With the generous support of the COST New Speakers Network, I was recently able to undertake a short-term scientific mission at the National University of Ireland, Galway with Management Committee Member John Walsh.
This mission took place at a crucial point in the development of my PhD research, which focuses on attempts to promote the Irish language as an economically valuable commodity within urban business communities in the Republic of Ireland.
I have been working on this research for almost two years as a PhD student at Heriot-Watt University under the supervision of Action Chair Bernie O’Rourke and Mike Danson, and this autumn I will focus on writing up my thesis.
Coinciding with my last period of extended data collection, the opportunity provided by the short-term scientific mission to work with John in Galway as I conducted my research was pivotal in the formulation of the analyses that will shape my PhD.
Drawing on his extensive research both in Galway and on the relationship between the Irish language and socio-economic development, John helped me to approach my emerging data from multiple, more nuanced perspectives.
It was at first daunting to share my nascent ideas with such an experienced researcher who had examined the exact terrain I was now studying – if anyone was going to notice that I was rattling off nonsense, it would be him!
John’s enthusiasm for my work and his willingness to talk over new ideas, however, immediately dispelled all such worries, and our discussions of my data not only fundamentally advanced the development of my analyses, but also strengthened my confidence as a young researcher working on Irish.
Within the framework of the mission, John also arranged for me to give a presentation on my research at the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Addressing an audience of Irish sociolinguists, Irish language activists, and Irish language scholars, almost all (if not all) of whom were Irish speakers, I again faced the challenge of sharing my work with exactly the people who would know better.
Once again, however, this opportunity provided the opportunity for a fascinating and multi-faceted conversation with the attendees, who were keen to discuss and debate and who highlighted questions that I may never have otherwise considered.
As nerve-wracking as presenting on Irish to the Irish may have been at the outset, this session at the Moore Institute was a highlight of my academic career.
My short-term scientific mission thus immeasurably helped me to grow as a researcher by shedding my fears of sharing my work exactly where it hits closest to home.