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13th International Conference of the Association for Language Awareness

Activity: Conference participationParticipation in conference

Dr Veronika Koller - Keynote/plenary speaker


‘You are managing the conversation’: Language awareness in consulting, communications and campaigning

In this talk, I will present insights gained from twelve interviews with language workers in the area of consulting, communications and campaigning, to answer the following questions:
 What are the backgrounds and career paths of language workers outside academia? What kind and level of awareness of language use do they bring to their work?
 What are the processes and conditions of professional language work outside academia?
 What is the perceived relationship between linguists in academia and professional language workers in other contexts? (How) does their awareness of language differ?
In conducting the interviews and answering the above questions, I drew on my experience and embodied meta-expertise as both a linguist working in academia and a senior associate analyst for a language consulting company.
The twelve semi-structured interviews forming the basis for this chapter reflect the experience of respondents from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. They represent a range of language workers outside academia, including brand consultants, marketing managers and government advisors. Half of the interviews were conducted specifically for this chapter, with the interview partners being identified through my professional networks, while the other half was previously published in Babel magazine (www.babelzine.com) and on the website http://careerlinguist.com/profiles-in-lingusitics/ [sic].
The interviews show that professional language work is done by people with a variety of backgrounds – including linguistics, computing, journalism, or no academic background - who view language in different ways. Methods and time scales for language work outside academia differ widely, depending on organisational context and communicative purpose.
Interviewees go beyond a distinction between text analysis and/or production and see raising their clients‘ awareness about language use and language analysis as just as important. A feedback model integrating analysis, production and awareness-raising seems more appropriate to them, and this chapter will theorise such a model. Similarly, language workers, especially in the private sector, are more concerned with how clients view language (work) than how they could and do relate to academic linguists. When asked to reflect on that relationship, they often present it as a one-way street, with language workers benefitting from academic work but being silent or hesitant about how their work could benefit academic linguists.
The findings raise questions as to what practices need to be in place to facilitate knowledge exchange between academic linguists and language workers outside academia. From a language awareness point of view, it is worth asking how this awareness differs between linguists in academia and language workers in other sectors, and the latter can raise language awareness in clients to beneficial rather than manipulative ends.


Title13th International Conference of the Association for Language Awareness
LocationVienna university of Economics and Business
Degree of recognitionInternational event