I was asked during my candidacy exam, what my conceptualization of bilingual identity was. I must confess that I don’t think it was one of my better answers, but I believe I do a much better service to the answer in this newly-published article from my Master’s data. It can be found in the online Heritage Language Journal at www.heritagelanguages.org in issue 7(2), the special issue on identity. I have been anticipating its publication for some time and was delighted to receive the email announcement of its publication on the day following my candidacy exam.
I am still debriefing from my candidacy oral examination that took place yesterday. The paper provided the springboard for questions on theories behind the methodologies and application of the methodological tools to my research proposal. Some questions were truly challenging, because it was clear that the questioner had something particular in mind, but had to craft the question in such general language that it was difficult to decide which direction to take the answer. The post-examination feedback is perhaps most useful. I now know what area of reading I need to concentrate on before beginning my literature review. I also have a few points to discuss with committee members with regards to the wording of specific interview questions that generated a great deal of discussion. For example, how does one ask parents what dialect they speak at home when the term dialect may convey connotations of judgment regarding the validity of that language variety?
The next step is to receive Ethics Approval from both the University and the School Board, but both processes are underway, so I feel confident that my data collection will begin in the new year.
Perhaps the least understood step of the Ph.D. process is the candidacy paper. It differs from department to department. In my program, now called Graduate Programs in Education (formerly the Graduate Division of Educational Research), the candidacy paper is written on one of three questions designed by one’s committee. Typically the paper is 25 pages (may not exceed 40) and delves into a topic of general knowledge of one’s field, knowledge of a specific area or methodology. The question I chose was on methodology. My candidacy paper describes how linguistic landscape and nexus analyses use an ecological approach to educational linguistics to inform us about bilingualism and bilingual identity. This paper gave me the opportunity to delve deeper into the ecology of languages metaphor, visiting its proponents and its critics. I came across interesting articles on linguistic landscape analyses of various cities in the world and how some researchers applied this methodology as a pedagogical tool. I read from Scollon and Scollon’s (2004) seminal book on nexus analysis and discovered a number of researchers who use this method for examining social practice. This paper will become a cornerstone to my literature review for the dissertation. Now submitted, I await my oral examination on the paper.