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Hannah Sarvasy: Workshop on acquiring language competence in the field, 20 June 2016


Date: 11 December 2014

When: 20 June 2016

Where: CoLang 16, University of Alaska

It is highly beneficial in many circumstances for a linguist or language documenter to learn to speak the target language. Widely-known benefits include: preventing contact language interference with elicited language data, improved access to elderly and other members of the community, and the ability to engage in participant-observation. This workshop also introduces the notion that actively speaking the target language can be an essential ethical practice, akin to the Leave-No-Trace mantra for light-footprint camping and hiking, or the bioethical principle of primum non nocere. Despite these benefits, most academic Field Methods courses do not cover techniques for acquiring language competence. This means that even the best-intentioned fieldworkers and language documenters may not attain the level of language competence they desire. This workshop aims to familiarize students with the benefits of target language acquisition in combination with hands-on practice of acquisition techniques. Beyond specific techniques, mental focus and the willingness to make mistakes are emphasized as keys to language acquisition success. Early recording and transcription of narrative texts is shown to be crucial to speeding up learning. Other fieldworkers’ anecdotes on language competence are included throughout.

More information is available here

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University