I am currently part of a research project in Denmark aiming at investigating linguistic and cultural learning processes of adult migrants during their first 3-4 years of stay in Denmark. The participants are: Karen Risager, Michael Svendsen Pedersen and Louise Tranekjær (Roskilde University), Karen Lund and Kirsten Kolstrup (Aarhus University, School of Education), and Johannes Wagner, Catherine Brouwer and Kristian Mortensen (University of Southern Denmark). The project started in 2004 and participants are (2012) about to finish analyses and communicate results.
While most of the others are focusing on the learning of Danish as a Second Language in formal and informal contexts (in sociocognitive, sociocultural, CA and Cultural Studies perspectives), I am working with two other aspects: 1. intercultural learning seen as knowledge discourses developing in the context of transnational lives (Risager 2007, Risager forthcoming b), and 2. multilingual research processes in the project (Risager forthcoming a). It is the second aspect I will tell about here:
A core group of informants in the project consists of 8 immigrants with different language backgrouds. Their first languages are Turkish, Spanish, (Macedonian) Albanian, (Egyptian) Arabic, Russian (or rather a polylingual mixture incl. Russian), Bemba/English, German, and Japanese. They did not see each other, they were studied separately.
As the research group only had knowledge of two of these languages (English and German), and since we wanted to make in-depth interviews with the informants, we decided to find people qualified to interview them in their first languages. So we composed a group of (preferably university-educated) assistants who had themselves migrated as adults to Denmark, and who could speak the languages in question as first languages, plus Danish as a second language. They were to conduct two interviews with their interviewee: a life history interview and a culture learning interview, both conducted in the early phase of the informant’s stay in Denmark. We elaborated the interview guide in Danish, the assistant conducted the interview in the first language, recorded the interview, transcribed it in the first language, and in the end translated the transcription into Danish. After that, we collected a group of (preferably university-educated) language validators who had a symmetric language profile: Danish as a first language, and the language in question as a second/foreign language. The validator listened to the recording, looked through the two transcriptions and gave us critical comments on the process. (2-3 years after we made follow-up interviews with some of the migrants, this time in Danish, or Danish/English).
With respect to this multilingual aspect the project has an explorative character: it contributes to the mapping and discussion of the many difficulties and challenges related to multilingual research in a multilingual research team, incl. the choice and training of assistants/validators.
Risager, Karen, 2007. Language and Culture Pedagogy: From a National to a Transnational Paradigm. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Risager, Karen, forthcoming a. Den flersprogede forskningsproces. In: Karen Lund & Michael Svendsen Pedersen (eds). Sprog- og kulturlæring. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag.
Risager, Karen, forthcoming b. Kulturlæring. Vidensdiskurser i kommunikationen mellem ministerium, forskere og immigranter. In: Karen Lund & Michael Svendsen Pedersen (eds.). Sprog- og kulturlæring. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag.