Too Difficult for Two Languages?: Exploring Ineffability and Religious Experience in Bilingual French-English Speakers.

Ambrose Research Conference presentation

This study explored ineffability of religious experience and bilingualism: What is it like to navigate ineffability in describing religious experience with the ability to choose between two languages? We interviewed French/English bilinguals about their religious experiences following the administration of Hood’s Mysticism Scale that presented items in English and French. We used it as means to prompt reflection on language use and self-articulation. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis was used to address meaning making. A common narrative structure among participants was relating to God. Participants did so by the use of language and guarding their religious experiences. Participants mainly used English vocabulary when describing their Relating to God experiences. Exceptions to this pattern, however, illuminated the diverse strategies by which bilinguals make meaning of ineffable experiences through situationally grounded language-use. Broader implications about the efficacy of language to shape experience are discussed in contrast to language being a mode of describing pre-linguistic experience.


57 pages