Laura’s Trip to the Irish Research Network in Childhood Bilingualism and Multilingualism Meeting

Last month I was invited to give a talk on publishing with Multilingual Matters at the Irish Research Network in Childhood Bilingualism and Multilingualism. The one-day meeting was organised by Francesca La Morgia and took place at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). The research network aims to ‘establish links among researchers, policy makers, teachers, early childhood educators, educational psychologists, speech and language therapists and anyone who could benefit from gaining knowledge and sharing experiences that can advance the understanding and improve practices in the area of childhood bilingualism’.

Dr Enlli Thomas introducing her presentation

The day began with a keynote speech from Prof. Enlli Môn Thomas who is the co-editor, together with Ineke Mennen, of our book Advances in the Study of Bilingualism. Enlli talked us through research being undertaken on bilingualism in Wales and discussed what has been done and has, or has not, worked in some areas. It seems that often the attitudes toward Welsh are relatively positive, in that people understand why it’s important and what the benefits of being bilingual are, yet their linguistic behaviour does not always reflect these views.

Laura giving her talk on publishing with Multilingual Matters

The next part of the morning comprised presentations from Prof. Nóirín Hayes from the Children’s Research Network for Ireland and Northern Ireland and Maureen Burgess of TCD who spoke about funding sources and opportunities. Making up that trio of presentations was mine on publishing, which I hope was of interest to those who are looking to publish the outcomes of their work and want to learn more about the publication process and what it entails.

One of the key aims of the network is to connect those working in different spheres but with similar interests or goals, to share knowledge and to think about useful collaborations. As such, the afternoon began with short presentations by delegates so that we could get an idea of who was working in which specific areas. We then split off into workshops and I sat in on one led by Ciara O’Toole on language disorders in bilingual children and bilingual education. In the group were speech language therapists, teachers and researchers and it was interesting to hear everyone pooling their ideas and expertise to come up with some aims for the group and goals to achieve before the next meeting.

The day then drew to a close with each working group reporting back to everyone else and it was nearly time for me to return to Bristol. But not before I took a moment to visit two of TCD’s most famous things: The Book of Kells and Old Library – absolute ‘musts’ for a publisher on a trip to Dublin!


Where To Find Us Over The Coming Months!

With the start of the new year comes a whole host of opportunities to see us at conferences. Conferences are great opportunities to browse the books at your leisure, buy them at our special conference price and speak to one of the Channel View/Multilingual Matters team. We’re always happy to meet our readers and authors in person and talk about the books, publishing process or just discuss the sights of the host city!

Sarah at a previous CAUTHE conference

Sarah will be at our first major conference of the year when she attends the CAUTHE conference next week. This conference is an annual highlight for our tourism studies list and this year Sarah will be showcasing our brand new titles Femininities in the Field (edited by Porter and Schänzel), Tourism and Religion (edited by Butler and Suntikul) and Qualitative Methods in Tourism Research (edited by Hillman and Radel).

Anna, Tommi and Laura at AAAL 2017

Throughout March and April, Tommi, Anna, Laura and Flo will attend four major conferences in the USA: NABE, AAAL, TESOL and AERA. We’ll also be welcoming Elinor, our Marketing Manager, back to work after her maternity leave so March will certainly be a busy month for us all. In April, after an 8-year hiatus, Multilingual Matters will be exhibiting again at IATEFL in the UK. We’re looking forward to a ‘local’ conference and hoping for some nice spring sunshine in Brighton.

We are also making plans for PLL3 (Japan), Sociolinguistics Symposium (New Zealand) and Tourism Education Futures Conference (Finland), all three in June. The aforementioned are just a flavour of the conferences we’re set to attend in the first half of 2018 and do look out for us at a number of smaller symposia too, plus more later in the year. We hope to see you somewhere at some point this year!

The Importance of Language Teacher Psychology

This month we published Language Teacher Psychology edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas. In this post, the book’s editors introduce us to the collection.

Language learners are the end recipients who should benefit from everything we do, so it is perhaps unsurprising that they have been the focus of much of our work as language educators. However, as we explored the teacher-learner relationship, we have become aware that teacher psychology can also have considerable influence on the teachers’ ability to teach as effectively and creatively as possible, as well as on their learners’ psychology. But what do we really know about teachers’ motivations, their emotions, wellbeing, and thinking?

As we looked more closely at what has been published to date, we did find some fascinating, relatively well-explored lines of inquiry, but we also discovered that there was not nearly the same depth, breadth or complexity of research that exists for learners and their psychologies. We felt that this gap was disconcerting, especially in the light of the challenges within the teaching profession, and we were keen to explore how the constructs that were being used in language learner psychology might also apply to teachers. It was encouraging that our concerns and motivations for this volume were shared by other scholars in the field, whose enthusiastic response to our invitation has helped to make this such a rich and diverse collection.

The structure of this book reflects these concerns and attempts to address them. The first few chapters offer new insights into aspects of language teacher psychology that have already received some attention in research, such as motivation and identity. The next set of contributions broadens the agenda by looking into aspects that have only more recently begun to be examined. The third part of the book explores a relatively new line of inquiry considering how insights from positive psychology can be applied to language teaching. The final chapter illustrates how language teacher psychology can be studied as an integrated whole and not just as a collection of fragmented constructs.

As editors, we feel privileged to have worked with such great scholars who contributed their time and insights to the collection. We hope that readers derive as much enjoyment as we did by engaging with the chapters that make up the book. We also hope that it generates more research, more discussion, and more awareness of the importance of language teacher psychology. Indeed, the new book series Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching, would welcome contributions that extend this discussion. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about the book, you might want to take a look at the table of contents which are found at the bottom of this page.

Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas

If you found this interesting, you may be interested in Positive Psychology in SLA edited by Peter D. MacIntyre, Tammy Gregersen and Sarah Mercer. You can also find more information on Language Teacher Psychology on our website.

The Multilingual Hospital: Confessions of a Sociolinguist

Our author and series editor, Viv Edwards, recently found herself in hospital. To divert her mind from her own situation, she seized the opportunity to look and listen to the activity around her…

11 July 2017 started very much like any other day. It ended in admission to an acute stroke unit. The implications of this life changing event dawned only gradually, as did the realization that things could be much worse. For starters, the damage to my brain had manifested itself in left-sided weakness; communication – that most precious of human gifts, particularly for a linguist – was unaffected. And by the time I had transferred from the acute unit to Valley, a neuro rehabilitation ward, it had become clear that this new environment was nothing short of a playground for sociolinguists.

In this world of Brexit, one of the recurrent themes has been the status of the large numbers of nationals of other countries employed in the NHS and concern over what a ‘hard Brexit’ might mean for patient and social care. This concern is certainly well founded.

These figures vary substantially across England. In London, 114 of every 1,000 staff (11.4%) are from the EU Source

Thus, while the majority of NHS staff are British, a substantial minority are not – some 12% in fact of all staff for whom a nationality is known. Between them, they report 199 nationalities (Source).

As a patient, my interest focuses very firmly on the need to fight immigration policies which risk bringing the NHS to its knees. But my interest as a sociolinguist was on languages spoken rather than nationalities. And while discussion of language in the NHS tends to centre on proficiency in English, this topic forms no part of my own narrative: all medical staff I encountered were fully proficient English speakers. Too narrow a focus on English simply misses the broader picture. In addition, my interests lie in the wider hospital community – the domestic team (cleaners and controllers of the hot drinks trolley) and, of course, patients and their families – and not just the medical staff.

Finding out

As I struggled with neurological fatigue and engaged with physio-terrorists – they who must be obeyed – in learning to walk again, my mission to establish which languages were spoken on Valley ward, and the attitudes towards them, was a valuable diversion. I was clearly dealing with an opportunity sample, not necessarily representative of the hospital as a whole, let alone the picture nationally. Nonetheless, there was potential to offer depth and light on bland official statistics. Ethically, this mission was open to question. I was hardly in a position to seek approval from an ethics committee but I comforted myself with the thought that ethics are rather more nuanced than sometimes suggested in research methodology textbooks. For instance, on hospital admission I have no recollection of having signed a consent form for participation in an international drugs trial so, strictly speaking, didn’t give informed consent. However, given that that the drug in question may have saved me from a catastrophic outcome, I have no desire to take the moral high ground.

In the absence of formal approval, I nonetheless attempted to behave as ethically as possible. The hospital has not been identified and the anonymity of participants respected. In cases such as Polish, the language spoken was transparent from people’s names, bypassing the need for consent. In other cases, I simply explained that, as a linguist, I was interested in which language(s) they spoke at home and, without exception, people were happy to share. I also mentioned what I was doing at a multidisciplinary case conference before I was discharged, where participants volunteered information on the languages spoken by colleagues I hadn’t been able to approach directly. Asking people what languages they speak is clearly a less sensitive issue than asking them where they come from.

Figure 1: Languages spoken on the ward

Some 17 different languages were spoken on the ward (see Figure 1, left). In almost all staff roles, bilinguals outnumbered monolingual English speakers. The majority of patients, in contrast, were native speakers of English, no doubt reflecting the fact that most people in neuro-rehabilitation have suffered a stroke and are therefore more likely to be older rather than younger; the median age of immigrant communities in contrast, is lower than for the population at large.

Attitudes towards multilingualism

Multilingualism is normal condition

On a global scale, multilingualism is the norm, as captured by the slogan: ‘Monolingualism can be cured: learn another language’. By the same token, the multilingualism that lay just below the surface in Valley ward was, for the most part, taken for granted. Its ‘normalcy’ was neatly captured when a patient, who was admittedly suffering from intermittent confusion, asked Steven, a nurse born and brought up in Southampton, how many years he had been living in the UK.

Today, of course, we are all products of globalization and beneficiaries of the accompanying population movements. Speaking personally, I have two Polish daughters-in-law. One of the physiotherapists was engaged to a Peruvian; the partner of an HCA was also Peruvian; they had a Brussels-based granddaughter growing up with French, Flemish, Spanish and English. An occupational therapist was married to a Dane. The daughter of a Polish HCA was living in Greece and about to start studying in Malta.

Attitudes towards language learning

It is therefore not altogether surprising that many members of this multilingual community showed an interest in languages and language learning. There were many examples. A Spanish-speaking nurse who had volunteered to take part in a research project on bilingualism was happy to share her experience of an MRI scan of her brain. Some of us took a first tentative step in Twi, the language of my Ghanaian ‘roomie’, encouraged by her visitors who always warmly greeted other ‘residents’ with ‘Eti se?’ [How are you?]. When a physiotherapist learning Spanish in preparation for a trip to Peru discovered that I had a basic grasp of the language, she suggested we could conduct our therapy sessions in Spanish. When push came to shove, however, both activities required more concentration than either of us could muster and we rapidly reverted to English.

Language and laughter

The healing qualities of laughter are well attested. Increased endorphins facilitate feelings of well-being while higher levels of DHEA, a steroid produced by the adrenal glands, have been associated, among other things, with enhanced mental abilities. Improbable as it may seem, laughter was the hallmark of life on Valley ward. In such a multilingual environment, there were many opportunities to use other languages in unexpected contexts with the intent of making people laugh. One of the nurses quite often produced apparently random expressions in French and Italian. My own nursery Polish, acquired in my role as grandmother to a half Polish grandson, was surprisingly transferable to a clinical setting, given that Polish was the language with the largest number of speakers after English (tak [yes], nie [no] kupa [poo] koniec [finished], dobra noc [good night] and so on. When a member of staff was clearly tired at the end of a shift, the use of kochanie [darling] or miśu [sweetiepie] was usually successful in raising a smile. So, too, was the call from a doctor across the corridor of ‘Voulez-vous danser avec moi?’ [Do you want to dance with me?] as I practiced my first wobbly steps. The absurdity of this request in a setting where patients’ main challenge was to stay upright in the battle for forward propulsion certainly lightened the mood.

Language in the service of society

When requested, this hospital, like most others, routinely offers interpreters for outpatient appointments. Of course, this provision is not practicable in the context of longer term care. Here, multilingual staff are thus an asset, though staff repertoires aren’t necessarily a match for the languages of patients. I observed two cases of the value of multilingual staff but, for reasons of patient confidentiality, felt unable to probe further. The first concerned a Nepalese man, with extremely limited English, whose family members were unable to help. It isn’t difficult to imagine how reassuring he must have found it when a Nepalese member of the domestic team delivered hot drinks, or when the only Nepali-speaking nurse was on duty. The second case was a Polish woman, also with limited English, for whom access to Polish speakers was rather easier.

Languages – the secret weapon of the NHS

So, summing up, linguistic diversity is a fact of life in a globalized world. While wanting to avoid exaggerating its importance, it can be argued that it is a source of both hope and healing. In terms of hope, bilinguals are always pleasantly surprised to learn of evidence that speaking another language can delay the onset of dementia by up to four years (Bialystok et al, 2007); while the use of language-related humour has a potential role in creating feelings of well-being. Last but not least, multilingual staff are a valuable resource in the context of provision for multilingual patients.

In thinking about the nature and extent of diversity, however, it is important not to lose sight of the common humanity that underlies all difference. I find myself at one with Malcolm X on this:

I remember one night at Muzdalifa with nothing but the sky overhead, I lay awake amid sleeping Muslim brothers and I learned that pilgrims from every land – every color, and class, and rank; high officials and the beggar alike – all snored in the same language (Wolfe, 1998).

Many thanks to Viv for sharing her experiences with us. We wish her all the best for her continued recovery.

Bialystok, E., Craik, F. & Freedman, M. (2007) Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia. Neuropsychologia 45(2): 459-464.

Wolfe, M. (ed.)(1998) One thousand roads to Mecca: ten centuries of travelers writing about the Muslim pilgrimage. New York: Grove Press.

Peer Review Guidelines

Peer review is central to academic publishing, yet many academics receive no training on how to do it. In this post, Anna, our Editorial Director, offers some guidance.

Anna, our Editorial Director

The academics who peer review our manuscripts play an absolutely crucial role in the publishing process, and we are very grateful to everyone who agrees to contribute in this way. We’ve put together the following guidelines for inexperienced peer reviewers, and to answer some frequently asked questions about what we want (and don’t want!) from a peer review.

Publons offer useful training for anyone who wants to learn more.

Here are a few quick pointers for starters:

  • Be realistic about whether you’re going to be able to complete the review to the agreed deadline, and if things change, let us know as early as you can.
  • If you only feel qualified to comment on certain aspects of the manuscript, or feel we should get a second opinion on something (be it statistics or a particular geographical context) let us know.
  • Be as polite and constructive in your comments as possible. Even experienced authors find combative rejections difficult to handle.
  • If you are addressing certain parts of your review to the editors and publisher only, make this clear.
  • We’re happy for you to review a manuscript if you know the author(s), are working on a competing title for another publisher, agree/don’t agree with the author…

What are you asking me to do?

  • Offer a brief summary of the argument of the manuscript and its intended audience. You can be very brief here, but it can be a very helpful indication that the author(s) are not communicating their intentions well if your understanding of the manuscript differs from theirs.
  • Look at the manuscript as whole. If it is a monograph, does the order and structure of the chapters make sense, is there enough/too much literature and methodological discussion? Does it look like a PhD thesis? If it is an edited collection, do the introduction and conclusion do a good job of tying the collection together, do the chapters interrelate and all speak to the main themes of the collection? Are they grouped together sensibly? Does the collection open and close with strong chapters?
  • Engage with each chapter: particularly important in an edited collection, but for all manuscripts this is where we would expect the ‘meat’ of your report to be. In addition to considering issues such as methodology, theoretical argumentation, etc. you may want to answer these questions: are the authors making a strong argument? Are there clarifications that would make life easier for a reader? Are the authors assuming too much or too little knowledge on the part of the reader? Are there revisions the authors could make to make their work more accessible to researchers in other disciplines?
  • Suggest revisions!
  • Go back and look at the title – does it reflect the contents of the manuscript? Having read the manuscript, does the introduction need rethinking?

What should I not do?

  • Spend a lot of time marking up mistakes in grammar/expression. If this is a real problem, make a note of it your general comments, point to a few specific examples, and then try and ignore them.
  • Worry about whether the manuscript is presented in accordance with our style guidelines (or presentation issues in general) – we will sort this out.
  • Write a lengthy summary of the manuscript.
  • Write a back cover blurb, or marketing copy.
  • If the manuscript is really terrible, and it happens, be as polite and constructive as you can. If you want to include a brief set of comments for the series editors and publishers only that’s fine, but in the comments for the authors try to restrain yourself and if you can find any constructive suggestions please include them.

How long?

The question we get asked most is also the hardest to answer! Occasionally we will ask you to review a manuscript so brilliant and polished that you need only give us a few examples of its accomplishments and suggest a few minor clarifications – in this case a side of A4 is probably more than enough. Very occasionally we may send out a manuscript so appalling that it is completely, irretrievably terrible, and as peer reviewer all you can do is politely suggest we reject it and offer a few examples of its major flaws – again in this case a side of A4 will do. However in most cases, if you are going to thoroughly engage with the text and offer concrete, achievable suggestions for revision then 4-5 sides for the whole collection (1500-2500 words) is probably about right. For a lengthy edited collection where you need to respond in detail to the methodology etc. in each chapter, you may need to write more than this.


Just How Big is The Frankfurt Book Fair?!

Tommi and Laura at Frankfurt Book Fair 2017

Every year we attend the annual Frankfurt Book Fair, which we’ve mentioned in numerous blog posts in the past. The book fair always follows the same format with meetings often with the same people and in the same regular time-slots. It often feels like déjà vu and all that changes each year is the books we present and everyone looking slightly older than last year! Even the halls look exactly as the year before, as publishers usually take the same stands in the same halls.

One thing that we always struggle to do is describe to people who’ve never attended the fair exactly what these halls are like and just how big and busy the fair is. In numbers, the fair welcomes over 7,000 publishers and over a quarter of a million visitors, but it’s hard even from those figures to quite grasp its size. Only when you are hurrying from meeting to meeting down aisles and aisles of stands do you really get a feel for it!

This year we had the brainwave of making a video to show the sheer scale of the fair to those who’ve never attended. Tommi and I spent every spare moment between meetings and the quieter weekend days filming the aisles of the book fair to try and capture what it is like. We reckon that we walked over 15km within the fair and edited nearly 3 hours of footage to create a snapshot of it! If you’re interested, the resultant video can be found on our YouTube channel here.


Behind the Scenes… What Happens to an Accepted Manuscript?

Once a manuscript has undergone external peer review, been suitably revised by the author and is approved for publication by the series editors (where relevant), it is accepted for publication. We then ask the author to complete an author questionnaire and checklist and start to get the manuscript moving towards production. But what are we doing exactly? In this post, Laura outlines the small but vital stages between editorial and production.

Commissioning Editors with books from their respective series

The first thing a Commissioning Editor does is book a slot on our production schedule. Each month we publish a certain number of books, typically between 4 and 6, so there are a limited number of places available. The Commissioning Editor will most likely have already provisionally pencilled in the manuscript well in advance of it being accepted, using their knowledge about the extent of the revisions required and how busy the author and series editors’ schedules are. But it is only now that a publication date is set and finalised. At this point it is therefore extremely helpful to us if authors keep to deadlines they have promised!

Once the Commissioning Editor has received all the final files and supporting documents, they will check through the manuscript one last time. They ensure that the author has submitted all the documents (table of contents, each chapter, references, appendices etc) and confirm that permission has been cleared for all material from external sources. They will then update the book’s proposal P&L with the latest word count, as we use this to estimate the pagination and price.

The book is then ready for the Commissioning Editor to schedule for discussion at the next in-house editorial meeting, usually held weekly. For those of us not involved in the book until this stage, this might be the first we’ve heard of it since the proposal was accepted, often some years previously! At the meeting we discuss and approve the title; make a final decision about the format (whether it will be published in paperback and hardback simultaneously) and approximate the print run.

With all of the above finalised, the Commissioning Editor is now ready to hand the book over for production and marketing. In order to make the handover process a smooth one and to help impart as much of their knowledge about the work to the rest of us as possible, they complete a handover sheet. The handover sheet splits naturally into three sections: key details about the work, then a production section, followed by marketing information.

The key details section is where we store absolute final information about the book, mainly what we decided on at the editorial meeting. It is where we look if we cannot remember whether we did decide to remove a comma from a title or exactly which subtitle we eventually chose! It is therefore like gold dust as it is vital that we are consistent, once we have made a decision: as soon as data starts to leave our database, it is sometime hard to find where it has gone and overwrite it.

Sarah, our Production Manager, hard at work

Next comes the production section where the Commissioning Editor will tell Sarah, our Production Manager, and Flo, who does the covers, information about the book. Sections include whether there is a preference for British or another variety of English; if the author already has a particular idea for the cover and if we have agreed anything special with the author, perhaps with regard to the layout or format. We also tell Sarah about what she might expect when working with the author. This includes things such as if one is taking the lead (in the case of multiple authors) or whether we know the author is about to go on leave. This is important as production runs to deadlines which are much firmer than those in editorial often are.

Finally comes the marketing parts of the handover. The Commissioning Editor writes the blurbs, suggests subject categories and says who to approach for cover endorsements. They will also advise the marketing department on the book’s highlights; note any geographical contexts featured in the book (which might be helpful for our local sales reps); list which of our other books it links with and state any other key selling points of the work. They will also let us know any bright ideas they have for any special, out-of-the-ordinary marketing!

We find that handing a manuscript over in this way works really well. Ultimately, the Commissioning Editor is the person in the office who knows most about the book and the more of their knowledge they can share with the rest of us, the more likely we are to have a smooth, enjoyable and successful publication.


6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses

Next year, the 6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses is due to take place. Multilingual Matters is sponsoring the conference, specifically in order to enable two early career researchers from developing countries to attend it. This post is written by Massimiliano Spotti, the Conference Host and Co-organizer.

In October 2018, the International Conference on Multicultural Discourses sets its foot in Europe for the first time. To be more precise at Babylon – Centre for the Study of Superdiversity, at Tilburg University. Together with Jan Blommaert (Director of Babylon) and Shi-xu, Founder of Cultural Discourse Studies (CDS) and founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Multicultural Discourses (JMD), I reflect on the developments of this field ten years down the line.

In introducing this conference and its landing in Europe, I think we should start from the body of scholarship that has characterized CDS’ very first days. The first goal of CDS was (and still is) to draw attention to the cultural nature of human discourse and communication. As one of the first issues of its Journal stated, the purpose was to consciously and critically consider issues of cultural diversity and Western-centrism across arenas such as politics, academia, education and public discourses. To be honest, what struck me the most when publishing there one of my first peer-reviewed articles on teachers teaching to migrants, was a permeating feeling of voicing the unheard, the left-out, those in short that were for one reason or another in a minority position.

Although chased by the continuous pressure of the increasingly complex nature exerted on human encounters and discourses by globalization in both society and academia, CDS has remained able to keep its word. It has set forth on exploring the implications of discrimination through power on policy and human interactions, becoming an outstanding outlet for both Western and non-Western scholars to fight back and either re-discover or aspire to and, through that, reclaim their voices and academic identities within an established research paradigm.

There is still much more to do though. The increased entanglement of discourses across the global North and the global South; the unexpected results of their (often) unplanned points of intersection; the new centers of coagulation that these processes of entanglement bring to bear; the production of culturally rooted discourses around them. These are all emergent phenomena and urgent attention is needed there.

Ultimately, this is what we hope to do in the 6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses. That is to contend – once again – that culture is not just a different and thus innocent perspective in knowledge forming and value giving to people and their doings. Rather, our hope and wish for this conference is that it will allow us to unveil another layer of those historically evolving sets of discourses, rules and actions that put some people in power while others are marginalized.

You can find out more about the conference on its website here.

Publishing FAQs: All your conference questions answered!

This time of year is always a busy period for conferences and 2017 has been no different, with Flo at BAAL, Sarah at the Visitor Economy conference and me at EuroSLA last week. Along with selling the books, conferences are a great opportunity for us to speak with delegates. Of course, most conversations centre around the content of the books and vary depending on what we have with us. But you’d probably be surprised at how frequently we are asked some particular questions, and sometimes we are surprised that people even ask them! Here are a selection of our favourites:

Sarah at a Channel View conference

How do you choose which conferences you attend?

Firstly, we look at the theme of a conference, the size of it (big isn’t always better) and who has recommended it or told us they’ll be attending. We then look at whether it is affordable and decide whether to attend in person or send a display. Finally, we check our travel schedule and agree who will go where. As conferences often fall at roughly the same time and sometimes, to our frustration, even clash with each other, they take a considerable amount of logistical planning. Funny as it sounds, as well as coordinating ourselves, we also have to make sure that things such as tablecloths are in the right places with the right people!

How do you decide which books to bring?

Once we have decided to be involved in a conference, as Marketing Manager, it is my job to sort out all the details. I look at the programme and decide which of our recent books are relevant and which of our authors are attending. It is often a real challenge to cut a list of perhaps 100 books down to a reasonable number that will fit on a single table! But having to cut down a long list of books that we’re keen to show off is not a bad position to be in.

How many copies do you bring of each book?

This is another source of much umming and ahhing! I come up with a figure by combining information about how popular a book has been at previous conferences and its sales in general, with how relevant it is to the themes of a conference and whether the author will be there to promote their book. It is not the most scientific of processes but, having been to many conferences, I have a good feeling for what is about right. I’ll then check the list with whoever is attending the conference and they’ll make further suggestions or amendments.

Laura with a stack of empty boxes after the AAAL conference

Did you bring the books here in your suitcase?

No! This always makes us laugh because the books are really heavy and usually fill several big boxes!  Except in exceptional circumstances, such as when we are going by car, the books are delivered straight from our warehouse to the conference.

Why is my book not here?

We do our best to bring authors’ books to conferences if they have forewarned us that they’ll be there. If we haven’t got your book, it might be because it is slightly older and we have to give preference on the stand to newer books. My favourite response to this question is that if it’s too old to have made the cut, it might be time for you to think about writing us a new one to bring!

Can you ship the book to me for free?

If we have sold out and there is no copy for you to take, then yes, we will gladly send you a copy with free shipping. This is a sign that I didn’t get the numbers quite right and should have brought more so that you can take one. But if there is a copy on the table and you want it shipped, we do ask that you pay the shipping. It makes sense really: we will have paid to have the book shipped to the conference, will then pay to have the booked shipped back to the warehouse and then pay again to ship the book to your home. If we did all that shipping, the costs would soon add up to way more than the price at which we sell the book. So, in order to continue to offer the books at a special conference discount, we cannot also offer free shipping.

Why are your books so much cheaper here?

You’re buying directly from us, so we don’t have to give a cut to any booksellers or wholesalers who might otherwise be involved in the book selling chain. We don’t expect to make a profit through book sales at a conference; conferences have an immeasurable value for us in terms of meeting people; showing our books to a new audience and keeping up with trends in the field. The price we charge is therefore as cheap as we can afford to sell it at, with a small contribution to the cost of attending conferences.

Do you get to go to the sessions?

Yes, sometimes, especially if there are two of us and one can man the stand while the other goes to a talk. We are also usually able to attend the plenaries as most other delegates will do so too and thus these are quiet periods at the stand. At other times, delegates may make the most of a session when there is no paper of interest to them to browse the books and chat with us. This is often much easier done when we are quiet than during the rush of the coffee or lunch break and we’re usually glad of the company!

What do you do when it’s quiet?

If we’ve just had a busy coffee break then we’re usually glad to have a moment to sit down! If there’s no-one browsing books and no session we want to attend, then we might tidy the stand, check emails and social media or catch up with the other publishers. And of course, if it’s really quiet, we have plenty of reading material in front of us!

Anna, Tommi and Laura at a conference

What makes a good conference?

We’ve had fun reminiscing about previous conferences and come up with the following that may combine to make a really good conference from a publishing perspective: excellent speakers whose presentations spark interesting conversations and discussions; a well-organised committee and host venue; being close to the refreshments (not only because we enjoy them, but because this is where delegates tend to congregate); a location that will attract many attendees and is easy to get to; a well-thought-out schedule that isn’t overcrowded and runs to time; plenty of table space so we can spread out our books; double-sided name tags with large print and, even though it’s out of everyone’s control, rain! A wet conference means that delegates are more likely to spend the time between sessions browsing books than out enjoying the host city!

Do you have a book on x-y-z?

We can’t promise to know all our books inside out but we’ll do our best to help you find what you’re looking for. And if neither you nor we can find it, then that’s probably a good sign that you have pointed out a gap in the market! Why not talk to us about writing for us?

Where are the toilets? Is this the registration desk? Can I put my coat under your table? Can I leave my child with you? Do you have a USB stick I can borrow? Can I check a reference in a book?

These and many others are frequently asked and we’re always willing to answer and help out where we can, even if it’s just sending someone in the right direction. Sometimes it’s from the small interactions that the greater conversations begin.

We’re busy making plans for 2018 and hope to see you at a conference somewhere soon!


Disciplinary Knowledge from the Lab to the Courtroom

This month, we published Connecting Language and Disciplinary Knowledge in English for Specific Purposes by Alissa J. Hartig. In this post, Alissa introduces the themes of her book and tells us where her interest in English for Specific Purposes developed from.

Nanophysics probably seems like a strange starting point for working with legal discourse, but it was a group of nanophysicists who first got me interested in English for Specific Purposes. I had been teaching at a university in Korea when one of my students asked if I might be interested in developing a course on science writing for his labmates. Over the next few months, I learned more about piezoelectricity and perovskite than I ever would have guessed. Most of my work with this group was at the end of their writing process, though, and while I got a good sense of the grammatical constraints of these kinds of terms, I never really got to learn much about how these students developed their research questions in the first place or how they went about their work in the lab.

A few years later, when I started working with international Master of Laws students at a law school in the US, my experience was quite different. At the law school, I followed students throughout their entire introduction to common law argumentation, research, and writing. This offered me an opportunity that I didn’t have with the nanophysics lab. While I became familiar with similar kinds of specialized terms, like parol evidence and punitive damages, I also started to notice a different category of disciplinary concepts that played an important role in students’ reading and writing.

These weren’t the kinds of terms that you would typically find on a legal vocabulary list, though. This new category of disciplinary concepts was built into the discourse itself. Both word-level conventions, like the use of tense, and discourse-level conventions, like the inclusion of particular genre moves, could both be traced back to these discourse-structuring concepts. More importantly, students who could connect these discourse-structuring concepts to the ways they were being asked to read and write were more successful in working with legal genres. This wasn’t just a matter of being able to define these concepts or use them correctly in a sentence. Most students could do that without any trouble. The more difficult part was looking at legal texts using these concepts as a lens.

Connecting Language and Disciplinary Knowledge in English for Specific Purposes follows four international law students as they grapple with these discourse-structuring concepts, looking at how both their writing and interactions in tutoring and classroom sessions reflect changes in their understanding over the course of a semester. The book also offers one approach to integrating these discourse-structuring concepts into the ESP classroom. Whether your students are working with parol evidence or perovskite, I hope that readers with an interest in the learning of specialized discourse will gain a new perspective on integrating language and content.

Alissa J. Hartig, Portland State University

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Providing Health Care in the Context of Language Barriers edited by Elizabeth A. Jacobs and Lisa C. Diamond.