What Now?

Fluency in a second-language, either native or near-native is a requirement in my field. Admittedly, most of the old guard doing the hiring possess neither native or near-native fluency but as the job market shrinks, it's an easy yardstick that allows hiring committees to discard over half the applications they receive. Because, you need to understand, fluency is based solely on verbal performance and verbal fluency can only be gained through in-country experience. If that doesn't appear on your CV, you don't make the cut. There are no other tests of language abilities other than the interview and the obligatory native speaker planted in the job talk audience. And frankly, even though I fail the test of native or near-native fluency, I think that the requirement is good thing. If you don't understand the language, you don't understand the culture, and then you can't fully understand the lit. Sure, you can look at it in the we're-all-humans-and-have-the-same-needs sort of way but that only cuts it at the intro level.

I had a plan to remedy the lack of verbal fluency on my part. Reading and writing have never been issues. My solution was called in-country experience. This is getting increasingly difficult to come by as the traditional funding sources shut out humanities scholars and no one with any power or prestige in the field has been willing to do anything about this until recently. In spite of the bleak odds, I busted my butt to put together a rock-solid research proposal with a bibliography and other assorted supporting documents, most of which contained the same information in a gazillion different forms. Everything that could have been botched, however, has been botched and if I get this fellowship, I may start going to church again (Don't worry, there's a United Church down the street from me.) but if I don't get it, I'm going to take it as a sign that there's a better place for me in the world than the academy. Actually, I've slowly been coming to the conclusion that I don't want to be a part of the academy on my own. The rejection letter would just be a kick in the pants. Now, however, I'm left with a half-written dissertation and one burning question: What next? -Zh.


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