Ethnography 2019

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

Description of Activity

Paper given on: Language learning and ethnographic fieldwork

In this paper I make the case for researchers to look at the moments that make them feel anxious about their language in fieldwork (e.g. being inarticulate, uncomfortable or embarrassed). I have produced this piece from the perspective of a researcher who learnt (and is still learning) Hungarian and whose attempts at understanding and speaking Hungarian provide plenty of awkward or embarrassing moments to reflect upon. Such moments highlight my evolving relationships with others and wider aspects of power and hierarchy in the fieldwork setting. This paper calls for researchers who learn another language for fieldwork to reflect on breakdowns in communication as sites of potential breakthroughs, which can become key to understanding fieldwork. At the same time, I hope this paper can speak to all researchers, as embarrassing moments and communication breakdowns are certainly not confined to language learners, although perhaps learning another language can crystallise communication breakdowns in more obvious ways.
Period28 Aug 201930 Aug 2019
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Language learning
  • Ethnography
  • embarrassing
  • anxiety
  • fieldwork
  • Communication
  • incompetence
  • Hungary
  • Education
  • Schools