Ethical issues and considerations in emotion research in second language learning and communication

The study of some concepts such as emotions and linguistic identity from the perspective of Applied Linguistics raises some reflections on their deep meaning. Therefore, regardless of the discipline from which we approach their research, it is worth reflecting on the implications for both theory and practice. In other words, it is worth progressing with “epistemological vigilance” in order to ask old questions with a fresh look.

Author
Alberto Rodríguez-Lifante.
Key words
Research ethics, cross-disciplinarity, complexity, applied linguistics, emotions.
Recommended readings
Ortega, L. (2005). Methodology, epistemology, and ethics in instructed SLA research: an introduction. The Modern Language Journal, 89, 317-327.

Banks, J. A. (1998). The lives and values of researchers: Implications for Educating Citizens in a multicultural society. Educational Researcher, 27 (7), 4-17.

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Cohen (2012) points out in the Preface to his second edition that the funny – or not so funny – thing about ethics is that people are more interested in it when things start to go wrong than when they go right. In this article, we are not going to talk about the current state of “things”, but about the interconnected object of study that occupies our research team on communication, emotions and identity in Spanish as a second language.

It would be easier to raise the difficulties we will face as a research team at the end of the project (in 2021) or even in a short section of the contributions, in the form of a publication or communication, to show that they have been present. However, it would not capture the attention it deserves, let alone make us reflect on the relevance it may have for our research. In a broad sense, talking about ethics means talking about decision-making, and important decisions raise dilemmas. In this regard, approaching the realm of emotions from the essence of human beings, their language, can be overwhelming. This, however, is the reason why, as a multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary team, in the spirit of a long-term cross-disciplinary dialogue, we have asked ourselves about the relevance of emotion in the process of learning Spanish and its linguistic value itself from a semantic point of view (emotional valences). This search is not free of epistemological, methodological and ethical crossroads. It is to the latter that we dedicate this brief article.

If we mentioned that ethics is concerned with decision-making, it seems necessary to ask whether ethics is about doing or not, or about ought to do or ought not to do. So, regardless of the difficulties that arise, when should we start reflecting on ethics in our project? Should we start doing without considering the appropriateness of such actions to other aspects of the study? In general, these and other questions are asked in the research process without highlighting the reflections that have led to the adoption of one position or another. In our opinion, posing them, considering them and making them explicit can provide the coherence necessary for a research to contribute to the advancement of our disciplinary field as part of science as a whole. A methodology researcher at the Federal University of Viçosa (Brazil) uses an expression that may well summarise what we are describing: “epistemological vigilance”. Are we epistemologically vigilant? Are we asking ourselves enough and necessary questions in relation to the object of study we are investigating, the decisions we are making or the path we are following?

Are we considering the vulnerability of those who participate in our studies? And that of those who conduct the research, as participants in the research as well?

More than a decade ago, Ortega (2005a/b) raised in the field of Applied Linguistics a debate that had already been inaugurated in other areas of scientific knowledge: for whom and for what purpose do we carry out the research we produce? He raised questions that may well be familiar in other scientific circles, but which had hardly been debated in our field, at least openly. The ethical “gaze” Ortega reflects on and its scope is still a matter of debate in our discipline, Applied Linguistics, but fortunately, it seems to have been enlivened in the light of new epistemologies emerging as a result of cross-disciplinary research interests. For example, the study of emotion and identity in Applied Linguistics calls for a broader view of the boundaries of the sciences, prompted by the nature of language and languages. The approach to communication in the process of language learning in a multicultural and linguistically globalised society raises questions not only about the value of our lives as researchers (Banks, 1998) but also about the contributions of language teachers (Kubanyiova & Crookes, 2016). From these statements, we do not seek to put these questions to sleep by providing answers; rather, we seek to generate further questions that will allow us to clarify what we do not yet know about these issues.

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References

Banks, J. A. (1998). The lives and values of researchers: Implications for Educating Citizens in a multicultural society. Educational Researcher, 27 (7), 4-17.

Cohen, M. (2012). 101 dilemas éticos. Madrid: Alianza Editorial. 2ª ed.

Kubanyiova, M. y Crookes, G. (2016). Re-envisioning the roles, tasks, and contributions of language teachers in the multilingual era of language education research and practice. The Modern Language Journal, 100, 117-132.

Ortega, L. (2005a). For what and for whom is our research? the ethical as transformative lens in instructed SLA. The Modern Language Journal, 89, 427-443.

Ortega, L. (2005b). Methodology, epistemology, and ethics in instructed SLA research: an introduction. The Modern Language Journal, 89, 317-327.

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Oscar Wilde
“Las pasiones sobre cuyo origen se engaña son las que más tiranizan. Los motivos que mejor se conocen tienen mucha menos fuerza”.
Oscar Wilde
Patricia Highsmith
“Lo que pasa es que uno proyecta un montón de emociones desagradables en una persona y te encuentras odiando a alguien o algo”.
Patricia Highsmith
Friedrich Nietzsche
“Nuestros pensamientos son las sombras de nuestros sentimientos, siempre más oscuros, más vanos, más sencillos que éstos”.
Friedrich Nietzche
Spinoza
“Cada cual gobierna todo según su afecto”.
Spinoza
Ralph W. Emerson
“Nada grande se ha hecho nunca sin entusiasmo”.
Ralph W. Emerson
Virginia Wolf
“I prefer where truth is important to write fiction”.
Virginia Wolf
William James
“Es nuestra actitud al comienzo de una tarea difícil la que, más que cualquier otra cosa, afecta a su resultado exitoso”.
William James
M. E. Seligman.
“Los hábitos de pensamiento no tienen por qué persistir para siempre. Uno de los hallazgos más significativos de la psicología en los últimos veinte años es que los individuos eligen su forma de pensar”.
M. E. Seligman
Winston S. Churchill
“Un pesimista ve la dificultad en cada oportunidad; un optimista ve la oportunidad en cada dificultad”.
Winston S. Churchill
M. E. Seligman 2
“El éxito requiere de persistencia, la habilidad de no rendirse en la cara del fracaso. Creo que el estilo optimista es la llave a la persistencia”.
M.E. Seligman
Ludwig Wittgenstein
“Los límites de mi lenguaje son los límites de mi mente”.
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Frederick Dodson
“Cambia tu atención y cambiarás tus emociones. Cambia tu emoción y tu atención cambiará de lugar”.
Frederick Dodson
Judith Wright
“Los sentimientos y las emociones son el lenguaje universal que debe ser honrado. Son la expresión auténtica de quiénes somos”.
Judith Wright
Eric Hoffer
“We often use strong language not to express a powerful emotion but to evoke it in us”.
Eric Hoffer
Kenneth Goldsmith
“You can't show me a sentence, word, or phoneme that is meaningless; by its nature, language is packed with meaning and emotion”.
Kenneth Goldsmith
Amy Tan
“I am fascinated by language in daily life: the way it can evoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or a simple truth”.
Amy Tan
Elizabeth Bowen
“El lenguaje es una mezcla de declaración y evocación”.
Elizabeth Bowen
Carlomagno
“Tener otro idioma es poseer una segunda alma”.
Carlomagno
Proverbio chino
“Aprender un idioma es tener una ventana más desde la que mirar el mundo”.
Proverbio chino
J.W. von Goethe
“Quien no conoce las lenguas extranjeras nada sabe de la suya propia”.
J.W. von Goethe
Jules Michelet
“El genio más íntimo de cada pueblo, su alma profunda, está sobre todo en la lengua”.
Jules Michelet
Oliver Wendell Holmes
“El idioma es la sangre del alma, en el que los pensamientos corren, y de la que crecen”.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Charles Capps
“Words are the most powerful thing in the universe... Words are containers. They contain faith, or fear, and they produce after their kind”.
Charles Capps
Joseph Conrad
“Mi tarea es, por el poder de la palabra escrita, hacerte oír, hacerte sentir — antes de todo, hacerte ver. Eso — y nada más; eso es todo”.
Joseph Conrad
Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Las palabras: tan inocentes e indefensas como son en un diccionario y cuán potentes para el bien y el mal se convierten en las manos de quien sabe combinarlas”.
Nathaniel Hawthorne