment. Say approximately how long it will take. The interview results will not be reported in any public venue such as a book or media show. Make sure the person gives oral or written consent to be interviewed. If the person is under 18, you must get written parental consent.
Conducting the interview
Plan for about 30 – 45 minutes, conducted face-to-face. You should audio-record the interview (most cell phones have good recording capability these days). If you don’t have access to a recording device, the IRC (media center in DMH, first floor) has audio recorders you can borrow. Be sure to check beforehand to make sure your equipment works and that you have enough battery charge. Many great interviews have been foiled by equipment problems! Find a quiet place for the interview.
Analyzing the interview
First review your recording, making notes on key themes that you plan to focus on in your paper, and identifying the time code for key quotes that you want to go back and capture for use in the paper. Then start drafting the paper, creating a preliminary organization according to themes that were interesting to you. You may have to listen to the audio several times more to fill in details. You must include at least four quotations from your interviewee to illustrate your points in the paper. You do not have to transcribe every word the person says in the whole interview. If there are gaps that you wish you had asked about but didn’t, you can follow up by email, phone call, texting, or whatever works.
Finding and integrating sources
You must include at least 3 sources we have read in Ling 129 and 3 sources you find on your own through library research. The sources you find must be peer reviewed. Your sources should help you articulate broader themes that your interview exemplifies or challenges.
Paper Format: 6-8 pages (1700-2500 words), 12 point font, double-spaced, with the interview questions and references attached (not part of the page count). Submit it to the Canvas class site.
How to organize the paper
- Introduce the interviewee, his or her language, and other relevant background information. Say why you chose this person to interview, and explain any connection you have with this person.
- Explain your focus: What was it you wanted to explore in this interview? (was it mainly about identity? The connection between language and culture? Experiences of being an immigrant? Family language maintenance? Dialect fdifferences? Gender and language? Etc.)
- Reflect on the methodology during the interview – what worked well, what could have been improved? Comment on such things as rapport, whether your questions worked well, equipment issues, location, scheduling, etc.
- Present the results: Identify 3 – 5 main points you want to make and support them with evidence from the interview. Be sure to use key quotes from the interview, as well as paraphrases.
- Relate the results of your interview to the readings you have done in Ling 129 and the additional readings you have through your library research. Be sure to use proper citation style whether quoting or paraphrasing, and include full reference details at the end of your paper.
- Conclude by reflecting on how the interview confirms, adds to, or offers a different perspective from what you have learned in Ling 129.
Presentation (worth 10 points): Prepare a short (3-5 minute) power point presentation on the highlights of your interview. This will be scheduled at the end of the semester.
Articles that we read during the semester:
Mukhopadhyay, Carol & Henze, Rosemary. (2003). How real is race? Using anthropology to make sense of human diversity. Phi Delta Kappan, May 2003: pp. 669-678
Leeman, Jennifer. (2004). Racializing language: A history of linguistic ideologies in the U.S. Census. Journal of Language and Politics 3:3, 507-534
Diamond, Jared. (1993). Speaking with a single tongue. Discover Magazine, Feb. 1993, pp. 78-85
Hinton, Leanne. (1993). Men’s and women’s words. In Flutes of fire. Berkeley: Heyday Press, pp. 139-144
Conklin, N.F. & Lourie, M.A. (1983). Immigrant languages (Chapter 2). A host of tongues: Language communities in the U.S. New York and London: The Free Press.
Tse, Lucy. (2001). The state of heritage language development. In Why don’t they learn English? Separating fact from fallacy in the US language debate. New York: Teachers College Press. Pp. 30-43
Tottie, Gunnel. 2002. “Language Politics in the US: English and other languages’. (Chapter 10) in An Introduction to American English. Blackwell.
Shin, Sarah. (2013). Facts and myths about bilingualism (Ch.1). Bilingualism in schools and society: Language, identity, and policy. NY and London: Routledge.
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