I'm Srijeet and I've been invited to pursue a PhD at the Research Centre for the German Language Atlas at the University of Marburg, Germany commencing April 2022. Most PhDs are paid and one may even earn a stipend by working at the department. This being a Research Centre and not a department, I don't have the option of finding employment in a department or on campus. Therefore, I will require funds to offset my living expenses and that is why I seek your support. My proposed project is for 3 years and I would require €950-€1000 a month, making it €36,000 in all. Going by the current exchange rate, €1 = ₹86.95 and €36,000 is ₹31,29,860. I have dipped into my savings and have arranged for ₹7,29,860. With your generosity and wishes, I hope to be able to get the remaining amount of ₹24,00,000 to pursue my research.
Who am I?
I'm a 32-year old higher education professional working at Harappa Education in Delhi, India with over 9 years of work experience. As Manager Curriculum and Programs, I create courses and assessments for young professionals based on foundational skills which help them succeed at the workplace. I am also passionate about second language learning and am the co-author of the Hindi Reader which is the prescribed text for elementary Hindi class at the University of California, Davis. I was a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant in the 2017-2018 academic year at the University of Montana.
My tryst with anything remotely close to linguistics was in the 12th grade while reading G.B. Shaw's Pygmalion. I was definitely fascinated by words and accents as a child but to take this up as a profession or vocation hadn’t crossed my mind before reading the play. After a bunch of happy accidents, I ended up with a Master’s in Linguistics from the University of Calcutta. The storm created by the global recession in 2008-2009 was just about subsiding at that time and getting a job was everyone’s goal. So was mine. I was fortunate enough to work with Oxford University Press in the English Language Teaching and Bilingual Dictionaries division, each for two years, but I continued with my academic pursuits at the side. I attended international conferences where I presented papers and posters. But at night, I started reading up on sociolinguistics and started to design my PhD proposal.
Slowly yet steadily, I was able to draft my proposal, rewrite it and then delete it and write it all over again. For those of you who have gone through this dual existence of having a day job which is significantly removed from your passion pursuits, you’ll know how iterative and deliberate this process is. During my Fulbright scholarship, I interacted with the faculty of Linguistics at the University of Montana. Their approach and guidance opened my mind to a new way of thinking and structuring my research project. It took me about 7 years to finalize my research project and get acceptance into a PhD program. I have put a lot of thought and effort into designing the project and I’m confident that I’ll be able to execute it within, if not before, the stipulated time of 3 years.
Living and thriving in a different continent often throws up quite a few challenges - be it homesickness, logistics or mental health. Having lived abroad before, I can already anticipate the issues I might face when I go for my PhD and I’m quite certain that I have the necessary knowledge, experience and hacks to overcome them.
The beauty of my research project is that it is replicable. Once I conduct my current study with the two languages that I’ve chosen, I can conduct a similar study with two different languages in a different migration situation. My goal is to conduct studies in Migration Linguistics within India as well as abroad (whenever the opportunity presents itself) and find linguistic patterns which might help as powerful indicators to integrate migrant communities better into their host communities.
What is my research about?
In a nutshell, it focuses on labor migration and its effects on the language of migrant communities.
Indians have been migrating to Germany for two primary reasons - higher education and rise in the opportunity to get jobs and work permits. However, the number of Indians migrating to Germany in the past decade has been unparalleled with lesser outflow. In 2015 the number of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) was about 86,000 which is more than double of the 35,000 NRIs living in Germany in 2000. The Indian migrant population brings along with it its culture and language. The Frankfurt am Main region has many Indian communities. The Bengali community is extremely vibrant and active. Since The University of Marburg is in the Frankfurt am Main region and Bengali is my mother tongue, I chose to study the Bengali-speaking community there.
The primary objective of the research is to understand the pattern of ‘borrowing’ in Bangla speaking migrants. A further line of enquiry is along code-switching occurring in certain domains.
The project will reveal a corpus consisting of fresh interactional data on a poorly documented contact language of German. The planned analyses will offer new insights into individual competence profiles and the interactional embedding of linguistic resources in situations of language contact. The data collected could lead to the development of specific teaching curricula and aid in teaching/learning German as a Foreign Language.
As this data documents both, more carefully pronounced speech and authentic interactional data, it is well suited for the development of automatic speech recognition. In this regard the project could benefit from the scientific partners of the host institute.
Why am I asking you for support?
Coming this far has not been easy. I have had to navigate through a lot of difficult decisions to stand firm to my resolve to pursue a PhD. I have also had to deal with a whole array of difficult questions. Why do I want to do a PhD when I have a steady job? Why am I not considering pursuing a professional degree like an MBA which will help me rise in rank and file in the corporate world? With my father deceased, why am I choosing to leave my mother in India to do a PhD in Germany? Is there any assurance that I’ll find employment at a university based on my PhD? Will I be able to keep my motivation up and complete the PhD?
There are emotional answers to these questions and then there are logical answers. But the core answer to all of these questions is - this is my purpose in life. To make my life meaningful, I must pursue this project. You might have heard people say “Follow your passion”. Well, this is mine.
I have been speaking to the Director of the Research Centre for the German Language Atlas at the University of Marburg for over a year now and working out how to go about the project. Since a part of the project involves recording linguistic interaction in real time, the data has to be collected in-person. With the pandemic now receding in certain parts of the world and having been vaccinated, I find myself under unique circumstances where getting funding or scholarships were and have been a huge challenge.
My letter arrived on August 3rd. Even before that I had a verbal confirmation from my potential supervisor and have been exploring scholarships and bursaries. Frankly, I have explored and run out of all the other options and therefore, I’m turning to you to help me embark on this journey to making my life meaningful.
Although my goal is to collect ₹24,00,000 please feel free to contribute any amount, no matter how high or how low. As I was telling a friend the other day, even if you contribute ₹36, I can buy a bottle of water which will be the most crucial thing during my fieldwork. I would also like to appeal to you to please circulate this appeal for support in your network.
As a token of gratitude, every contributor will find mention in the acknowledgements page of my thesis and an e-copy of my thesis (in 2025 if I can begin my PhD in 2022).
If you have any further queries or would like to know more about anything, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for your patience and willingness to support me.
Here is the PhD acceptance letter for your reference.