This is a blog response to Bookling who wrote an interesting post this morning that concurs with my own questions. I have occasionally ranted about my issues with appropriate data representation, which symptomatic for ethnography, can be quite messy. I will write an update on this once I am done with the final draft of my analysis chapter next week.
One issue that is closely linked to the data representation however, is the use of language. Language is not only the form for data representation, but it is also an instrument of analysis. Language determines how I think about my data and whilst I exactly know what I want to say and how I want to present it in German, English simply lacks a more conceptualized form of language.
I would need to use terminology like Lernwelten, Lebensinhalte and Referenzrahmen, these three I can somewhat, if not accurately, translate. More difficult are terms like Bildung and Erziehung, which do not have any equivalents in Anglophone Sprachräumen – linguistic areas. Again this is not a comprehensive translation, because Sprachraum implies more than geographical dimensions, and should rather be translated with space instead of area.
How ever the worst and actually impossible to translate are Weltaneignung and Lerninhalte. Trying to translate Weltaneignung results in something like: World Ownership.
The Brain: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!”
Totally wrong, Weltaneignung encompasses ownership and control of one owns life, being able to navigate within a culture and negotiate identities successfully. The navigating within a culture includes access to cultural capital etc.
I just read in an article, and have to apologize for loosing the source, that English language has no word for Lerninhalte – I am using learning content or subject content as space holders. Yet, again this is not the full picture. Lerninhalte, as a lot of German words, is a multidimensional term implying strong conceptualisation. See for instance Bildung or Erziehung, whose description took me several pages in my dissertation.
Now these problems impact significantly on my ability of presenting my data analysis. I am code switching in thinking and monologizing about my data [I told you before I only know what I think once I hear what I say ;P] yet in data representation I cannot code switch and take vast amounts of time to find terminology that is appropriate to my understanding. As my understanding is a bilingual one, combining a language, that is notorious for its complex and long nouns usually implying multidimensional conceptualisation, with a language that initially appears simple to the learner yet becomes more difficult to handle once subtleties and academic dimensions have to be realised.
So I find the compromises I have to make in language falsify in the data representation my understanding of my research. I feel that it takes away a lot of the depth of knowledge and hinders a conceptualization or theory building from the data, because I am lacking the tools to do so. Not a good thing for my confidence as researcher.
- I know what I make out of my research – good
- I have fantastic data – good
- I don’t know how to represent and express this knowledge appropriately without loosing the complexity of the findings – not good at all
- writing takes much much much longer than in mother tongue, sometimes it is unpredictable how much and long it will take to track down a single formulation
- this is accompanied with loosing confidence in my work
Ok, moaning is over and I just try and ‘make do’. Maybe whatever is the attitude to take on…