Bilingual identity

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 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.

Candidacy oral exam successfully completed

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.

Candidacy paper

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.

Dissertation proposal accepted!

I am very excited to announce that my dissertation proposal has been accepted by my committee: Simulateneous and Sequential Bilinguals in a German-English Bilingual Program. The whole process took much longer than I anticipated, but the final product is one I am quite proud of. The major changes in the proposal involved broadening the focus of the study to include both simultaneous bilinguals (those children who learn two languages from birth) and sequential bilinguals (those children who enter the Bilingual School knowing only one of the two languages). In addition, through the process of revising the proposal, I discovered myself drawn to linguistic ecology as a conceptual orientation. The next step is the writing of my candidacy paper, for which I received the questions yesterday.

Pilot Project: Finding a Place for Emerging Bilinguals in a German Bilingual School

My pilot project is nearing completion. The data is undergoing analysis and I am presenting on the interview data at the upcoming Traditions and Transitions Conference in Waterloo, Ontario. The program can be found on

In the past, the group putting on this conference has produced a book and I believe that the organizers are planning to do the same with this conference. I am looking forward to feedback on the suitability of this study for the planned book. In addition, having this presentation deadline facilitates the writing of the report which is required by the participating school district.

The conference affords me the opportunity to hear Claire Kramsch one more time. I understand she is retiring, which does not necessarily mean she will no longer be speaking at conferences, but there is no guarantee. I am also looking forward to visiting the Kitchener/Waterloo area for the first time. As one of the areas of Canada with the most German speakers, I am curious as to what the city is like.

Working toward a thesis proposal

Now that I have returned from my trips to LA and Europe, I am working toward my thesis proposal by completing projects, reading and later, working on the actual writing.

There are a number of projects that will occupy my time until then. I am continuing with the data collection in my pilot project with a German-English bilingual school. Dr. Tanja Kupisch and I will be continuing our research with young bilinguals with the goal of writing an article together.

The time is drawing closer to the Congress 2010 and the CACS Pre-Conference, so the logistical work requires regular attention. During the Congress, I will be attending the CACS Pre-Conference and parts of the Canadian Association of University Teachers of German (CAUTG) and Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics/Association Canadienne de Linguistic Appliquée (ACLA) conferences. The presentation that I have had accepted for ACLA is based on an article that I am currently revising for submission.

Upcoming Conferences

February 2010

1st International Heritage Languages Conference, Los Angeles, California organized by the National Heritage Language Research Centre. I will be presenting on Increasing the Effectiveness of Website Promotion for Heritage Language Bilingual School Programs.

Annual Conference of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft (DGfS), Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany. Dr. Tanja Kupisch ( and I will be presenting Why 2L1 may sometimes look like child L2: Effects of input quantity.

August 2010

Traditions and Transitions Conference, Waterloo, Ontario, organized by the Centre for German-Canadian Studies. My planned presentation is entitled Challenging the Tradition of German Bilingual Programs in Canada: Transitioning to a Dual Immersion Model?

An exciting year of research

This is my second year as a Ph.D. student and I am thoroughly enjoying it. The end goal is a complete thesis proposal, but along the way I am working on two research projects, several presentations and conference trips as well as two or more publications. While I don’t plan to blog on a regular basis, it is my intention to keep this website up to date.