In Korea I teach English to university students. In the dissertation (Williams 2011) for my MA degree I focused on how students who collaborate on oral pair work tasks scaffold each other within a sociocultural setting and use their L1 to help them produce and acquire the L2. Consequently, in order to collect data I had to conduct bilingual research.
I came across an article (Erkut et al 1999) whereby they describe a dual focused approach which can be employed where multicultural issues or multilingualism needs to be analyzed for research purposes. In other words, the approach gives consideration to the bilingual as well as the bicultural aspects of conducting such research. In essence, rather than being a translated driven approach it is a concept based approach as it includes involvement of researchers who have familiarity with the culture being studied.
In intercultural research this seemed to me to be a valid way of overcoming the ethical considerations which exist with a simple translation driven approach which simply might have a completely different interpretation to what the research participants actually meant in their discourse. In their study (ibid.) they had employed a small group of researchers to conduct their large scale study, however, for my small scale qualitative research I wanted to see how this dual focus approach would work with myself and another researcher who had familiarity with the both the culture and the subject matter being studied.
Conversation analysis was used as the method of analyzing the data; however, the dual focus approach was employed while doing this as a research team. The process was led by the research facilitator, who had familiarity with the indigenous culture, because analysis was first taken of the data set pre translation. During this process we also gave consideration to the etic and emic nature of the bilingual and bicultural approach. In other words, pre translation the aforementioned research facilitator captured emic concepts and then as we discussed each concept through the dual focus approach we ensured that in the eventual translation the emic concepts had an etic perspective which made them cross – culturally valid.
In retrospect I feel that employing this dual focus as an approach to the analysis of my data gave my data greater validity. The reason I say this is because if I was a NS teacher who was fluent in the L1 of my students who decided to analyze the data by myself it does not necessarily mean that my analysis would be valid and reliable. For example, I might not pick up on the cultural nuances which were being uttered by the participants.
Undoubtedly, The dual focus approach is a laborious and time consuming process; however, I feel that this methodology was what my research required and it certainly paved the way for me to develop researcher competency rather than incompetency. Now, I’m in a position where I hope to embark on my PhD later this year. In my PhD I hope to expand on many aspects which I focused upon in my dissertation, notably L1 use to produce L2. However, what I hope to also do is expand on research methodology which can be employed to conduct multilingual research. For my PhD research, I’d like to establish a small team of researchers who are indigenous to the culture of my students just to increase the validity of the data somewhat as it would be a large scale project which I would be undertaking, therefore, hopefully I’d have the scope to expand upon my team of research facilitators. This would help to corroborate the data in comparison to it just being done by two researchers as I’ve previously undertaken.
I also feel that this AHRC funded project is something which is needed to pave the way for future educators to feel comfortable incorporating the first language of their students into their research even when they lack proficiency in it, like in my case. Their inability should not be a deterrent but a catalyst for them to find a method which works for them and for the subject matter of their research.
Williams, D. G. (2011). Evaluating the L1 Use of Adult Intermediate Korean English Language Learners During Collaborative Oral Tasks. Asian EFL Journal, Available from <http://www.asian-efl- journal.com/Thesis/Thesis-Williams.pdf> [Accessed: 7 February 2011]
Erkut, S., Coll, C.G., Tropp, L.R. & Garcia, H.A.V. (1999). The Dual-Focus Approach to Creating Bilingual Measures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 30: 206-218.