When my exchange was shortened due to COVID-19, I had the opportunity to undertake a part-time research assistant position with Dr. Jeff Tennant in the French and Linguistics departments at Western. Our project studied the rhythm and intonation of the speech of Franco-Ontarians. This paper serves as a description and reflection of this experiential learning opportunity. Specifically, it explores the challenges of operating within a multi-year project timeline as well as dealing with imposter syndrome as a student new to true research.
This project examined the spoken language of bilingual Ontarians to determine if the classically distinct rhythm patterns of French and English converge. Taking previously recorded sociolinguistic interviews, the speech was transcribed, phonetically prepared, and input into the analysis software before interpretation. This data will contribute to the Phonologie du Francais Contemporain corpus, and specifically is aimed to provide evidence for a longstanding debate of language classification based on prosodic rhythm.
In preparing for international conferences, I had to work through the challenge of functioning under the extended timeline of a research project in which I found it easy to lose my sense of place. Additionally, imposter syndrome led to hesitancy in asking questions during the initial months. In working through these barriers, I discovered the benefits of clear communication in improving the quality of my work and my relationship with my supervisor, in allowing my existing skills to be best utilized and developed, and in affording me opportunities to advance in my work.