Choosing a language in international office service encounters: from multilingual miscellany to medium-of-interaction in a matter of seconds

Spencer Hazel

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    Choosing a language in international office service encounters – from multilingual miscellany to medium-of-interaction in a matter of seconds Spencer Hazel Roskilde University, Denmark In higher education settings characterized by increasing transnational student and staff mobility, members are required to navigate dynamically fluctuating participation frameworks and their contingent language scenarios. Although some interactional settings have institutionally implemented rules or norms relating to which language is the designated medium-of-interaction, this is not the case across all settings. In those linguistically hybrid and diverse settings (Preisler et al, 2011) where language choice is not institutionally predetermined, language choosing (the act of selecting or negotiating a medium of interaction) becomes a relevant activity in which interlocutors are engaged. Within established groups, these practices can rely on prior experience and knowledge of other members’ linguistic backgrounds. However, in encounters where participants have no prior knowledge of one another, language choosing is negotiated from the outset. This paper reports on interactions between administrative staff and students at an International Office help desk, situated at a Danish university. Here, staff and student cohorts are made up of both local and ‘international’ members, with the help desk service providing support for both incoming and outgoing students participating in study exchange programmes such as ERASMUS. Specifically, this paper demonstrates a number of practices through which culturally and linguistically diverse members are able to settle upon a language for conducting these service encounters (which in this case is usually Danish or English). I show how the opening sequences have a built-in mechanism for avoiding language misalignment and subsequent medium repair (Gafaranga, 2000). Moreover, the way in which these steps for opening an encounter are sequentially organized displays an institutional orientation to which party has superior rights for selecting the medium of interaction. This paper is part of a larger study of interactional competence (Hall, Hellerman & Pekarek Doehler, 2011) in the multilingual setting of an internationalizing university. As such, the project investigates the range of competencies that come into play in participants’ co-construction of situated social practices. Included in these is “the flexibility to navigate in dynamic language scenarios, and to be able to make the most of what the latent linguistic diversity of internationalized universities has to offer” (Hazel & Mortensen, in press). The data consist of 90 video-recorded service encounters. These are subjected to a multimodal interaction analysis following the ethnomethodological tradition of Conversation Analysis. Gafaranga, J. (2000). Medium repair vs. other-language repair: Telling the medium of a bilingual conversation. International Journal of Bilingualism, 4(3), 327-350. Hall, J. K., Hellermann, J., & Pekarek Doehler, S. (2011). L2 Interactional Competence and Development. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Hazel, S. and Mortensen, J. (in press) Kitchen talk – Exploring linguistic practices in liminal institutional interactions in a multilingual university setting. In Hartmut Haberland, Dorte Lønsmann and Bent Preisler (eds.) Language alternation, language choice and language encounter in international education. Dordrecht: Springer Preisler, Bent, Ida Klitgård, and Anne H. Fabricius. (2011). Language and learning in the international university: from English uniformity to diversity and hybridity. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
    Publikationsdato18 jun. 2013
    Antal sider1
    StatusUdgivet - 18 jun. 2013
    Begivenhed5th AILA-Europe Junior Research Meeting in Applied Linguistics: Multilingualism in Education - Trinity College, Dublin, Irland
    Varighed: 18 jun. 201320 jul. 2013


    Konference5th AILA-Europe Junior Research Meeting in Applied Linguistics
    LokationTrinity College

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