code-switching and consent to record
- Forgive me if I am repeating something someone else might've already say (I
just lost a few e-mails).
In working with Nigerians, I have found a similar reluctance to be recorded for
a number of interesting reasons about which I can only half-guess.
Nonetheless, I managed to do some recording anyway by asking a titled close
friend in my network if I could interview him and talk about having recorded
him in public. This worked and many people consented to be interviewed.
During interviews, I also collected code-switching data as people walked in and
out of the room. I collected code-switching data also by walking around public
events with the tape recorder on and visible. That the recorder was visible
constituted an ethics of consent as far as I think is reasonable, and believe
me, people asked about it! Furthermore, I think also recording in public in
large groups gives people less anxiety and they do indeed break out into little
groups and talk in such a way that one can get some great data.
That people will ask about your project is an important opportunity to expand
the base of people whom you might record. For example, after an initial
blunder or two I didn't bother to explain any interest in code-switching
because it makes people self-conscious and it invariably caused the few
individuals I mentioned it to, to lament the "loss" of "pure" Igbo, Yoruba,
etc. or to mention how "poor" their English was. Rather, I began to discuss my
research in far more general terms, saying that I wanted to document how such a
creative and funny and sophisticated group of talkers used language everyday as
Nigerians and as ethnics. That went over well and also aided interest in my
Women were harder to obtain consent to record, even though I am also female. I
remain unsure why and I also believe that when I did get women's speech, it was
in instances when they entirely forgot I had a tape-recorder. This of course
means that I got performances in the Hymesian sense and I got angry
discussions; those performances have code-switching to be sure, but do not lend
well to variation analysis.
But Anastase, although I got somewhat different material than I had set out
for, it was all very interesting, very unusual and very good to work with.
Good luck. Your work sounds very important and I know you will find a way to
carry it forward.
Rachel R. Reynolds
Department of Culture and Communication
3141 Chestnut Street (Bldg 47)
Philadelphia, PA 19104
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