It’s been a little over a week since I began my internship, but there’s been so much going on that I only have time now to sit down and write this blog. So far, my internship has been great, and is definitely meeting my expectations. The first day, I actually had to do an online training called CITI, or the “Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative,” because I’ll be working with human subjects. It took multiple hours, but now I’m proud to say I’m CITI certified! The next day, I went to Dartmouth to meet my supervisor, a professor of Linguistics. The plan was for me to work on two of his projects; carrying out field work in New England, as well as working from home or at the phonetics lab on acoustic analysis. We had corresponded previously by email and phone, and it was very exciting to meet him. Since then, I’ve gone two more times, one to see the seniors’ linguistic thesis presentations, and once because my responsibilities include checking up with my supervisor once a week. At the thesis presentations, I met linguistic students at Dartmouth with whom I will be working on the New England dialect project. This project includes traveling around New Hampshire and Vermont and interviewing people in order to listen to their dialects. The students were really nice, and I’m excited to travel with them! I’m glad that I will be able to interact with other people my age, because at first I thought that it might all be on my own.
In the phonetics lab I have started the acoustic analysis of people’s dialects from both Vermont and New Hampshire from previous fieldwork recordings. I use software called “Praat” to analyze speech. Right now I’m focusing specifically on vowels and whether or not people pronounce “r’s” in words (this is called “Rhoticity”). I record the data in Excel, and use another program called “StatPlus” to analyze it further. I have already learned so many valuable linguistic skills, and I am excited to learn even more! This screenshot is an example of the work I’ve been doing. The red dots are called “formants,” and I record the Hz of the two bottom ones, which become F1 and F2. Charted, this can be compared to standard English, and can determine whether a person’s dialect is different from standard English.
Later on in the summer I will move to the Boston area to carry out fieldwork with Hmong, an Asian ethnic group, many of whom have immigrated to the US. This will be exciting for me, as I have read about them in my courses at Brandeis. My supervisor has given me books to read about their culture, and I’m looking forward to learning more through these accounts. I found this internship through the “Brandeis Internship Exchange,” as someone had done Hmong work with the same professor three years ago. This sparked my interest, and I decided to contact the professor to see if he had any need of an intern at this point. He was very excited to hear from me, and after corresponding about my preparedness through coursework at Brandeis, and his available projects, we decided on the two projects that seemed to fit me best.
At the beginning of my internship I was worried that I would be working alone. However, my supervisor is very helpful discussing expectations during our weekly meetings. I set daily goals for myself and I am able to do the amount of work he expects me to do. I am excited to continue this internship, and I really can’t believe how much I’ve learned already. So far, I’d actually say it has exceeded my expectations. I feel like I can only learn more from this point on, and this is really showing me that linguistics is a field I would like to pursue!
– Alexandra Patch ’14