« Seeking permission | Blog home | Money and respect - Frank Baarda »

business learning training articles new learning business training opportunities finance learning training deposit money learning making training art loan learning training deposits make learning your training home good income learning outcome training issue medicine learning training drugs market learning money training trends self learning roof training repairing market learning training online secure skin learning training tools wedding learning training jewellery newspaper learning for training magazine geo learning training places business learning training design Car learning and training Jips production learning training business ladies learning cosmetics training sector sport learning and training fat burn vat learning insurance training price fitness learning training program furniture learning at training home which learning insurance training firms new learning devoloping training technology healthy learning training nutrition dress learning training up company learning training income insurance learning and training life dream learning training home create learning new training business individual learning loan training form cooking learning training ingredients which learning firms training is good choosing learning most training efficient business comment learning on training goods technology learning training business secret learning of training business company learning training redirects credits learning in training business guide learning for training business cheap learning insurance training tips selling learning training abroad protein learning training diets improve learning your training home security learning training importance

[ from our roadie, Peter K. Austin, Linguistics Department, SOAS
23rd February 2008

Last week David Nathan and I ran a Language Documentation Workshop at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies at the invitation of Toshihide (“Toshi”) Nakayama, Associate Professor at ILCAA, the Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, and author of Nuuchahnulth (Nootka) Morphosyntax among other publications. The workshop was attended by 18 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers from various Japanese universities from Sapporo to Kyoto, most of whom had already done some fieldwork. The attendees were remarkable for several reasons:

  • they all showed an amazing level of commitment to language documentation and fieldwork. Roughly half of them had bought recording equipment (Edirol R-9 was a favourite) with their own money – hard to imagine UK students coughing up the equivalent of 30,000 yen for their own machine. They mostly paid for fieldwork costs themselves;
  • they were working on a wide array of languages, from Alutor (Siberia), to Amdo Tibetan (China) to Bunun (Taiwan) to Dom (Papua New Guinea) to Cherokee (USA), requiring knowledge of contact languages as varied as Russian, Chinese and French (as well as English);
  • many of them endure tough conditions getting to and from the field – one student, for example, works in Siberia and it can take her three weeks to get to her field site. The journey involves three plane trips, and local flights in Russia can only be booked a maximum of three days in advance and are frequently cancelled or rescheduled so for each leg of the journey days of waiting to buy a ticket can be involved;
  • they receive little support and training from their home institutions – almost none had taken a field methods course, and none had received training in research methods, tools or workflows (apart from workshops Toshi has been running recently on software tools like Toolbox). When asked how they selected their field sites, one student told us his professor had said genkisoo ni mieru kara papua nyuuginea ni itte kure “Since you look healthy go to Papua New Guinea” – he went to the University of Papua New Guinea, befriended a student from the highlands and ended up working on his language!
  • they willingly shared samples of their data and analysis with us;
  • they were very interested to learn and fully participated in the course until 6pm each day. Exhausting for us but great for them!

Although we have run documentation training workshops in London on a number of occasions, this was the first time David and I attempted to present a ‘roadshow’ covering major issues in the theory and practice of language documentation. Thanks to Toshi’s preparatory work we had an array of equipment to use and all the students had the requisite software installed on their laptops. We brought some equipment from London, including specialist microphones, and amplifier boxes and cables that allow 16 people to listen to sound files together for purposes of evaluation and comparison. Thankfully everything worked perfectly for the four days (after we had worked out some unexpected Japanese keyboard mappings for Toolbox!).

Toshi surveyed the students at the end of the course and the following are the main points that came up in their comments on the various sections of the course:

  1. Defining documentation, the documentation process
    • it was easy to grasp the differences between linguistic description and documentation: the products of linguistic documentation are meant to be utilized by a much wider range of people than professional linguists
    • for many attendees this workshop gave them the first opportunity to learn about the importance and necessity for language documentation research
  2. Corpus creation -- it was useful to learn:
    • various methods of data collection with concrete examples.
    • there are various ways to control the content and organization of data collection sessions
  3. Audio principles & audio practical -- it was very useful to learn:
    • the importance of monitoring the recording
    • the importance of the choice of microphone
    • the importance of the choice of recording format (e.g., no mp3)
    • that recording quality can be improved by small changes, such as placement of microphones
    • to evaluate actual recordings made at the workshop.
  4. Transcriber
    The attendees were very impressed by how Transcriber can facilitate both listening and transcribing audio recordings. Many of them had never used the software, but would like to learn to use it more in their future research.
  5. Data management & formats, data practical, metadata
    • it was useful to see the actual process of constructing a data model for handling metadata.
    • it was useful to learn about the importance of making the data self-explanatory
    • some attendees wished to learn more about the practical application of XML in their research workflow
  6. Toolbox & Dictionaries (advanced Toolbox & Lexique Pro)
    • it was useful to learn that you can link not only texts and a lexicon but also various databases within Toolbox
  7. Grant writing
    • it was useful to get a reviewer’s viewpoint on grant applications
    • the discussion made the attendees realize the importance of making a realistic and concrete research plan and making the plan understandable to readers
  8. Mobilisation
    • it was useful and inspiring to see the actual (and very attractive) products.
    • the attendees were impressed by the point that speakers get frustrated if they don’t see concrete products from the research
  9. Archiving -- it was useful to learn:
    • a backup is not an archive
    • the importance of collecting data with archiving in mind
    • that archive objects are something you have to create carefully rather than something that ‘happens’ simply by accumulating data

We are hoping to have a follow-up ‘advanced level’ workshop in Tokyo at some future date to extend the knowledge and skills developed over these four days. We are also interested in looking at running similar training workshops elsewhere, and collaborating with other trainers on offering similar ‘roadshows’ in the future.

PS This post marks 12 months since I started contributing to the Transient Languages blog at Jane’s invitation. In February 2007 I would never have imagined I’d be writing 30 posts in the coming year, or that I’d discover just how much fun (and how addictive) blogging can be.

The Authors

About the Blog

The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.

Recently commented on


Papua New Guinea FAQs from Eva Lindstrom Papua New Guinea (New Ireland): Eva Lindstrom's tips for fieldworkers

Australian Languages Answers to some frequently asked questions about Australian languages

Papua Web Information network on Papua, Indonesia (formerly Irian Jaya)

Hibernating blogs

Indigenous Language SPEAK

Langguj gel Australian linguistics and fieldwork blog

Interesting Blogs

Omniglot Writing systems and languages of the world

LingFormant Linguistics news

Language hat Linguistics news and commentary

Jabal al-Lughat Linguistics news and commentary on a range of languages

Living languages Blog with news items and discussion of endangered languages

OzPapersOnline Notices of recent work on the Indigenous languages of Australia

That Munanga linguist Community linguist blog

Anggarrgoon Claire Bowern's linguistics and fieldwork blog

Savage Minds A group blog on Anthropology

Fully (sic)

Language on the Move Intercultural communication and multilingualism

Talking Alaska: Reflections on the native languages of Alaska

Culture matters: applying anthropology Australian anthropology blog: postgraduates and staff

Long Road ethnography and anthropology blog - including about Australia

matjjin-nehen Blog on Australian linguistics, fieldwork, politics and the environment.

Language Log Group blog on language and linguistics


E-MELD The E-MELD School of Best Practices in Digital Language Documentation

Tema Modersmål Website in Swedish with links to sites on and in many languages

Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project: Language Documentation: What is it? Information on equipment, formats, and archiving, and examples of documentation

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources a worldwide network of organizations, academics, activists, indigenous groups, and others representing indigenous and tribal peoples

Technorati Profile

Technology-enhanced language revitalization Include ILAT (Indigenous Languages and Technology) discussion list.

Endangered languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

Koryak Net Information on the people of Kamchatka

Linguistic fieldwork preparation: a guide for field linguists syllabi, funding, technology, ethics, readings, bibliography

On-line resources for endangered languages

Papua New Guinea Language Resources Phonologies, grammars, dictionaries, literacy, language maps for many PNG languages

Resource network for linguistic diversity Networking practitioners working to record,retrieve & reintroduce endangered languages


ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

DELAMAN The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network

PARADISEC The Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures

Murriny-Patha Song Project Documenting the language and music of public songs and dances composed and performed by Murriny Patha-speaking people

PFED The Project for Free Electronic Dictionaries

DOBES Endangered language documentation and archiving, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and sponsored by the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen.

DELP Documenting endangered languages at the University of Sydney

Ethno EResearch Exploring methods and technology for streaming media and interlinear text