Category Archives: Kaisa Pietikäinen

Souvenirs from Athens: recollections from ELF7

ELF7 Doctoral workshop. From left: Roxani Faltzi, Haibo Liu, Yumi Matsumoto, convenors Barbara Seidlhofer and Henry Widdowson, Talip Gulle, Miya Komori-Glatz and Kaisa Pietikäinen.

ELF7 Doctoral workshop. From left: Roxani Faltzi, Haibo Liu, Yumi Matsumoto, convenors Barbara Seidlhofer and Henry Widdowson, Talip Gulle, Miya Komori-Glatz and Kaisa Pietikäinen.

by Kaisa Pietikäinen

For an inexperienced conference-goer such as myself, the prospect of giving two separate presentations under the watchful (and no doubt evaluative) eye of several distinguished ELF veterans made my stomach turn. In spite of my anxiety, I packed my most formal business jacket and flew to Athens for the 7th International Conference of English as a Lingua Franca, better known as ELF7, hosted by DEREE, The American College of Greece, during 4–6 September.

By the end of the first fully-packed ELF day, my anxiety had levelled, and I was able to present my first talk rather successfully, or at least the small, heat-exhausted audience seemed quite interested in the topic: misunderstandings in private conversations among ELF couples, and how miscommunication was skilfully pre-empted by using various comprehension-enhancing tactics. I will post about this study later in more detail.

But, the real reason why I wasn’t so nervous anymore was perhaps not so flattering. During the first day, I was surprised that so many presenters actually didn’t seem to know much of ELF. Often there was no distinction made between ELF (English as a lingua franca) and EFL (English as a foreign language), and every time a presenter began his/her 20-minute presentation with a 10-minute intro on what ELF is, I thought: “Oh, here we go again!”

First day: student questionnaires

Although I obviously didn’t get to see all the presentations I wanted – at times there were as many as seven parallel sessions, and unfortunately many of the ones that sounded interesting coincided – I also noticed the copy-paste problem Ray took up in his posting on ELF6. But, here the duplication disease infected entire studies, not just data. The trendiest theme in the conference seemed to be students’ attitudes towards ELF. These studies were identical to many already conducted here, there and everywhere, but when this was pointed out to the presenters, the common response was: “Yes, but it hasn’t been studied in my country!” Keep reading…

Why mixing languages isn’t so bad after all

Kaisa Pietikäinen is a PhD student at the University of Helsinki, where she carries out research in the field of English as a lingua franca (ELF)

Kaisa Pietikäinen is a PhD student at the University of Helsinki, where she carries out research in the field of English as a lingua franca (ELF)

by Kaisa Pietikäinen

You know those moments when you’re speaking English (as a lingua franca, or ELF), and all of a sudden your mind goes blank? You know the word you’re looking for, but you just can’t get it into your head. You might remember it in another language, but your brain just isn’t connecting to the English equivalent. Fear not – it’s more common than you think. And if your interlocutor isn’t a complete monolingual, you can try code-switching into a different language to resolve the situation.

I’ve been studying code-switching among ELF couples – couples who come from different cultures and language backgrounds, who have found each other and established a relationship despite the fact that neither partner uses his or her first language as the language of the relationship. (Actually, this might even make their relationship more equal.) These couples are very interesting as subjects of ELF research because they are much more established in their use of ELF than the traditional subjects in ELF studies – students, academics, and business people. ELF couples also make great subjects for the study of long term ELF: They use ELF every day with the same person, year after year. They open us a view to the future of ELF, on what established ELF could be like. Also, their use of ELF can give us important insight into what strategies work in the long run – and seems like code-switching is one of them!

In fact, code-switching is a very flexible device. In an earlier study (Pietikäinen 2012, available here), I discovered it can be used not only for covering for linguistic gaps, but also for

  • demonstrating use of a language
  • replacing nontranslatables, terms that do not quite catch their original meaning in English
  • specifying addressees by switching into another language, and
  • message emphasis.

In addition, sometimes code-switching seemed to emerge completely automatically, without any preparing cues or flagging, and interestingly, these instances of automatic code-switching seemed to pass without specific attention from either partner, which would suggest that code-switching is considered pretty normal an activity among ELF couples. Keep reading…

ELF couples: cross-cultural love relationships

Spring has finally arrived in Finland, and all of nature rejoices.© Nina Valtavirta

Spring has finally arrived in Finland,
and all of nature rejoices.
© Nina Valtavirta

When thinking of the common settings in which English is used as a lingua franca (ELF), you probably think of the Big Three – academia, business, and international organisations/diplomacy. It’s easy to forget that English is also a lingua franca of love, a common language of relationships in which neither partner shares a first language, and neither are native speakers of English. Looking over the body of research on ELF, it’s clear that the use of ELF in intimate relationships is largely unexplored territory.

Though the ELFA project is focused on ELF in academia, we’re fortunate to welcome Kaisa Pietikäinen, a new PhD student investigating this widespread phenomenon of ELF couples. She presented her PhD research plan at the last ELFA seminar of the academic term, which was held on May 6. Her ongoing data collection opens a window into the personal lives of eight ELF couples who are recording their use of ELF in everyday, informal settings such as at the dinner table or in the car. With this data, Kaisa will explore how ELF couples achieve successful communication, and how their communication tactics might differ from other ELF contexts.

Kaisa has already broken new ground with her MA thesis on ELF couples’ use of code-switching in interview data. Her thesis was completed at Newcastle University under the direction of Peter Sercombe and Alan Firth, who introduced her to the study of ELF and Conversation Analysis (CA), which will be her main methodology for the doctoral research. Unlike this earlier study, which drew its data from Kaisa’s interviews with six ELF couples, her PhD research will broaden this analysis to naturally occurring ELF interaction recorded by the couples themselves.

Keep reading…