Multilingual Business

Some thoughts on why both language and culture are important.

Reflections and Ponderings

Everyone who knows me I’m sure is aware of my love of language learning – my irritating joy at seeing a Chinese character I recognise, my dogged determination to decipher German board game rules, my truly dreadful French claim-to-fame of basically being able to order a cheese and ham sandwich…

But I don’t just love it because it’s interesting, I love it because it’s also useful. Learning another language means connecting with a culture directly. I have in the last two years acquired many native Arabic-speaking friends, and while they are wonderfully open about their home cultures, we inevitably hit a barrier explaining certain specific cultural concepts – things that just can’t be translated, or that don’t ‘ring true’ when expressed in another language.

I also have the experience of being in a PGR office where English is the Lingua Franca*, with colleagues from Libya, Indonesia, China, Kurdistan and the…

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LIAR IV Conference

I just spent an immensely enjoyable three days getting my linguistics geek on at the LIAR conference hosted at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

Walking through canal street every morning was good for the soul, as was listening to amazing talks about building relationships, trolling, inter and intra-cultural politeness etc. I even got to break break with some absolute linguistic rock gods who I’ve been citing since I was an undergrad!

It was my first ever professional-level conference (i.e. not attended by PGRs only) and I couldn’t be happier about how it went.

First, a shout out to MMU catering – food was AMAZING!! Peppers stuffed with spinach and feta, patatas bravas, risotto-stuffed aubergine, brownies, flapjacks, Danish pastries – and all delivered perfectly on time in a room that was perfectly clean every time. I know what goes into making that happen, and you guys pulled it off with flying colours.

Second, my most grateful compliments to the organisers, Piotr Jagodzinski, Dawn Archer and Derek Bousfield; amazingly well compiled sessions, I felt like each talk flowed to the next pretty seamlessly, and great plenaries, all the speakers were amazing and thought-provoking.

And finally, everyone who attended, thank you for making me feel so welcome, and for your most kind compliments on my talk (which I felt trod a fine line between amusingly kooky and dangerously unprofessional). I hope to see you next year!

Here’s a compilation of my favourite tweets from the conference:


Of course, I couldn’t resist including a couple about my presentation 😛

Can’t wait for next year! (Though the LIAR followed by IPrA marathon might just kill me!).


Abstract Agony

Writing this abstract for my first ‘real’ conference (read: not only PGR students in attendance) has been a fiasco from start to finish.

I emailed the conference organiser 2 months after the second CfP had passed – my supervisor said he knew the organiser and was pretty sure he’d let me submit late. I was skeptical. I was wrong. He was delighted to accept my non-existent abstract for my completely unplanned and un-thought-about talk!


Now I had to write something.

I wrote the draft last Friday, sent it off to my supervisor and hoped for the best. He was not impressed. In his words “you’re normally a very good writer, but this is surprisingly bad”. Quelle surprise! Something I wrote in one afternoon, that I didn’t know how to write or what to write about wasn’t very good! Who’d have guessed it…

And now I’m on my third draft, trying to “focus on theory” and “be ambitious” and “make it relevant”.

It had better be good this time.

No-one wants to spend the afternoon writing an abstract when it looks like this outside (and is predicted to be cloudy by tomorrow!):



How to Make Transcribing SO Much Easier

I wrote this post on my Academic Tips and Tricks blog. I hope it’s helpful!

Academic Tips and Tricks

Don’t thank me for this post, thank my boyfriend, who is a genius.

This innovation actually changed my life. As a linguistics student I’ve done A LOT of really complicated transcriptions over the years, and I’ve done many many hours of simple transcription as a paid transcriber. My set-up used to look like this:

transcription set up 1

I imagine that looks familiar – you can quickly access the media player to stop and start it and if you’re doing a simple two-person transcript you’ve done what you can to make everything quicker. But you still have to waste time taking your fingers off the keyboard to click between the two programmes and manually start and stop the audio. You might even be clumsily clicking the bar on the audio player to skip back to listen again.

Now my set-up looks like this:

transcription set up 2No media player. And you don’t need a laptop with built…

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5 Best and 5 Worst things about Research

Inspired by a PGR friend who is creating a wonderful website of people’s best and worst things about research ( I thought I’d list my top 5 in each category. Feel free to comment with yours below – and feel free to contact my friend and contribute to her project :).

When my picture is uploaded to The Research Story, my best thing about research will be “Those “Eureka!” moments” and my worst thing will be “people saying “you’re so clever, this will be easy” – my pet peeve, as you will know if you read my post ‘Life Jackets’.

So, here are my top 5 in each category, I’d be hard pressed to order these – all the goods are good and all the bads are baad, so in no particular order:

My five best things about being a researcher

  • Those “Eureka!” moments
  • Being part of the PGR community
  • The amazing self-indulgence of getting to study something you love AND being allowed (even encouraged!) to talk constantly about it
  • Slowly feeling your expertise growing
  • Really feeling you’ve earned it

My five worst things about being a researcher

  • People saying “you’re so clever, it will be easy” when actually you feel like you’re drowning
  • Balancing work, family and studying
  • Feeling like you should know everything in your field and being immensely embarrassed when you don’t
  • Constant fear and uncertainty
  • Worrying that your contribution to knowledge is totally lame and not actually useful or insightful

So those are my 10, what are yours?

I’m Sooooo Confused!

Sometimes (always) writing a PhD makes you do this face:

This is me today. I’m trying to write something about requests, and I’ve categorised a bunch of stuff in my data as requests:

requests for action

requests for information

requests for support/patience, and

requests to meet

But they just don’t all follow the typology that most stuff about requests has used:

Mood Derivable (Do X)

Performatives (I am asking you to do X)

Hedged Performatives (I would like to ask you to do X)

Obligation Statements (You have to do X)

Want Statements (I want you to do X)

Suggestory Formula (How about doing X? / if you could do X…

Query Preparatory (Can you do X?)

Strong Hints (don’t you want to live in a clean house?)

Mild Hints (can you do me a favour…)

(Yu, 2011, p. 390)

But are things like : “How can I improve my sentence and explanation?” requests?

Are all questions requests? Most can be phrased as requests that fit into the typology.

What is the actual difference between:

“What’s your name?”, and “Can you tell me your name?”

Are the only questions that are actually questions  abstract seekings where you don’t actually know the question until you’ve found the answer and rhetorical questions?

Is asking for time any different from asking for a material action? Is it a question if the answer is only required to be verbal? Are you not also requesting the person’s time?


Thoughts? Let me know! For now I will just keep looking like the derpyest derp that ever derped.

disclaimer – this is not me, it is Jennifer Lawrence, but that’s basically exactly my face right now

Life Jackets

Sometimes I feel like I’m on the raft without a life jacket, and everyone thinks it’s fine, because I’m such a strong swimmer.

But I don’t feel like a strong swimmer.

I feel like I’m already slipping and the water’s below and who knows what’s lurking there…

And everyone’s saying “you got this”, “it will be a breeze”, “you’ll fly through”…

And I’m thinking “errr, little help here…?”

But it’s ok. Because everyone else on the raft is thinking that too.

We all feel like imposters faking our way through academia. We all think we’ve been lucky to get this far.

For me the proof was in a conversation I had on Wednesday with a forth year PhD student, who STILL feels like he’s faking it and that his great deceit will eventually be revealed and he’ll be cast out forever, a disappointment to all those who believed in him. What he can’t see or feel is all the hands holding on to him.

For other posts on imposter syndrome in PhD study, follow the links:

When Do I Start Knowing What I’m Doing?


I went to a networking seminar today and met some fellow occupants of the raft. People clinging on despite jobs, despite children and despite working in male-dominated disciplines against the background of being from a culture which values meekness and subservience in woman.

It was a great experience, and really made me think about not only how I can present my research quickly and succinctly in the best light, but also what I want from network connections. Previously I’ve networked because I like people and I like making friends, I’ve  been here at the uni so long and in so many different capacities that my network is pretty substantial, but I never really thought hard about how that network could be more than a source of pleasure and support, and more a source of valuable connections, and how useful benefits could flow both ways. I tend to be the giver in my relationships as I forget to think about what others can bring to me – and I tend to be amazed and surprised when people do chose of their own volition to do something that benefits me and not them. A perfect example is the word of mouth through which my business has spread – I couldn’t have done this without several brilliant advocates and I was always amazed that they would recommend me without any thought of personal gain.

Now I just need to work on my “elevator pitch” before I attend any conferences.


All my coding is finally done! The bf was working super-hard in the run-up to his deadline so every evening when he was watching How I Met Your Mother or Scrubs and designing his building, I was data tagging. I essentially felt guilty if he was working and I wasn’t, which was a great motivator!

So now it’s scary writing-a-new-chapter-time. I think I’m going to start by looking at the rare occasions where things go wrong in my data. People think intercultural communication is full of unintentional impoliteness and misunderstandings, but in my data that’s just not the case, these things do occur, but they’re really rare. I think this chapter will encompass apologies, misunderstandings, aggressive behaviour and mistakes.

I’ve started pulling tagged segments out of QDA Miner today and putting them into Antconc to get an overview of themes. For example, I pulled out all the segments tagged as ‘apologies’, put them into 2 .txt files (one for Liz, one for her clients) and then compared the keywords with a standard British English corpus to show what occurred at a statistically significant frequency:

Antconc apologiesThe number to far-left shows the term’s number in the list, the next shows the frequency in the text (I eliminated anything with only one occurrence) the next number is the ‘keyness’ rating (anything over 3 is in the 95th percentile, so everything in the image is highly relevant). Draw what conclusions you will – I haven’t had time to fully analyse these yet, but it looks to me like the clients (left side) are late and forgetful, whereas Liz misunderstands and does things wrong!

In other news, I’ve also been writing my 4000-word report for my June yr1 viva. So that’s been fun! I hope my progress is PhD-worthy-enough.

Turning a PhD into a Presentation (or Worse, a Poster)

This weekend and last week I’ve been trying to do that impossible task – which will only get more impossible as time goes on – of trying to distil the whole massive idea that is my thesis into a 20 minute presentation for one conference in June, and a poster for another next November. How the hell people manage the 3MT competition I do not know.

Linguistics is not exactly a discipline that lends itself to graphical presentation. Something like Physics – awesome for graphics, Architecture – amazing, Fashion – elementary my dear Watson…

But I struggle. I’ve got a pretty chart of how all my participants are connected and this lovely map which shows where they come from:

World map highlightedThis will look great on the poster – but I’m not entirely convinced it actually tells you something that useful about my project. I guess it highlights diversity and a non-Euro-centric cohort so that’s a good thing.

But in Linguistics, unsurprisingly and fundamentally all the big ideas pretty much have to be shown using words. There are a few legitimately visual projects, usually the quantitative kind like dialect mapping but the majority of us struggle to get a decent table out of a linguistics project.

So in conclusion, any help, especially on the poster, is appreciated. I don’t even really know how to structure the poster, let alone make it visually stimulating!