Dr. Koven's research explores speech as one of many ways in which identity is expressed.

Dr. Michèle Koven
Associate Professor
Joined the department in 1998

"Hola." "Aloha." "Bonjour." "Guten Tag." "Konnichiwa." Do you speak multiple languages? Are you aware of all of the languages spoken by students on campus? Dr. Koven is interested in bilingualism and identity. Her research focuses on how people perform their personalities differently depending on the language they are speaking. She sat down with us to discuss some of her significant findings and their importance.

1. How did you become interested in the topic of bilingual language practices?
I grew up with French and English and have always been interested in what bilinguals seemed to "do" differently in each language.

2. You studied bilingual daughters of Portuguese migrants raised in France to learn about their personalities across two different languages. What are the challenges to being bilingual and managing identity? Did you find anything surprising in your research?
It is hard to be bilingual in societies where people treat monolingualism as the norm, and bilingualism as exotic or problematic. And yet, even people who otherwise think of themselves as monolingual may not realize the extent to which they also have to manage their multiple "ways" of speaking.

3. Why is your research on identity and culture important? What can we take away from your findings?
People identify each other and come to experience their own identities through speech, within languages and across them. I am interested in the origins and consequences of this, for individuals and for groups.

4. What is one thing you would like undergraduates to know about your work, your position, or your role in the department?
I tell students that I hope that, at the very least, my courses make eavesdropping more interesting.