Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Miranda Weinberg ’09, a linguistics major and history/music minor, is a Fulbright recipient and will be conducting research abroad next year in Nepal. She will be leaving in early to mid September and spending ten months there.
Weinberg’s project will focus on the mother language education. In Nepal, the government supports the country’s linguistic diversity by allowing for primary-level education in students’ first language. However, although each community has the right to choose education in its native language, most school children’s education is in English or Nepali rather than in their mother language. Problems such as finding teachers, creating course materials, and determining what languages to teach are often barriers to fully implementing mother language education in Nepali communities.
Weinberg’s inspiration for her Fulbright project came primarily from her Junior fall semester abroad in the Darjeeling district of India, which borders Nepal. She describes, “In Darjeeling I was speaking Nepali, and living with people who identified as Nepali, and so I really wanted to see what it’s like to be Nepali in Nepal, as opposed to part of the diaspora.”
Weinberg plans to focus on a group of children in a school in the first year of mother language education. In her project, she poses questions such as, “How does mother language education affect language use and attitudes toward different languages? What effect does it have on the educational success of students?”
When she arrives in Nepal, Weinberg first plans to spend two weeks in Kathmandu in order to work with linguists at Tribhuvan University and members of the Multilingual Education Program who are just beginning to implement mother language education in schools around Nepal. This will give her a current understanding of the state of mother language education in Nepal that will supplement her prior research of the Nepali language and mother education language.
After she gains the appropriate background, she plans to begin her stay with a community and study the community’s language and education situation. By learning and observing the daily activities and social structures of the community, Weinberg hopes to familiarize herself with the community while doing her research. The bulk of her research will be spent at the community’s school and observing the transition to teaching mother language education to Nepali children. Her fieldwork includes, “observing and participating in the introduction of the mother language curriculum by working with teachers on curriculum development and use of new materials.”
At the end of ten months, Weinberg will return to Tribhuvan University and supplement her earlier research by observing any changes in the language situation and conducting follow-up interviews.
Weinberg has expressed her optimistic enthusiasm for the impacts of her project in Nepal. Not only does she plan on supporting the community on its mother language education, but she will also contribute more data and information regarding language use and the effects of mother language education on a national level.
She ends her grant proposal by expressing her project’s potential for personal growth. She describes, “Personally, this project presents an exciting opportunity to help a community as they undertake important work for their language and will be a valuable experience as I pursue graduate study in linguistics.”