Conference proceedings

Ah, conferences… I love them!  That is, I love attending them, listening in awe whilst lurking silently in the back row.  Not so this time!  Having had my arm kindly but firmly twisted to take the plunge and present,  I gulped hard when I discovered that I was due to kick off proceedings as the first speaker at the Language Studies PhD conference 2015 at the University of Reading.  No pressure then!  Well, I survived and am here to tell the tale, and to my surprise I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, even plucking up the courage to ask the odd question or two.  Who’d have thought! Altogether 22 PhD researchers from English Language & Applied Linguistics, the Institute of Education, Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences, and Modern Languages & European Studies talked about their research in front of an audience of fellow-students and lecturers.  In a day that lasted from 9am to 6pm, time flew by as we heard about topics as varied as language policy in Namibia, female twitter users in Saudi Arabia, Greek EFL writing, and aspect binding in Mandarin Chinese, to name but a few. Luckily the audience wasn’t the heckling kind; on the contrary, comments and questions were supportive and helpful.  As well as a round of applause, each speaker also received constructive written feedback on their presentation skills. The conference concluded with a panel session on the Language Studies Working Papers – an annual peer-reviewed digital journal with contributions from staff and PhD-researchers at the University of Reading.  Some of last year’s student-contributors spoke persuasively about the benefits of submitting a paper, such as article-writing practice, attention to detail and development of reviewing skills.  And the best thing: you can develop your text for inclusion in your thesis!  Sounds like a win-win to me. Find all necessary information, including format templates and past issues, by clicking here.   But hurry!  This year’s deadline is 30 April 2015. Many thanks go to Dr. Jackie Laws for organising this enjoyable, instructive and multi-disciplinary day.  It certainly changed not just my view of conferences for the better, but also my view of myself.  If you’re in two minds whether to give presenting a go, here’s my advice: just do it!

Click here to watch a 10 minute video of my presentation: German as a school subject in the UK: discursive representation, motivation and uptake.

How you roll your /r/'s says a lot about you  How you roll your /r/’s says a lot about you!

Sausages, beer, cars and war

Germany is mostly known for sausages, beer, cars and war, according to a snapshot poll of UK students aged 14 and 16.  For my pilot study I interviewed two focus groups of year 9 and year 11 students, asking them about German learning and their beliefs about the Germans and Germany.  A mixture of team tasks, individual tasks and guided group discussion prompted some very interesting responses.  One activity I designed was based on the TV show ‘Family Fortunes’: “If we asked 100 random British people what comes into their heads when they hear the word ‘German’, what do you think they would say?”  This was to avoid the ‘researcher effect’, where participants might modify their answers according to what they assume the interviewer would or wouldn’t like to hear.  For me, the most fascinating part of the session occurred when I gave the students some time to talk amongst themselves.  Does Hitler deserve his own category, or does he come under ‘general Nazis’?  Should they not write ‘no sense of humour’ rather than just ‘sense of humour’?  Not necessary, they agreed, as the ‘no’ goes without saying.  Germans are known as hard-working, someone suggested.  Yes, but remember, this is what the average British person thinks, not us!  OK, but even 100 random British people might say that, they concluded in the end, though perhaps quite a bit lower down the list than where they themselves would put it.

As the bell went and I gathered up my paperwork and recording devices, on a high from the experience and desperate to transcribe the promising data, one student came back into the classroom to speak to me.  “Miss, did you really ask 100 people what they think of the Germans? Because I’d REALLY like to know what they said!”

german sausage image