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Associate Professor of Spanish on Ethnographic Research

May 19, 2010

Associate Professor Lina Lee traveled to Spain to conduct a cross-cultural research project during the academic year 2009-2010. Her report follows.

With the assistance of a major grant from the Center for International Education (CIE) at UNH, I was able to travel to Spain to carry out a research project which involved a number of audio and video recording interviews with native speakers during the academic year 2009-2010.

My approach to this project is drawn from ethnographic research methods exploring the notions of cultural identity and attitudes toward the other. Using ethnographic interviews is a dynamic and profound way to understand the target culture from the point of view of its members; thus it avoids generalizations and stereotypes.

My goal was to build a corpus of spontaneous and everyday oral Spanish discourse including phonetic, sociolinguistic and pragmatic features. With this project, I hoped to offer students and teachers alike a rich and genuine source of linguistic and cultural material of a personalized perspective as a catalyst for discussion, thus raising awareness of issues of culture and identity.

As the resident director of the Granada study abroad program in the fall of 2009, I spent my free time making arrangements for interviews with assistance from the Centro de Lenguas Modernas (Modern Language Center) and Professor María Carmen Alonso from the University of Granada.

In September, I travelled to Valencia, Spain, to attend a conference where I chaired a session on the role of corrective feedback in Web 2.0 social networking (e.g., blogs and wikis) and worked with two international scholars (one from France and one from Germany) to discuss possible collaborative research projects. On this trip, I also had the opportunity to interview local people from Gandia, Valencia.

It was exciting for me to hear a group of dialectal varieties that differ from those of other Catalan dialects. In December immediately after I finished directing the Granada program, I began to collect speech samples from native speakers of different social and economic backgrounds in local communities in the region of Andalusia. However, due to the bad weather and unexpected cancellation of scheduled interviews, I was unable to collect sufficient data for the project.

In March 2010, I returned to Spain and spent one month conducting more interviews with individuals or small groups focusing on a range of issues that centered around several themes—family histories and values, beliefs of social and cultural norms, traditions and customs, and women’s identity. I was particularly interested in including the voices of women in this project.

Many women carry the principle responsibility for socializing their children and are rich sources of cultural insights. Conversations with professional groups of women of different ages were also part of this project. I am currently in the process of editing and digitalizing the recorded interviews to Quick Time videos, which will be archived in a HMTL-based program.

The project not only strengthened my research skills, but also allowed me to incorporate cultural interviews in my teaching and to prepare students who will participate in the Granada program. My long-term goal is to develop a series of projects related to cross-cultural teaching and research. Without a doubt, this project served as an initial effort to collect data from native speakers from Spain.

I want to express my gratitude to CIE for the funding that made it possible for me to accomplish this importance piece of my research.

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