This summer we are celebrating several 10 year anniversaries, including Sarah and Anna both marking 10 years working with the company, and our SLA series also reaching this milestone. 10 years ago this month, the first book in the Second Language Acquisition series, Portraits of the L2 User edited by Vivian Cook, was published. Here, David Singleton, the series editor, shares his thoughts on the history and achievements of the series.
A little over ten years ago I was asked by Marjukka Grover if I would be prepared to write an evaluation of a Multilingual Matters series about which MM had some concerns. I agreed to take on the job, and in due course submitted my recommendations. I added in my report the unsolicited comment that, since a large number of readers looked to MM for books on the acquisition of additional languages, what MM could really do with was a series devoted to SLA. A few weeks later Marjukka’s reply came. Basically, my assessment had found favour with the MM Editorial Committee, including my suggestion regarding the desirability of initiating an SLA series. “By the way”, her reply added, “would you be prepared to edit such a series?”
I realized that my answer to this question would be heavy with consequences, and so I posed some sensible clarificatory questions. But I was always going to say yes! This seemed like a golden opportunity to try to extend to the publishing domain what organizations like EUROSLA were trying to achieve in relation to research co-operation and conferences – namely, an open, inclusive approach to researchers of different cultures, ages, levels of experience, and theoretical and methodological propensities. It is for others to say whether and to what extent the series has delivered on such aspirations. My own sense is that we’ve gone at least some of the way towards meeting them.
I think of the series as what I’m proudest of in my career. It has not only enriched our field with an amazing array of accounts of SLA (and multilingualism) research, but it has brought to the attention of all of us findings and reflections that would otherwise have had a more restricted airing. I am constantly excited by he fact that the authors and editors in this series are Chinese, Croatian, Hungarian, Japanese and Polish as well as American, British, Finnish, French and Spanish (to name but a few!), and also by the fact that the books – whatever their origins – sell well and are frequently cited. They are read in all their variety, consumed to the core!
I spend a lot of time at academic events sidling up to colleagues asking them if they would consider writing a book for the series. It could happen to you. If it does, please say yes. If it doesn’t, please take the initiative of sidling up to me and telling me about your project. I am aware that journal articles are the current flavour of the month in some countries in terms of career advancement facilitation. It is worth remembering, however, in relation to the dissemination-of-ideas dimension of publication, that most journal articles are read by an infinitesimally small number of people, whereas the generality of books that appear in the SLA series are genuinely widely consulted and used.
For more information on the Second Language Acquisition series, please visit our website here.