Breaking the silence (again): on language learning and levels of fluency in ethnographic research

Gibb, R. and Danero Iglesias, J. (2017) Breaking the silence (again): on language learning and levels of fluency in ethnographic research. Sociological Review, 65(1), pp. 134-149. (doi: 10.1111/1467-954X.12389)

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Ethnographic research is often multilingual, requiring the researcher to work in two or more different languages, if necessary with the assistance of an interpreter. Given this, surprisingly few ethnographers have attempted to discuss in detail how their own knowledge of different languages and their decisions to use interpreters and/or translators during fieldwork have affected the research they have conducted. Drawing on material from our own research, as well as from published accounts by other ethnographers, we aim in this article to dispel some of the ‘silence’ or ‘mystique’ surrounding such matters. More specifically, we argue for the importance of documenting and analysing not only the process of language learning in ethnographic research but also the ways in which levels of fluency in a second or additional language can affect the research process, including the writing of ethnographic fieldnotes and forms of self and other identification. We suggest that a heightened awareness of these issues can help researchers make more informed choices when carrying out and writing up ethnographic research using different languages.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gibb, Dr Robert and Danero Iglesias, Dr Julien
Authors: Gibb, R., and Danero Iglesias, J.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Sociological Review
ISSN (Online):1467-954X
Published Online:25 January 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in The Sociological Review 65(1):134-149
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
629411Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law, and the StateAlison PhippsArts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)AH/L006936/1ED - EDUCATION
430061The conversion of asylum applicants' narratives into legal discourses in the UK and France - a comparative study of problems of cultural translationRobert GibbArts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)AH/E50874X/1SPS - SOCIOLOGY