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Ce blog, un sujet en procès?

Written By: daveski on September 21, 2010 4 Comments

Is FIT a “subject in process”? Is this true for all multi-user blogs? Or even all blogs generally?

I’ve been reading Claire Kramsch‘s new book, The multilingual subject: What foreign language learners say about their experience and why it matters, and she argues that the learner of a second or foreign language is, or should be, a “sujet en procès. The good thing about thinking about this idea in French, she explains, is that sujet en procès has two fairly specific meanings: on one hand, it means “in process”, in the process of ~ing, similar to the English expression. On the other, it can mean to be on trial, “with all the concomitant feelings of shame, guilt, and defeat” (pg. 97). The idea is that language learners are always living on the boundary of self-formation through language, where new words in another language open up  possibilities for being and doing things a little (or completely!) differently than they could be done in the first. But at the same time, when you try doing this the first time, you judge yourself as sounding fake, pretentious, or maybe most likely, just not good enough in that language.

Sound familiar?

This blog in particular strikes me as a kind of sujet en procès in a few ways too, if you’ll bear with the analogy of a blog to a person. As I talk about FIT to other students and invite them (you?) to join our conversation, I always find it hard to encapsulate what this blog is “about”. One of the easiest cop-outs, er, I mean, methods, is to say “Well, just scroll down the front page and get a sense of what kinds of things are written there”. Scroll all the way down to see the “ever-favorite” posts we’ve highlighted. Look at the blogroll, the links, scan the list of contributors.

But even that, as I write this at least, is half-edited, with two different organizational schemes sitting uneasily together. The front page now features posts about pretty radically different topics, there are a handful in (just a few) non-English languages, there is prose and a little poetry as well, some posts have pictures and others don’t, and on and on. And then, of course, whatever post comes next is going to alter the balance again, change the ‘flavor’ of FIT a little more toward…how would you identify this post here?

Every intentional, meaningful, even heartfelt utterance that this blog makes from the different voices that come and go on its pages, changes what it is, makes it a subject in process. And, to the extent that we think about this and talk about it–partly because geeky people like me like to think about this stuff, but more importantly because categorizing and tagging yourself is part of how you get clicks out there in the big, wide Internet–this blog is on trial.

So what’s the larger point? For language learners, to be a sujet en procès is to take risks with the new language, to struggle with new words and expressions, and to fight to reconcile with becoming a slightly different person depending on what language you’re speaking, and the consequences that brings.

Not so different, I think, from what we are here.

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4 Responses to “Ce blog, un sujet en procès?”

  1. Youki on: 22 September 2010 at 12:39 am

    yes, learning Japanese does feel like I’m on trial! partly because of my name and that I’m Japanese-American, many people expect me to speak fluent Japanese. But I don’t at all, so it’s always a bit awkward when someone assumes that I do. You’re right, it’s not just a linguistic boundary, but an identity boundary as well.

  2. daveski on: 22 September 2010 at 9:04 pm

    It’s interesting, because it seems like being “in process” when learning another language is, like the words say, becoming somebody new as you learn. But what you write makes me wonder about how the languages (or bits and pieces of them anyway) that are dormant inside us figure into who we become. And how, like you say, your social identity as Japanese-American can force you to bring to the surface aspects of your linguistic self that maybe wouldn’t otherwise. That “trial” seems to have a much more external source than the kind of self-judgment that Kramsch seems to be talking about, though they have to be linked…

  3. Youki on: 23 September 2010 at 6:22 pm

    hey, does Kramsch discuss Ricoeur? strikes me as a nice illustration of idem/ipse forms of identity. I mean, the “trial” feels like the dialectical tension between idem-identity (my name, my skin color and facial features) and ipse-identity (selfhood, how I conceptualize and express myself as a person). Seems like a good way to link internal/external sources…

  4. Usree Bhattacharya on: 28 October 2010 at 9:08 am

    Very cool post, Dave, it really resonated with me. This line stood out for me: “to be a sujet en procès is to take risks with the new language, to struggle with new words and expressions, and to fight to reconcile with becoming a slightly different person depending on what language you’re speaking, and the consequences that brings…” To “take risks,” “to struggle,””to fight”…what a contested space it is for all of us, as language users, a space that appears to be almost tortured. And yet we undertake these fights and struggles, and take risks, so many times without even being aware that we are doing so…And finally, through all this, the articulation of ourselves…to ourselves, and to others…is one of the most rewarding things we ever do.

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