Advances in the Study of Bilingualism

This month we are publishing Advances in the Study of Bilingualism edited by Enlli Môn Thomas and Ineke Mennen. We asked the editors a few questions to find out more…

Advances in the Study of BilingualismWhat makes your book unique?

Advances in the Study of Bilingualism attempts to integrate the latest approaches to the study of bilingualism from three different disciplines: linguistics, psychology, and education. As the field of bilingualism continues to expand alongside current advances in scientific research, a growing number of researchers are addressing the same kinds of questions, but from different perspectives. Bringing these perspectives together is important and allows us to better understand the factors that underlie various aspects of bilingualism.

The novelty of this volume, therefore, is that it takes a broad approach to addressing a narrow focus rather than a narrow approach to addressing a broad set of questions. More specifically, each chapter shares a main focus, namely an exploration of the nature of the relationship between the two languages of a bilingual, and each chapter addresses this issue from different perspectives. Our book integrates a variety of methodological approaches within three core fields of study (Linguistics, Psychology, and Education), which, together, allow us to build a more holistic understanding of the phenomena. The more we understand about various aspects of the relationship between a bilingual’s two systems from various disciplinary perspectives, using different methodological tools, the more we understand how the bilingual brain works, and the more we understand how the two languages of a bilingual co-exist and interact within a single conversation and in their daily lives, the closer we are to uncovering one of the most miraculous aspects of the human brain.

How did you first become interested in bilingualism research?

I have always been interested in typical and atypical language development in bilinguals, presumably because I grew up bilingual, and in an environment where bilingualism was not necessarily seen as the ‘norm’, and where my L1 (Welsh) was not always supported. The fact that Welsh exists alongside a more dominant language – English – means that any research I conduct on Welsh-speakers is essentially research on bilingualism. My research interests in bilingualism are thus broad, including psycholinguistic approaches to understanding bilingualism in acquisition, issues in bilingual education, and issues relating to bilingual language planning and minority language use.

What inspired you to put this volume together? How did this volume come about?

The chapters presented in this volume showcase some of the world-class research conducted as part of the programme of the ESRC Centre for Research on Bilingualism in Theory and Practice, Bangor University, Wales (UK). Since its establishment in 2007, the Centre continued to grow and flourish and quickly established itself as an internationally recognised centre of excellence for research in bilingualism. Due to its world-class status, the Centre attracted a continuous flow of excellent visiting researchers, including some of the most well regarded research leaders in the field. Their visits led to constructive and stimulating discussions, and helped set ideas for the future research agenda in the field.

Given the global interest in the Centre and its research, we felt it timely to bring together, in one single volume, a taste of the Centre’s work. The chapters presented in this volume offer a sample of the large-scale research conducted at the Centre. These chapters explore the relationship between bilinguals’ two languages from different perspectives: the relationship between the grammatical and semantic features of each language in bilingual processing; the relationship between the two languages in production (in terms of sound, words and grammar); and the concurrent use of two languages as a pedagogical tool. In doing so, this book integrates a variety of methodological approaches within three core fields of study (Linguistics, Psychology, and Education), which, together, allow us to build a more holistic understanding of the phenomena.

What other books on bilingualism have you enjoyed recently?

A critical aspect of language research has to do with its application to the real world. What can practitioners and educators learn from our research? How can our results be used to improve the lives of others? Such issues have recently been explored in terms of the appropriate assessment of bilinguals’ language abilities in a series of two impressive volumes, edited by Professor Virginia C. Mueller Gathercole, the first entitled Issues in the Assessment of Bilinguals and the second entitled Solutions to the Assessment of Bilinguals. Whilst researchers and practitioners have known for a long time that bilinguals are often disadvantaged when it comes to measurements of linguistic abilities, particularly within the context of an accurate diagnosis of language disorders, this pair of volumes is the first concerted effort to bring these issues, and possible solutions to these issues, to the fore, using examples and evidence from bilinguals speaking different language pairs from all over the world.

Which other academics in your field do you particularly admire and how have they influenced your own research?

I admire most academics who manage not only to conduct the best quality research, but who also manage to communicate the results of their studies successfully to the very populations they strive to help.

Finally, what is your next research project?

I have many!

Issues in the Assessment of BilingualsSolutions for the Assessment of BilingualsFor more information on this title, please visit the book’s page on our website here. You can also find information about Virginia C. Mueller Gathercole’s volumes on our website: Issues in the Assessment of Bilinguals and Solutions to the Assessment of Bilinguals.

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