Friday, 16 May 2014

The Many Faces of Language Learning

As many of you know, I love learning foreign languages. There is nothing quite as wonderful as grasping the meaning of new, exotic sounds and words, writing that very first sentence.

In the past couple of month I have come across another type of language learning. It has been a learning process because the field is completely new to me. Quite frankly, it has been a great eye-opener.

In my Master's thesis I did a critical discourse analysis (CDA) on parts of the constitutions of Slovakia, Poland and Russia. According to Wikipedia, "Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of discourse that views language as a form of social practice and focuses on the ways social and political domination are reproduced in text and talk". 

The approach gave me a completely new view on language-learning. What do all those little words mean? What is their impact? What is the context of the whole story? Who is involved? 

When doing a critical discourse analysis, one may take one of several approaches. My work was inspired by the analysis process developed by Norman Fairclough. In essence my analysis focused on the relationship between language and norms within a complex and transformative context, including such factors as discursive events, meanings, representations and assumptions. 

I believe that a critical stance is needed in most aspects of life in order to understand the world around us - and a language nerd like me obviously loves it when language is thrown into the mix. 

Further reading; 
  • Fairclough, Norman (1989). Language and Power. London: Longman.
  • Teun A. Van Dijk. (2008). Discourse and Power. Houndsmills: Palgrave.
  • Wodak Ruth (ed). Critical Discourse Analysis. Available at

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