Language learning as research rehearsal: Preparation for multi-linguistic field research in Morocco

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In this chapter I discuss several ways in which language learning was a
valuable process in itself for my research in Morocco. Pre-research language learning cannot be expected to completely mitigate the risks and limitations of being an outsider in a foreign research context. However, I found that cultural learning was an inherent and invaluable element of my language preparation in both French and Moroccan Arabic. Unpicking the illusionary goal of becoming fluent in the language(s) and culture(s) of research contexts, I illustrate how some of the costs of learning a language may not be as insurmountable as many assume. I show how my stay at a language school provided a forgiving and powerful environment for research preparation, acting as a variety of rehearsal space. Finally, exploring the value of untranslatable and in-between linguistic terms, I consider how they helped build an understanding of the social phenomena of my research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLearning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research
EditorsRobert Gibb, Annabel Tremlett, Julien Danero Iglesias
PublisherMultililngual Matters
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781788925938
ISBN (Print)9781788925907, 9781788925914
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2019

Structured keywords

  • International Development
  • Cultural Work
  • Perspectives on Work
  • Global Political Economy


  • Language learning,
  • Ethnographic Research
  • Morocco
  • Research Design
  • Risk
  • Translatability


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