Thanks to the COST New Speakers Network, I had the opportunity to undertake a Short-Term Scientific Mission (STSM) at the Institute of Multilingualism (University of Fribourg, CH) with Management Committee Member Alexandre Duchêne.
My research focuses on current attempts to commodify the Irish language and promote it as an economic resource for businesses in the Republic of Ireland. This is a topic I have been working on for the past two years as a PhD student at Heriot-Watt University under the supervision of Bernie O’Rourke and Mike Danson. Working with Alexandre – who indeed wrote the book on language in the globalised new economy – provided an invaluable chance to advance the development of the theoretical and methodological framework of my PhD project.
Alexandre’s insights from extensive experience with research on issues surrounding the commodification of practices of ‘new speakerness’, and the consequences of this process, were particularly formative in planning my upcoming fieldwork in Ireland.
Just as significant as working with Alexandre, moreover, was the opportunity to engage in discussion and debate with other early career researchers working on related topics at the Institute of Multilingualism.
One of my most lasting takeaways from the STSM was the importance of being willing to share the challenges, mental blocks, and uncertainties that we experience in academia, particularly as PhDs and post-docs.
After I owned up to my research insecurities while presenting at an internal workshop, it was immensely reassuring to learn that I wasn’t the only PhD in the world grappling with the definitions of ‘discourse analysis’ and ‘political economy’, or questioning whether my research could be considered an ethnography.
Admitting to not fully understanding such fundamental concepts at first felt like confessing to serious intellectual crimes, but it opened the floor to a series of amazingly constructive and honest discussions with Alexandre and his team of early career researchers.
Academia is often described as isolating, but the STSM helped me realise that we’re all in it together – if only in doubt.