Returning to Alicante

Next month I’m heading back to Spain to attend a sociolinguistics conference in Murcia. It will be an opportunity to present some of my research and hopefully receive some helpful feedback before I submit my thesis later in the summer. I’m also excited to be going to Murcia again, having been there on a school exchange when I was in my final year of school. For a week I stayed with a Spanish family, spoke Spanish all day, went to school, and went on various trips – it was amazing! This visit, alongside a school trip to Paris the previous year, confirmed my love of languages and my decision to study them at university.

The visit to Murcia next month will also be a perfect occasion to return to Alicante, which is only a short distance away. I’m hoping to meet up with some of the people that helped with my project and update them with my findings. This trip will also be a good chance to do some additional bits of research.  Having spent a lot of time researching Valencian language media, I’m looking forward to getting up-to-date with the current situation. I also intend to look into the availability of Valencian written publications (press and literature) and whether this has changed at all since my last visit.

Catching up on Valencian TV

In November 2013, just before I conducted by  fieldwork to learn more about language policy in Alicante, the Valencian public broadcaster RTVV  was shut down. RTVV was, and remains, the only regional public broadcaster to have closed in Spain, and its closure left the Valencian Community without a public TV and radio service in the local language. The closure of RTVV was a controversial subject that many fieldwork respondents were keen to express their thoughts on, and as such, in keeping with the concept of ‘follow the data’, it is a topic that I pursue in the thesis.

The closure of RTVV and the subsequent reaction is particularly exciting for my PhD because it demonstrates language policy in action and how the local sociolinguistic setting quickly reacts to changing circumstances. When RTVV existed it was subject to criticism, yet; now that the region is without a Valencian public broadcaster, the nature of this debate has altered.

However,  following a recent story and its development also presents difficulties. The story keeps changing, and therefore, my thesis needs to reflect this. As mentioned in a blog post a few months ago, the Valencian Community’s new coalition government (PSPV-PSOE-Compromís) is keen to reinstate the Valencian public broadcaster. They had originally wished to reopen the channel on 9th October 2015 to coincide with the ‘Day of the Valencian Community’. This decision was later blocked by Podemos after concerns were raised that too much attention was focused on the symbolic date and not on the content of the channel. However, despite the various debates over the last couple of years surrounding the future of Valencian language media, the reopening of the RTVV still appears to be on the cards. This week’s news is that 29th November 2016 has been named by Podemos, who also have seats in the Valencian Government, as the date for the launch of the new station. This would mark 3 years since the closure of RTVV, so could also be said to be symbolic. Therefore, it looks like the story continues to evolve, and as I return to the media section of my thesis, these latest developments, and their implications, will need to be acknowledged.

Fieldwork Reflections

Last week, I was flicking through the calendar on my phone and realised that this time two years ago I was just starting my four month stay in Alicante.  In some ways, it feels like only yesterday that I began arranging and conducting interviews with local respondents in Alicante. To think that two years have already passed seems almost unbelievable! Yet, it also seems like much longer ago, especially when I consider how much the thesis has progressed since then. Following data collection, the project advanced into data analysis, and now, attention has turned to writing up the thesis.

A wonderful aspect of writing up, is that I am constantly referring back to the data collected during the interviews, and as such, many of the conversations that I had with respondents remain very fresh in my mind. Gathering local people’s views on language was an integral part of the project, and therefore, it has been important to keep revisiting the data to make sure that their contributions are fully appreciated and expressed in the analysis. Whilst going back over all of these notes is complicated due to the vast amounts of reading and editing required, it is fun to remember all of the interviews and the respondents. Doing this has also made me realise that I miss Alicante and that I must organise to go back soon! IMG_1718.JPG

Writing Up

This semester I’ve been lucky enough to teach a seminar again at a neighbouring university. The overall theme of the module is language and mediality and seminars have covered a range of topics. The topic of this week’s class is blogs and in particular how they have emerged and developed, and the relationship between the blogger and the reader. It’s an interesting topic, partly because it continues to evolve, and it reminded me that it’s time to update my own blog!

In October I officially entered the fourth year of my PhD and so I’m now in the ‘writing up’ stage of my project. Whilst this means I’m over three quarters of the way through my PhD, I still have lots of work to do. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, last year was dedicated to my data analysis. This involved listening back to my interviews and drawing out themes to develop into mini chapters. Now, I’m concentrating on piecing all of this information together into my main data chapter.

Over the last couple of months I’ve found out that ‘writing up’ is more about editing and reorganising a lot of the writing and analysis I did earlier in the project, rather than ‘writing’ in the traditional sense. In some ways, this makes the task less daunting, however, it is a big task! The last few months have involved a lot of note making, highlighting, printing and crossing out! Luckily, I now feel that I’ve found the flow of the main chapter and everything is coming together.  It’s very rewarding as I tick off sections from my chapter plan.

Keeping an eye on Valencian television

In November 2013, the Valencian government, led by the Partido Popular (PP), closed its public broadcaster Radiotelevisió Valenciana (RTVV) citing financial reasons.  This decision follow the blocking of the Catalan television signal in 2011.  As a result, media provision in Valencian has reduced significantly in recent times and does not reflect the official status of the language.

This lack of media provision was a focus of discussions during my fieldwork in 2014 and respondents were keen to share their views on the subject.   Many respondents expressed concern about the closure of RTVV, but also about the quality of its content when it existed (few programmes were in Valencian and there were also accusations of political bias).  Due to the interest that my respondents expressed, I have been keen to keep up with developments.

Although RTVV closed almost 2 years ago, the story continues to feature in local and national press.  In June 2015, a PSOE-Compromís coalition was formed to lead the Valencian government following the PP’s defeat  in local elections.  The new government soon declared their intention to reopen RTVV, and in the last week the story has progressed considerably.

At the start of the week, it was announced that the station would reopen on 9th October 2015.  The date is symbolic as it marks the Día de la Comunidad Valenciana and RTVV first opened on this date in 1989.  The government stated that the channel would reopen for the day showing existing series and cartoons.  Yet, later in the week it was announced that the station would not reopen on 9th October as there would not be sufficient time for a decision to be approved.  However, concerns have also been raised about the focus on the symbolic date, rather than the channel’s content and future plans.

So what’s next for RTVV?  Whilst the government appear keen to reopen the channel, its role does not yet seem clear.  Is the channel and its content to be symbolic or a real alternative to other stations?

Moving onto the next stage of my PhD project

The last few weeks have been spent listening back to the last of my fieldwork interviews and making notes.  At last, I have finished and I have several books fulls of highlighted notes to prove it!

My precious notebooks!

My precious notebooks!

In addition, I have continued to tease out and develop interesting themes from my data. Recently, I have been focusing on respondents who learnt Valencian later in life and their experiences.

During this academic year I have accumulated lots of notes and several mini chapters on a wide range of themes that emerged from my data. The next step is to continue cross-referencing and to start linking the various aspects together to develop the argument running through my thesis.

June already?!

A busy few months means that 2015 is flying by and it’s hard to believe that it’s already June.  My main task this year has been data analysis and formulating themes from my data into mini-chapters.  However, since Christmas, I’ve been lucky enough to present at three conferences and I’ve taught on a module at another university.  At the most recent conference ‘Spanish in Society’, I attended lots of interesting talks on and I received some really useful comments and advice which I will incorporate in my thesis.  The last few months have provided valuable experiences and I’ve enjoyed this more practical side of PhD study. Over the summer, I’m looking forward to concentrating on my thesis as I enter the ‘writing up’ phase in October.