At a first step we had to find a Group. Fortunately I met Marco whom I know from my first Semester at Viadrina. I was looking forward to work with him already, so we decided at the first Seminar to work together. Secondly Tessa and Kenza came to join our Group and here we are complete. Since three of us are German, it was very pleasing to have one foreign Student, Kenza with us. We decided to communicate via What´sApp-Group.
Finding a Study-Case:
I came with an unfulfilled Idea from past Studies, to record Voices of multilingual People. I was interested to find out, if their Voice change when switching Languages. But it was for another course and it did not really fit as a group idea. Marco suggested to go all the way of U7 crossing Berlin from south-east located Rudow to north-west located Spandau and record spoken Language in the train. But after all, we decided together on a linguistic landscape Study on written signs at Hermannplatz.
The aim of our Study at Hermannplatz was to document represented languages in shop-signs, advertisements and any kind of linguistic written presentation. To find out wether Hermannplatz is a mostly multilingual Space (as we expected) or rather bilingual and maybe even monolingual.
We met together in a hotspot at Hermannplatz, the Café Süss, to discuss our Plan and gather the Material. So we decided to separately walk in a circle around Hermannplatz and take pictures. Afterwards we where able to meet, after some trouble of finding us, again. Marco decided to open a dropBox Folder where we can gather our Pictures, I was happy about his engagement for our Group.
Analyse und Interpretation
At it comes to the analyses of our Footage, the first Idea was to order the pictures in three categories, Mono-/Bi-/Multi-Lingual. From this status we saw that the most documented signs are bilingual =German-English. Our interpretation is against our first presumption and Hermannplatz is not a Multilingual Space but rather a Bilingual one representing German and English.
Since I lived the past 8 years close to Hermannplatz, I had a good overview on the Shops on and around Hermannplatz. My personal presumption was approved. Since they rebuild every U-Bahnstation on U7 and U8 one after another around Kreuzberg and Hermannplatz is the meeting-point of these two lines. The older German Shops are long gone except one pub, the turkish opened franchise shops for “Vodaphone” or “Telekom”. One Bakery “Cafe Süß” and one Döner-Shop in German-Turkish-Hand and all other retailer come and go. Other than the Banks “Berliner Volksbank” / “Sparkasse” and the shopping mall “Karstadt”, which is connected to the U-Bahn Station through some steps and escalators.
If I could plan this project again, I would try to have more time to communicate, specially in a very diverse group as we where, it is very important to keep everyone informed and we had some difficulties as well. But looking back, I think it was a great study-case and I had a lot of fun. As my usual function in groups I tried to make everyone comfortable and take my turn only when things start to get heated up and again find solutions for everyone. Here I felt good in this position and have the feeling of real appreciation.
In terms of the linguistic-landscape-study, it would have been better to consider more possibilities to represent our Results as well as putting some more research into the architecture or other historical information.
Definitely leads the study to more questions and it would be interesting to follow up.
Personal Reflection. The language and globalization class was the first class held in English that I’ve taken at Viadrina so I didn’t have any expectations but the idea of doing a group project with international students sounded like an interesting idea to me. In the end we ended up being 3 Germans and only 1 international student in the group but the fact that we all lived in berlin made it much easier for us to quickly decide that our project should be placed in berlin and also to meet up there.
Although for quite a while I was unsure what our project was supposed to be about or what was going to be our approach, which was in my eyes mainly because we all had a slightly different idea of what to do and how to do it, we all ended up being on the same page and created the idea to do a LLS project. We decided to choose Hermannplatz as the place to go as it seemed to be a very multicultural space in all our eyes.
When we all first met up I realised that each of us a slightly different idea and different demands and expectations for the project. On top of that we had quite a different need for flexibility and or structure in terms of the group work for this project. But in my eyes we all eventually found our position in the team.
Doing a field work as freely as this one was a completely new experience for me, especially because most of my classes were very theoretical so far so it was great and exciting to try something new. When we met up to take the pictures at Hermannplatz I realised that we all had very different ways of working, which was a little chaotic at times but when we all got together to work on a specific thing we did quite a good job.
Luckily some of the team members were very good at using the Mahara website and able to do a proper layout for this portfolio as I had and still have quite some difficulties adapting to this website. I find it quite confusing and difficult to use without creating a big chaos on the website.
All in all I learned a lot from this project, not only about Linguistic Landscape studies and working in the field but also about working in a team and being a member of a team where everyone has such a different way of working but still making it work.
Coming originally from an epistemological history and law studies background, it is the very first time that I have to go “to-the-field”; which has good and bad.
Good because you observe carefully after that, you pay even more attention to what is going to within a city, not only its colors and movements but also its sounds and pictures. Landscaping is not only a “sensitive” diagnostic tool for ethnographical studies but also a way of experiencing, living in a particular place for each human being. Landscaping is no exclusively reserved to the ethnographer. Another positive point is the flexibility of such study tools and the creativity they call for. I would say that landscaping in Hermannplatz gave me a paradoxical feeling, for some minutes it was amusing but then it got a bit frustrating. First, the question what would be the connexion between all of these pieces of information. Secondary, it became to be boring when I could not find anything else. The “what to do next” was a question that kept on ringing. That is why I went to Hermannstrasse, even though we did not plan to go there. On one hand, we all agreed that thanks to this initiative we could raise interesting points and ideas and link it to multiculturalism in Hermannplatz, also the flexibility of such tools and the non-rigid characteristic of ethnographical studies allow doing so. Why not. On the other hand, I decided to go there while my the rest of the team was still in Hermannplatz without communicating it, which lacked in a way of team spirit. This latter thought is raising another point; once “on the field” obstacles appear, not necessarily coming from the outside, meaning our study subject, but also from the inside (the team). If communication is the key to a dynamic work, sometimes it is hard to enable it. I enjoyed working with the rest of the team and learned a lot. Maybe next time it would be better to use deadlines and make it clear from the beginning. According to the results we got, this team worked pretty well.
Now comes the negative point of such studies. I would say first it lacks order, of a clear outline and way of conducting a study case. Most of the things happen to appear once on the field, in other words, they are unplanned. Dealing with the unplanned requires taking distance and calmness. That could be the first obstacle. The second comes after, which could be summed up by one question - what to do with the data? what to do if it shows the opposite of what we first thought we would find? In case of pictures, do we let them talk and describe only and exactly what is on them or can we also add another narrative to it and make assumptions. The field of possibilities is wide with ethnographical studies.
Reflection on my field study experience and the teamwork involved
My main goal at first was basically supporting a side effect, namely to improve my English skills. What better course to choose than the one dealing with lingualisms and globalization, given in english language; reading scientific papers, preparing and holding a presentation, publishing an internet-portfolio on a study case - Perfect!
From the first session on, I was drawn to the ethnographical aspects of the seminar. Hearing about the task of performing a case study, a couple of ideas came up right away, for instance gathering audio and video-data from the U7 subway-line (representing a cross-section through berlin from southeast to northwest in itself) to develop a profile of languages one could find there, to examine multi-lingualism in a globalized city. Then I realized this would not be so easy for me, because:
1. I would not be able to use illegally collected data, therefore
2. would have to approach people, which I felt very self-conscious about.
The solution came with the session on Blommaert and Linguistic Landscape Studies.
Gathering public photo-graphic data avoids legal jeopardy, the signs arre 'out to be consumed', plus, possibly I would be able to put the work on the signages into a literary-science context later on.
Our group was put together, we decided to perform a LLS on Hermannplatz, since we had a hunch, that this area might provide for a couple of languages, scheduled our photo-shoot for the 5th of January.
We made a lot of expe-riences that day, e.g. mistakes.. :-)
We hadn’t really thought things through. We should have put more effort into describing what we wanted to photograph beforehand. Our GPS-tracking-solution was not working properly, we simply ‘shot-away’, which made analysis more complicated. Questions like ‘Who is the author’? ‘What qualifies as German?’, etc. should have been adressed. Thankfully the method is relatively forgiving and one can apply new parameters to the data-set afterwards.
I sorted the data into mono-, bi- and multilingual groups, collected the languages found and how often they were represented. Our result was that Hermannplatz is mainly bilingual, German and English being the dominant languages.
I gained a lot from this experience. This was my first scientific fieldwork and proved to involve a lot of fun and new insights and knowledge. I almost physically learned of the importance of focussing on good questions beforehand - to be approached better the next time around.
We could have done things better, especially when it comes to preparation and establishing a team that is functioning through a collectively established set of guidelines.
At times I was very frustrated with the team-work aspects of this endeavour. Internal deadlines where disregarded, communicational attempts ignored several times. One member didn’t even bring a camera to the photo-shoot. I decided to drag these issues along in order to not cause any further vexations - wrong plan.
I am very thankful for the experience, though. And I particularly like that we let ourselves go in the direction of being a little bit 'discriptively thick' by bringing in our reflections.
I had decided to skip the ‘storming’-phase of our team development, so there could be no norming. Rules that I would have liked to see established or at least talked about were not addressed. I like working in a team and learned about the importance of clarity in the storming phase in order to be able to reach the next stage. Got it.
The fieldwork, to me an active scientific test-run was, again, a lot of fun. I learned that I shouldn’t be too fast with conclusions. That I would have to be patient and let the data give the answers to me. I even performed another LLS data-gathering already on a Café, regarding multiple food-cultures which could possibly be ‘distilled’ out of a space that is mainly monolingual. I am looking forward to re-entering the LLS-mindset again in the future.