Susan Dawson

Durham University

I have just completed my PhD at the University of Manchester, and have been drafted into the project on a casual basis for the last few months to help out with some of the RMTC Hub work. However, I was federated to the project during my second year of doctoral studies and worked particularly with Richard Fay and other members of the RMTC Hub around the possibilities of extending Exploratory Practice (a form of inclusive practitioner research which emerged from, and has mainly stayed within, the area of English language learning) into the project. So, despite being very new to the job, I’m not totally new to the project, and it’s a privilege to be ‘officially’ working with everyone for the time that remains. I’m based in Manchester, although my contract is through Durham University, a nice closing of the circle for me, as it’s where I did my undergraduate degree in Geography many years ago. I’ve never done anything Geography related though, but have been an English language teacher in various contexts since I left university.

I’m not a natural linguist and hated learning languages at school, but I do like talking to people, and so it was through travelling in South America and then going to live in Spain that I actually managed to master a language other than English to a reasonable degree. My only recent attempt to learn another language was as part of my doctoral studies. Not an official, or even strictly necessary part I hasten to add.  I was developing a framework based around Aristotle’s different forms of knowledge and ways of knowing in order to examine the different sorts of understandings that English for Academic Purposes learners reach when they enquire into the things that puzzle them about their language learning.  I was frustrated that I couldn’t check some of Aristotle’s writings out for myself, but was reliant on others’ translations. I decided to learn some Greek and opted for New Testament Greek as a sort of halfway house between classical and modern Greek. I have not yet achieved enough proficiency to be able to read texts by myself, but good enough to piece a few things together and find key words and so on.

Perhaps until January 2017, I would not have considered reading something in another language part of ‘researching multilingually’. Nor would I have considered my PhD data, which came wholly from intermediate English language learners as being multilingual in any sense. Now, my complacent thinking is being challenged – and that can only be a good thing.