Ewa, our policy, data, and development officer discusses a dilemma of a migrant researcher on a migration project.
After living in the UK for nearly 15 years, I thought I long passed the stage of worrying about my accent and being cautious about speaking in public.
When I was asked to get involved in the Communities up Close project and take notes during focus groups with host communities, I agreed without hesitation. ‘The project looks interesting, I get a chance to travel around the region, I am in!’
On the day of the first focus group I started to feel a bit anxious. I wasn’t sure whether I should talk to anyone beforehand, as hearing me speaking with an accent might alter what they say about migrants and ultimately affect reliability and validity of the research.
Despite being a bit of a chatter box, I managed not to speak at all at most focus groups. However, one time I slipped and said more than just ‘thanks for coming’ to participants. And there it came. Not a dreaded ‘so where are you from’, but ‘your English is very good’, followed by a justification that they had no problem with migrants who speak English. I guess I was one of the good ones in their eyes.
I could not really let the comment go. So, I explained that, I have been in the UK for a long time and went to Uni here but couldn’t really speak much before I came.
A reaction wasn’t quite what I expected – a second look at me and shrug of the shoulders. I guess some kind of an acknowledgement. Not really a victory, but maybe, just maybe, a seed of doubt was sown in their mind that a migration debate is much broader than just ‘worthy and unworthy migrants’.
As a note taking researcher on the project, I should not have got involved in the conversation with the participants. Yet, it is hard to stay silent and impartial when the research topic is so personal.
Download project reports and resources here: http://www.migrationyorkshire.org.uk/cuc