What Motivates People to Learn Multiple Languages?

This month we published Motivation to Learn Multiple Languages in Japan by Chika Takahashi. In this post the author introduces the book and explains what inspired her to write it. 

I originally thought of writing this book when I was about to finish the last set of interviews with my two interviewees after nine years of data collection. I had started this motivation study in 2012, had published three papers on the earlier phases, and had unpublished data for the previous three years. What I felt was necessary at that stage was to put everything together to examine my interviewees’ long-term motivational developments to study multiple languages from a broad perspective. For that purpose, I felt that a book-length report was necessary.

We all know that it usually takes years to reach a certain level in any second/foreign language. We also know that it’s challenging to do so in more than one language, particularly when there is a strong social, political, or economic emphasis on one of the languages, in this case English. In a non-multilingual context like Japan, it may be even more challenging than in other contexts such as Europe. Yet I had these rich interview data to demonstrate that it is possible to be motivated to learn multiple languages even in a non-multilingual, exam-oriented context and to go beyond an instrumentalist view of language learning to see multiple language learning as a lifelong endeavor.

In the book, you will see that my interviewees experienced motivational ups and downs along the way, as they went from high school, to university, to graduate school, and into the working world. They had different approaches to language learning and went through distinct experiences even at the same schools, but they both showed compelling cases of persisting in learning multiple languages in their own ways. Readers may be particularly surprised that one of them ended up learning nine languages throughout the years. In an era when English functions as a global language and many learners question the necessity of learning another language when they can communicate in English, this is frankly quite amazing. I am sure that their motivational trajectories and perspectives on language offer valuable insights for our future language learning/teaching, no matter the context. I feel truly lucky to have met such wonderful learners, not only as a researcher but also as a language learner and simply as a human.

What I hope I have demonstrated through this book is that language learning is not just about gaining capital or a competitive edge in the job market. It is not something that happens only in formal education settings, either. My interviewees considered it a lifelong endeavor—an essentially human act that better connects us to other people—and showed that it can be so enjoyable and fulfilling if we have the right elements of motivation. I hope that readers both inside and outside Japan find these two cases illuminating and insightful for their learning/teaching of multiple languages in their given contexts.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Lessons from Exceptional Language Learners Who Have Achieved Nativelike Proficiency by Zoltán Dörnyei and Katarina Mentzelopoulos.

Locals’ Love of Place as a Pathway to Sustainability

This month we published The Local Turn in Tourism edited by Freya Higgins-Desbiolles and Bobbie Chew Bigby. In this post the editors write about the inspiration behind the book.

Pre-pandemic, tourism was suffering from an image problem as the impacts of ‘overtourism’ became an issue around the globe. Then the pandemic struck, effectively shutting down international tourism for several months. As we emerge from these times, a question on everybody’s minds, from the World Tourism Organization to the smallest of tourism enterprises, is what comes next?

Can we rethink tourism in such a way that economic, social and ecological sustainability fully underpins the phenomenon?

We have been doing some of this rethinking together and collaboratively with others. We favour defining tourism by the local community rather than by the tourism industry and the tourists. This approach would reorient tourism to ensure local well-being and thriving. But when we use the term local community, we are broadly inclusive – of the many types of people living in a place, connected and obligated to past and future generations and of the whole ecology of that place.

We are not inventing something new with these ideas, but we are channelling swirling currents into a new and focused direction. We suggest moving beyond community participation models and community-based tourism, to a transformation in the total phenomenon of tourism. This grounds tourism in the strength of locals’ love of place and shapes it to the wisdom of place-based governance.

For co-editor Bobbie, these questions of re-thinking tourism in line with the priorities of local communities and goals of sustainability began from experiences as a traveller and a student of different cultures:

“One of my earliest memories of seeing the ways that tourism could literally and profoundly disrupt communities was over 20 years ago when I had the opportunity to accompany my mother, a language teacher, on an educational trip to Venice. Walking the canals with her felt like a test in navigating the crowds and avoiding being crushed. Looking up towards the sky, a cruise ship that had pulled into the lagoon towered over the old buildings, leaving them dwarfed in its gigantic shadow. It should be remembered that this was long before the term overtourism was coined. Yet based on this early memory of being a witness to tourism so deeply out of sync with sustainability and local communities, this experience ingrained in me just how powerful tourism can be in relation to the objectives upon which it is designed. Fortunately, both at home and in other places of learning where I have spent time across the globe, there have been some incredible examples of community-driven tourism, ranging from my own Cherokee Tribal Nation’s tourism programs that aim to tell our story as Cherokee people, to the arts-based tourism experiences offered by youth cultural ambassadors at Cambodian Living Arts in Cambodia. In these experiences of tourism that are grounded in and led by community priorities, sustainability in economic, social and ecological realms is not only made possible, but can also potentially be sustained over longer periods of time.”

Yitpi Yartapuultiku – The ‘Soul of Port Adelaide’ – new Aboriginal Cultural Centre community consultation 17 November 2022, Port Adelaide, South Australia”

For Freya, learning from communities never ceases:

“Last night, I attended an event presenting progress on an urban Aboriginal cultural centre for the Kaurna people of Adelaide to be sited on the Port River. We’ve waited for decades for such a centre, with the original vision focused on reconciliation between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people in this western precinct of the city. But a new vision has emerged as the centre is dreamed into existence. It will be shaped by the ecology of this coastal, wetland and river environment and informed by Kaurna cultural knowledge and wisdom. In addition to serving as a site for cultural education and connection, it will be used to prepare this vulnerable environment for the rising waters resulting from climate change. This includes acting as a model site for managing the ecology using a ‘living shorelines’ approach to engage nature’s wisdom for restoration and adaptation. Many wisdoms come together in the vision for this project; I think it perfectly embodies what we mean by locals’ love of place acting as a pathway to sustainability.”

The book The Local Turn in Tourism: Empowering Communities represents a community of practice underway to start to flesh out the possibilities for this work. It is only the beginning though and there is much more work to be done. We invite you to join us in these efforts. It offers a hopeful approach, shaping tourism to honour and bring out the best in people and places.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Inclusive Tourism Futures edited by Anu Harju-Myllyaho and Salla Jutila.

What is Authenticity in Language Teaching and Learning?

This month we are publishing Authenticity across Languages and Cultures edited by Leo Will, Wolfgang Stadler and Irma Eloff. In this post Wolfgang explains how the idea for the book came about.

The idea for the book came to my mind…no, this was much later. But it might have been there at the back of my head when I didn’t know (as a teacher of Russian as a foreign language = RFL) how to manage the balancing act between situations in the real world and situations in the classroom. I started teaching Russian in the eighties (last century!), no internet, no Russian native speakers on the Tyrolean ski slopes, communism, Cold War…Where to get authentic material? Soviet films? Colloquial audio material? No corpora, no social media…How to create authentic communication situations? Would learners/students have the chance to go to the Soviet Union? Where would they practice the target language?

Of course, at that time I was (not too) happy with the textbooks I had, and I used authentic material from my journeys to Russia (theatre tickets, metro jetons, coins, menus, photos of inscriptions on houses etc). Only when I started teaching at Innsbruck University, and very much later, did I think about the concepts of authenticity as presented in the literature. What did authenticity mean? Were there authenticities? Authentic teachers? Authentic materials? Authentic language? The Russian we read in newspapers and the Russian I heard in the kitchen of my Moscow friends were different. Russian in the hostel. In the streets. On stage. On TV. Confusing.

When the idea of the book was ripe as I wanted to get a grip on authenticity – WHAT IS AUTHENTICITY? – I thought that I would need editors, authors from other countries, other cultures. Was there something like intercultural/transcultural authenticity?

When I introduced the topic (also years ago) to my colleague at Humboldt University in Berlin, asking her whether to organise a joint seminar on authenticity and Russian language pedagogy, Leo came in. A colleague in Innsbruck told me that there was a guy in Munich who was doing his PhD on authenticity (albeit in English as a SL/FL). So, we invited Leo. And he came to Innsbruck for a talk in this joint seminar, telling us about the various forms of authenticity.

And when I was dean of the faculty, and involved in co-operations with South Africa and Canada, as well as with Israel, I thought of asking around who would be interested in joining my investigation into this mystifying concept. By then, I had learned that authenticity denoted more than certain text types (i.e. texts not purposely designed for language instructional purposes). Authenticity being deeply enmeshed with questions of self and identity, I wanted to explore how the dynamics of the concept play out in vastly different contexts of life and language learning.

My colleague Irma, from South Africa, had been invited to Innsbruck a number of times and we discussed the interplays of language and education on multiple occasions. South Africa has eleven official languages! This high level of language diversity provided interesting perspectives on language learning and the manifestations of authenticity which I had been pondering. When I mentioned the idea of a book on authenticity, she immediately responded with enthusiasm. When I introduced her and Leo to one another, there was a natural synergy between the three of us and the activation of our various networks commenced in order to issue invitations to potential chapter authors.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Complexity Perspectives on Researching Language Learner and Teacher Psychology edited by Richard J. Sampson and Richard S. Pinner.

How Do You Become Successful at Language Learning?

We recently published Lessons from Exceptional Language Learners Who Have Achieved Nativelike Proficiency and its companion volume Stories from Exceptional Language Learners Who Have Achieved Nativelike Proficiency by Zoltán Dörnyei and Katarina Mentzelopoulos. In this post Katarina introduces the books.

How do you become successful at language learning?

I will start with a disclaimer: the answer to this question highly depends on how you define success and what your own individual language learning goals are. But using one definition of success – nativelikeness – we asked 30 exceptionally successful language learners this same question. Without any heritage background or early immersion experiences, these individuals all learned an additional language to the extent that they could be mistaken for native speakers in that language.

So how does one become exceptionally successful at learning a language? It wouldn’t be an age-old question if it came with an easy answer. For decades, researchers have investigated the factors they think might affect ultimate attainment in language learning. They asked questions like: How far can language learning go? Does the amount of time you spend immersed in the language matter? What about your age when you start learning? Does the quality of language you are exposed to make a difference?

For us, rather than the environmental factors, what we wanted to know was the process behind the success. Why did these learners decide to learn the language? What was their experience like? What motivated them, and what sustained them when that motivation waned? Even more, what was it like when they reached the final stage of that journey? What is it like to be nativelike?

In 2020, we sat down with 30 gifted language learners and asked them to share with us their language learning (hi)stories from start to present. They proceeded to bring us on a journey through all manner of individual differences and learning factors:

  • Their individual personalities and talents, from their openness and international posture to their musical ability and deep emotional connection with their languages
  • The relationships they forged, the communities they took part in, and the role models that inspired them
  • Their trials and tribulations related to multilingual identities, legitimacy and ownership, as well as their successes with carving their own paths through these circles and developing their own linguistic voice
  • Their aspirations and goals, the strategies that saw them through, and how they managed to persist through any number of obstacles

These are just a few, and for every rule, there was always an exception.

So what’s the answer to our question? How do you become successful at language learning? We initially set out to write a single monograph to answer this, planning on analysing our learners’ narratives and drawing out specific lessons that could be learned. Yet it turned out that each of the stories was so distinctive with their own complexities that we felt their full narratives were just as important as the lessons we could distil.

Thus, readers can dive into each of our learners’ stories in the forthcoming volume, Stories from Exceptional Language Learners Who Have Achieved Nativelike Proficiency. Complementing this, the compiled lessons and research-related insights can be found in Lessons from Exceptional Language Learners Who Have Achieved Nativelike Proficiency: Motivation, Cognition and Identity. Both volumes can be read as standalones, but we highly recommend reading them together, as the overarching themes and the individual details complement each other in a way the lone books do not.

Ultimately, I regret to inform you that neither volume provides a single answer to our question, and there is a lot more to expand on in this burgeoning topic. Nevertheless, we hope that this duology contains a number of threads that provide learners, teachers and researchers alike a few drops of inspiration in your own respective journeys.

If you would like to get in touch to have a chat about the books or anything related, feel free to find me on Twitter (@KatarinaMentz).

For more information about Lessons from Exceptional Language Learners Who Have Achieved Nativelike Proficiency and Stories from Exceptional Language Learners Who Have Achieved Nativelike Proficiency please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Autonomy Support Beyond the Language Learning Classroom edited by Jo Mynard and Scott J. Shelton-Strong.

The Importance of Teachers’ Meta-Knowledge of the Lexicon

This month we published Advanced Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary in a First and Second Language by Monica Karlsson. In this post the author explains why the book is important.

Despite a virtual explosion of research on vocabulary teaching and learning during the last few decades, there still seems to be a general consensus among teachers that whereas most L2 language areas need to be taught explicitly, the learning of vocabulary will take place implicitly, and, for that reason, does not require much time in the second language classroom. Admittedly, students may incidentally acquire knowledge of words while, for instance, reading and listening, learning thus occurring haphazardly, in a non-structured way. This book, however, originates from a strong belief that vocabulary too needs to be addressed explicitly, and that this can be done by providing teachers with more meta-knowledge of different areas of the L2 lexicon.

For instance, based on the results in Chapter 3, dealing with suffixation, it is clear that students would benefit from a teaching syllabus that considered the complexities and frequencies of the stem, the derivative form and the suffix, as well as discussions of the effects of these factors. For idioms, proverbs and multi-word verbs, addressed in Chapters 4 and 5, it would be useful for students to learn that these items of vocabulary are not equal in terms of transparency and commonality, and that these factors most certainly affect to what extent students are able to spot, comprehend, remember and ultimately produce such items correctly (see also Karlsson, 2019). It would also be valuable for learners to know that within the greater lexicon, there are smaller worlds of vocabulary where interconnections are formed in various ways. This phenomenon could, for instance, be exemplified by means of polysemous words and the process of layering, thus enhancing students’ knowledge of the meanings of high-frequency words. Finally, the results in Chapter 7 show that quite a few learners display a great potential for inferring word knowledge when provided with contextual clues. By dedicating time in the L2 classroom to discussions regarding such clues and what conclusions can be drawn based on them, this inherent awareness, most likely dormant in many students, could be enhanced further, even helping low-achievers come to grips with new word meanings much more quickly.

It is my sincere hope that my book will encourage L2 instructors to learn more about the lexicon, theoretically as well as practically, so that they may find the courage to approach vocabulary in a more structured way, and that it will inspire linguists to do more research that will support such a development.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like the author’s previous book, Idiomatic Mastery in a First and Second Language.

The Passenger Experience of Air Travel

This month we published The Passenger Experience of Air Travel edited by Jennie Small. In this post the editor writes about the inspiration behind the book.

As I am writing, from a suburb in Sydney, I hear a plane overhead, and then another and another. Arriving or departing? I can’t tell, but a familiar background, a reminder of the world where air travel has become such a regular means of transport for many and, for some, an ‘everyday’ experience. Living in an island nation, all my international travel is by air, as is much of my interstate travel, due to the large distances. While I have the usual ‘horror’ stories of air travel – the queues, the delays, the cramped spaces, the crying babies, the lost luggage, the jetlag etc, air travel still manages to enthral me: the adrenalin rush at take-off, the gaze from the window on an ‘exotic’ world below, the guilt-free binge-watching of in-flight movies and the wonderment of traversing the globe and landing in another hemisphere, all within 24 hours. Yet, despite flying being a component of many holiday/VFR/business etc. experiences, social scientists (with some exceptions, e.g. mobility scholars) have been inclined to view the journey as ‘dead time’ and focus their attention on the travel experience at the destination rather than in the air.

It was this neglect of the passenger experience that led me (with Candice Harris from Auckland University of Technology) to an initial investigation of the air passenger experience which has led to the edited book, The Passenger Experience of Air Travel: A Critical Approach. Coming from a critical tourism background and guided by the ‘new mobilities paradigm’, it was clear that more needed to be said about the embodied experiences of passengers, the materialities and technologies that contribute to that experience and the discourses surrounding air travel that give it meaning. Situating air travel within its wider political, economic, cultural and social contexts, unmasking power relations and addressing inequalities were key concerns of the contributors.

With this in mind, the authors explore:

  • the passenger experience of airports
  • the passenger experience of fellow passengers – their behaviour and appearance as well as their experience of flight attendants’ appearance
  • the experience of passengers with a disability – mobility, sensory, cognitive and mental health conditions
  • the experience of passengers with a fear of flying
  • the attitudes and behaviour of passengers with regards to the sustainability of air travel
  • the disruption of the passenger experience during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In calling for change or action within the field of air travel, the writers argue for accessible and inclusive air travel. At the same time, we see the tension between ‘access to air travel’ and the critical environmental concerns associated with flying which must be addressed for the health and wellbeing of the planet. At the least, I hope this book establishes that air travel is a meaningful experience and not ‘dead time’, as some have implied.

For more information about this post please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Histories, Meanings and Representations of the Modern Hotel by Kevin J. James.

Why Intersectionality Matters in the Study of Migration, Language and Identity

This month we published Multilingualism and Gendered Immigrant Identity by Farah Ali. In this post the author introduces the main themes of the book.

When migrants take up residence in a new society and begin the journey of building what many of them hope to be an improved life, this adjustment process is often given different names, such as acculturation, assimilation and/or integration. While each concept involves distinct shifts towards and away from one’s host society and society of origin, all of these processes entail migrants recalibrating their identities and day-to-day practices in a variety of ways so they can navigate life and feel a sense of belonging in their new place of residence. Part of this experience often requires learning another language, a task that is rarely as simple as making the time and effort to learn it. Rather, one’s ability and motivation to learn languages beyond one’s native tongue is shaped by an array of factors, such as the opportunities that are available to language learners, the extent to which a language is necessary in their lives, and – a factor that is often overlooked – the willingness of others to engage with language learners in said language. Together, these factors can play a crucial role in shaping not only migrants’ language learning experiences, but also their identities, cultural connections, and ultimately, their sense of belonging and acceptance in the host society. For sociolinguists interested in studying multilingualism and linguistic behavior among migrant populations, some of the common questions we explore include: how do migrants use their native and second languages in their day-to-day lives? How does the second-generation, born and raised in the host society, continue the process of socially integrating, and how does their linguistic behavior shift, if at all?

In many contexts, however, multilingualism is not just the result of integrating into a host society. Rather, it may be the pre-existing situation in migrants’ societies of origin and/or the host societies to which they move. For instance, while it might be assumed that immigrating to Spain would only require knowledge of Spanish, several autonomous communities in Spain actually have more than one official language. Catalonia, where my study is set, officially recognizes multiple languages, with Catalan and Spanish being the socially dominant ones. As such, migrants’ integration process in this locale also means that they are faced with the possibility of learning both of these languages. While Spanish is the more widely used language across Spain, Catalan is considered the vehicular language by the Catalan government and has been growing in use in the last few decades as the result of continuous linguistic revitalization efforts. More than that, Catalan also carries with it a greater degree of prestige in comparison to Spanish, which may allow for more upward mobility among its speakers. In this scenario, migrants may choose to learn both languages simultaneously, or, if limited in time, motivation, and/or resources, may only focus on one. In the latter context, many choose to forgo the socioeconomic possibilities that learning Catalan may present in favor of learning the language of more immediate need, Spanish.

While it is critical to consider the sociolinguistic situation within a host society, it is also essential to understand how migrants’ identities and experiences serve as key factors that play a major role in the integration process. In other words, different migrant groups may have different experiences with integrating into a given society. In many sociolinguistic studies, migrant groups are often distinguished by their ethnicities, races, and/or nationalities, which serve as the key variable(s) of investigation. While this is certainly a valid approach to studying migrant identities, other aspects of identity can intersect with – or even supersede – the above, in terms of playing a crucial role in shaping migrants’ experiences. That is, one’s ethnicity may be inseparable from one’s gender, and so it is impossible to analyze the experiences of Arab men and Arab women – or Arab women and Latina women – as if they were one and the same. As such, the concept of intersectionality provides a necessary framework for understanding the interconnectedness of identities, and allows us to see how a person’s multiple identities are intertwined and collectively shape one’s experiences. Applied to sociolinguistic research, we can see how intersectional identities extend to informing one’s linguistic behavior, because language not only serves specific communicative functions, but also can be performative of one’s identity.

Multilingualism and Gendered Immigrant Identity: Perspectives from Catalonia examines the intersection of gender and religion among Muslim women in Catalonia, and shows how these intertwined identities are connected to language use, and work hand in hand for many Muslim women as they reflexively or intentionally use language to perform their identities.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Struggles for Multilingualism and Linguistic Citizenship edited by Quentin Williams, Ana Deumert and Tommaso M. Milani.

Do You Reflect on Your Teaching?

We recently published Teacher Reflection edited by Zia Tajeddin and Atsuko Watanabe. In this post the editors discuss the importance of Thomas S. C. Farrell’s work, which inspired the book.

Do you reflect on your teaching? We would say that most of the teachers reading this blog would answer ‘Yes’. Among the teachers who answered ‘Yes’, we would say that almost all of the teachers, especially if they are teachers of the English language, are familiar with the name Thomas S. C. Farrell. As the title indicates, the book, Teacher Reflection: Policies, Practices and Impacts: Studies in Honor of Thomas S. C. Farrell, was inspired by the great works by Thomas Farrell. Just as Donald Schön had disseminated the idea of reflective practice by acknowledging the wisdom of practitioners, Farrell has spread the concept of reflection to practitioners in the area of English language teaching through his works. With Farrell’s works, such as the framework of five different stages/levels of reflection, namely Philosophy, Principles, Theory, Practice, and Beyond Practice, many teachers have started to take up reflective practice as a way to improve teaching. Also, the teachers who have already reflected on their teaching must have felt that their practice might have been legitimated and can be guided by Farrell’s framework and ideas.

To honor such great contributions of Thomas Farrell to the field of English language teachers’ professional development, this book came into existence. The book project was launched in the spring of 2019. In publishing it, we wanted to touch upon areas that have not been focused on in the literature of reflective practice thus far, such as macro and micro educational policies pertinent to reflective practice and constructs such as teachers’ identity, cognition, and motivation which are relevant in reflective practice. With such focus in mind, we contacted scholars whose works we were familiar with in English language teacher development. The chapters are contributed from renowned authors from various different institutions and countries, covering a variety of studies with different methodologies and approaches to teacher engagement in reflective practice.

Reflective practice can be employed by pre-service teachers and in-service teachers in any phase of teaching. It may appear to be a practice easily engaged with: however, in its engagement, we can be faced with some challenges such as wondering if our reflection on our lessons is relevant or appropriate. As the book encompasses cases in numerous contexts with a variety of approaches, readers from any context should be able to find insights from it. We hope this book will help English language teachers reflect and improve their teaching and also lead to further discussion about reflection and teaching with their colleagues and in the field of English language teaching. As Thomas Farrell says, reflection is a way of life. We hope this book helps readers in their professional teaching journey.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Professional Development through Teacher Research edited by Darío Luis Banegas, Emily Edwards and Luis S. Villacañas de Castro.

How do Individual Differences in L1 Skills Impact L2 Achievement?

This month we published Exploring L1-L2 Relationships by Richard L. Sparks. In this post the author explains how he came to write the book.

My research has addressed L2 learning from a different angle, namely that first language (L1) and L2 learning are similar. Given my background, my approach to research for L2 learning described in the book may not be surprising. I am a L1 educator whose specialties are learning disabilities, reading disabilities (dyslexia), language learning, and assessment. My study of L2 learning, and later L2 aptitude, was serendipitous and began when I encountered US college students with difficulties fulfilling their L2 course requirement. For several years, I conducted studies with secondary level students with L2 learning difficulties, but soon expanded my research to include both high- and low-achieving L2 learners. I speculated that there would be strong connections between students’ L2 achievement and their L1 achievement, an intuition that was quickly validated by my research. These findings encouraged me to continue this line of investigation for the simple reason that despite longstanding research by L1 researchers that had revealed individual differences (IDs) in all aspects of students’ language development by preschool age, there had been little or no research on L1-L2 relationships.

The book brings a new and different approach to the study of L2 learning, one that has been largely neglected by L2 educators and researchers – how individual differences (IDs) in students’ L1 skills impact their L2 aptitude and subsequent L2 achievement. Early on, my late colleague, Leonore Ganschow, and I developed a hypothesis which claimed that L1 and L2 learning have a common foundation – language ability. My book takes the reader on a journey over 30+ years in which our studies, some lasting 3-10 years, provided strong support for our hypothesis about L1-L2 relationships by showing that:

  • L2 achievement is reflected in students’ levels of L1 achievement
  • L2 aptitude and L2 achievement run along a continuum of very strong to very weak learners, just like L1 achievement
  • L2 learning problems are, first and foremost, language learning problems
  • L2 aptitude (like L1 ability) is componential and comprised of different language skills
  • L2 aptitude and L2 achievement are constrained (moderated) by L1 achievement.
  • L2 anxiety is largely determined by students’ levels of L1 achievement, L2 aptitude, and L2 achievement

A valuable section of the book introduces the reader to evidence for the strong relationships between students’ L1 and L2 reading skills in alphabetic languages through the use of the Simple View of Reading model. This research supports L1-L2 connections for reading and demonstrates how to evaluate students’ L1 or L2 reading skills in English and Spanish through the use of accessible assessment tools. Another important contribution for L2 educators is the discussion throughout the book of the concepts of inter-individual and intra-individual differences, culminating in a new, heretofore unpublished chapter in which I review the extensive literature on IDs in L1 ability and provide a tutorial on how to understand IDs in, and the connections between, L1–L2 skills. The tutorial explains that there is variation – often substantial variation – between and within individual learners, and variation in IDs profiles across multiple characteristics. The tutorial also shows how learners’ inter- and intra-individual differences in L1 are manifested in their L2 aptitude and L2 achievement. The book concludes with presentation of my model of future directions for L2 research.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Explorations of Language Transfer by Terence Odlin. 

Issues with the Current State of the ELT Industry: Why This is the Right Time for My Book

This month we published Antisocial Language Teaching by JPB Gerald. In this post, the author explains why the time is ripe for his book to be released.

Anyone who is affiliated with language education in some capacity is likely aware that there are issues in the field. Depending on your vantage point and level of progressiveness, those issues generally include hierarchical and exclusionary practices such as native-speakerism, so-called “accent reduction”, and the policies that descend from raciolinguistic ideologies, or the association of deficient language with marginalized racial groups. We language scholars and practitioners have, in articles and presentations and books, been trying to address these issues for decades now, and yet many of these barriers remain firmly in place. In my new book, Antisocial Language Teaching: English and the Pervasive Pathology of Whiteness, I make the argument for why we seem to be so ideologically stubborn.

Simply put, all of the issues above – to which you can add the ravages of capitalism and the way that colonialism continues to shape our field – are tied to the belief that certain people and groups are inherently disordered and in need of correction. My own research is based around the intersection of race, disability, and language, but, though it does not factor into my book, you can add religion and gender and other axes of oppression to this as well. Unfortunately, we have been forced to reform our field inch by inch, focusing on intertwined issues separately and thus leaving the overall harmful structure in place. As a rhetorical device, I use the diagnostic criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (aka DSM-5) to make the point that the way our field was built and is currently maintained could be classified as deeply disordered and only isn’t because of who currently benefits from the system as is; more specifically, I map the seven criteria of antisocial personality disorder onto the connection between whiteness, colonialism, capitalism, and ableism and how these and other -isms harm the vast majority of the students – and educators – in the field of language teaching. Whether you end up agreeing with my argument or not, I do hope you give the book a chance to both inform and entertain you, for I believe that our discipline’s conversation has yet to feature the particular angle I am putting forth, and I also believe that we will never get out of our current cycles if we don’t try something radically different, a vision I put forth towards the end of the work.

The book has just been released, and if you are interested, you can order it here. If you’d like to have a good faith conversation with me about the issues, feel free to find me on twitter: @JPBGerald.

JPB Gerald, EdD, is a graduate of the Instructional Leadership program from CUNY – Hunter College in New York, USA. He works in professional development for a not-for-profit organization.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Bilingualism for All? edited by Nelson Flores, Amelia Tseng and Nicholas Subtirelu.