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Researching Bottom-Up Language Policies in Galicia

Researching Bottom-Up Language Policies in Galicia

My research seeks to investigate the role of individual agency (such as individual parents) in the interpretation and implementation of language policy at the grassroots level.

This is studied in relation to Galician new-speaker parents who through their individual linguistic behaviour play a prominent role in the revitalisation and maintenance of Galician at the home domain, particularly in the context of framing bottom-up language policies on the ground.

I have been working on this topic for the past two and half years with my supervisors Bernie O’Rourke and Máiréad Nic Craith at Heriot-Watt University’s Intercultural Research Centre.

I applied for a Short Term Scientific Mission fund (STSM) to collect discussion data from two focus groups and carry out a family language audit to understand the language practices of Galician new-speaker parents at home.

The research activity was built around multiple instances of collaboration and knowledge exchange with Fernando Ramallo and his research team at the University of Vigo.

As an active member of the New Speakers Network through my participation in Working Group 1 - New Speakerness in the Case of Indigenous Minority Languages, I believe that this STSM centred on Galician sociolinguistic context will contribute to scholarly debates on both ‘new speakers’ and societal multilingualism, and therefore advance the goals of COST Action IS1306.

Over the course of the mission at the host institution, I shared my findings with other members of Fernando’s research group. Above all, by undertaking this mission at the University of Vigo, I worked closely with him and his team which enhanced my field research experiences.

The Focus Groups

We had our first meeting in Vigo over a lunch in November 2014 where we discussed questions for the focus group.

The questions were divided in three sections:

  • Linguistic trajectory of individual parents;
  • Their language practices at home;
  • And a friendly debate to understand their family language policy.

We decided that each focus group should contain at least four couples who had children studying in pre-primary or primary schools.

While the focus group in Santiago de Compostela centred on parents who send their children to co-operative funded Galician speaking schools, the one in Vigo had parents from both cooperative funded and public schools.

With Fernando’s help, I conducted the first focus group in Santiago at the end of November. New-speaker parents from two co-operative funded Galician speaking schools such as Raiola and Semente Compostela participated in the focus group.

The second focus group took place in Vigo in early December. Parents, both couples and single parents of children from cooperative funded and public schools took part in it.

Both focus groups were carried out successfully and the participants expressed their views clearly about their language practice at home.

A preliminary discussion on the collected data illustrates that language requirements of the individual (micro), the community (meso) and the country (macro) may differ in a bilingual society as everyone has his or her own language practices.

Language Policy on the Ground

One of the major aims of my research is to investigate how individual agency (relating to parents) interprets language policy on the ground.

A careful listening of the focus group data further reveals that language policy at the individual level, like all other domains of language policy, includes aspects of practice, ideology and management.

Individual language policy (ILP) can provide a valid description of the following:

  • The latent linguistic ideologies of an individual, that is what her or his perception of language,
  • Her or his linguistic practices, that is what they do with language
  • And language management, that is what endeavours she or he makes for language maintenance.

For a deeper understanding of these issues, I undertook family language audits. As the final stage of my fieldwork trip, I collected data from six families that will offer a proper understanding of the language practices at home.

Results from this STSM will be presented in the next COST meetings during 2015.

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