An Interview with Xiao-lei Wang, author of Maintaining Three Languages

This month we published Maintaining Three Languages by Xiao-lei Wang which explores her experience of bringing up teenagers multilingually. We asked Xiao-lei a few questions about her book.

Maintaining Three LanguagesWhat makes your book different from others that have been published before?

There are numerous ways in which my new book differs from other books currently on the market. Due to space limit, I will only mention a few here.

  • Unlike most parenting advice books, in which parents tend to be treated as passive readers and are rarely provided with access to original sources, this book takes a different approach by considering parents as active and intelligent readers. To this end, parents are provided with original research sources; references and further readings are suggested at the end of each chapter for those interested in pursuing the topics discussed. In the same vein, some jargon and technical terminologies regarding multilingualism are deliberately introduced to empower parents to access research literature directly if they wish to do so. When jargon and technical terms are introduced, they are explained in simpler language.
  • This book does not consider adolescents’ multilingual development as an isolated linguistic phenomenon; rather, it addresses multilingual development concurrently with other aspects of adolescent life such as biological, cognitive, and social development. The purpose is to encourage parents to consider taking a holistic approach that aims to cultivate a whole person rather than just a multilingual person.
  • This book addresses the impact of multilingual family welfare, a topic that has been largely neglected in the published literature. Parents from multilingual families often come from different cultural backgrounds. As a result, the multilingual childrearing process may affect the coherence and well-being of multilingual families. Practical strategies are provided to help parents be mindful of family well-being.
  • This book includes practical and easy-to-use language and literacy measures that parents can use to better understand their teen’s multilingual development of words, grammar and language production. By understanding their teen’s current heritage-language development levels, parents can focus on the areas in which their teen needs more support.
  • This book is written in a reader-friendly style with a balance of scholarly rigor and reader accessibility. To increase readers’ enjoyment, I have included many interesting and meaningful personal anecdotes. Parents will probably enjoy a book with real-life anecdotes more than a dry advice book that presents information out of context.

How will your readers find your book useful?

Readers may find my book useful in the following areas:

  • Because this book is rooted in my own child and adolescent rearing experiences in the everyday context, parents can easily relate to what I discussed in the book.
  • The practical strategies I proposed in the book can be implemented easily by parents. In addition, these strategies are based on research and personal practice.
  • This book provides parents a platform on which they can reflect on their own multilingual childrearing practice.
  • The book empowers parents by showing them that although multilingual childrearing is challenging, it is possible with the right strategies and support.

Was it difficult writing about your own children?

Not at all! On the contrary, I found that writing about my children has been the most enjoyable writing experience in my academic career. When writing other books or research articles, I can, once in a while, feel bored. This never happened when I wrote about my own children. In a way, this is natural: what can be more engaging when a mother writes about her own children, who are such an important part of her life?

What’s the most important advice you would offer to parents of multilingual teenagers?

To support adolescent multilingual development, I consider the following strategies crucial:

  • Raising a happy teen is more important than raising a multilingual teen. Thus, taking a holistic approach in promoting teens’ social, cognitive, and identity development should be a priority.
  • Parents need to change their roles from manager of their children’s lives to their consultants.
  • Set up realistic and achievable goals together with your teens about their multilingual development. Empower them by letting them be a part of the decision-making process involving their own multilingual development.

What are the advantages of growing up multilingual?

Research has shown that there are more advantages than disadvantages to being multilingual.

Cognitive and Academic Advantages

  • Multilinguals tend to be better at problem solving, because tackling a problem successfully requires focusing on some aspects of the information and ignoring the others (selective attention).
  • Multilinguals may possess an added mental flexibility and creativity because they regularly switch between different languages (mental flexibility).
  • Multilinguals tend to have more than one set of cultural tools with which to interpret the world. These tools can foster competent behaviors in multiple cultures. For instance, an individual who has extensive knowledge and experiences in cultures A and B may be able to retrieve ideas from cultures A and B spontaneously, place them in juxtaposition, and integrate the two into a novel idea through creative insight. This process is referred to as novel conceptual combination.
  • Multilinguals have an advantage in knowledge transfer from their different languages. Compared with monolinguals, multilinguals can benefit greatly from knowledge acquired in their multiple languages to enrich their learning and understanding.
  • Proficiency in more than one language has been shown to be associated with high academic achievement. Individuals who have the ability to switch between two or more languages also exhibit higher cognitive functioning than those who abandon one of their heritage languages. Research shows that when children were encouraged to further develop their home language, the skills they built in that language helped their mainstream language literacy development. In fact, the longer children receive reinforcement in their home language, the better they learn their mainstream language.

Linguistic Advantages

  • Multilingual individuals tend to have a metalinguistic advantage when compared to their monolingual counterparts. They are more sanative about the language phenomenon in their ambient languages.
  • They have more linguistic resources available to them.
  • The multilingual faculty also facilitates new language learning. This is perhaps because multilinguals are more experienced language learners who have potentially developed more language learning strategies than monolinguals and have a larger linguistic and intercultural repertoire at their disposal.

Other Advantages

  • In having knowledge about their heritage language(s), children and adolescents have an advantage in accessing their heritage culture and communicating with their heritage family. Research suggests that children who speak their parents’ heritage language(s) enjoy better relationships with their families and are less likely to be alienated from their parents and relatives.
  • Multilinguals have the privilege of accessing different sources of information and they can read books and newspapers, as well as watch news and films, in several languages. This makes them more versatile and helps them to approach things from multiple perspectives.
  • Moreover, multilingualism can increase a person’s social circle to include friends from many parts of the world. When travelling to another country, being able to speak the language really helps bring people together and facilitates communication, exchange and socialization.
  • Being multilingual has career advantages as well. In the increasingly globalized world, multilinguals have a competitive advantage in the job market.
  • Research has shown that people who are proficient in their heritage language tend to have higher self-esteem, are more confident in achieving goals, feel they have more control over their lives, and have more ambitious plans for the future.

Given all the advantages mentioned above and many others that I have not mentioned, it is definitely worthwhile to raise multilingual children and adolescents. As Stephen Krashen, an expert in second language learning, commented, “Heritage language development appears to be an excellent investment. For a small effort…the payoffs are enormous.” Another well-known multilingual expert, Colin Baker, also echoed that multilingualism has more advantages than drawbacks.

However, I would like to caution that multilingualism affects individuals differently. Some multilinguals may develop particularly strong intellectual and linguistic abilities as a byproduct of multiple language leaning and use. Other multilinguals may have relatively weaker abilities in their respective languages because input in or exposure to each language is not evenly distributed. It is important to have a realistic view of multilingual effects and understand that there is no guarantee that being multilingual will result in benefits that are associated with multilingualism as described above, nor does it suggest that multilingualism is the cause of all the problems. Thus, not all multilinguals will function superbly or equally well; rather, the multilingual effects on an individual depend on many complex factors, including the individual child or adolescent’s sociolinguistic environments, parental support, aptitude, motivation and personality.

What is your next research project?

I have several projects in progress. For example,

  • Multilingual children’s figurative language development (such as idioms)
  • Multilingual children’s syncretic language use
  • In addition, I plan to write a comprehensive handbook on multilingual children and adolescents, tentatively titled Everything You Want to Know about Bilingual and Multilingual Childrearing.

Growing up with Three LanguagesIf you found this interesting you might also like Xiao-lei’s other books: Growing up with Three Languages and Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family. Information about all her books can be found on our website.

An Interview with Tej Vir Singh, editor of Challenges in Tourism Research

This month we published Challenges in Tourism Research, a comprehensive volume in which renowned scholars discuss contemporary debates within the field of tourism studies. The book is based on ‘Research Probes’ originally published in the journal Tourism Recreation Research. In this post the editor of the book, Tej Vir Singh, answers a few questions about the book.

Critical Debates in TourismWhat makes the ‘Research Probe’ format of this book so unique?
Intelligent use of collective wisdom of known multi-disciplinary scholars, strategic application of elenctic approach (debates, discussions and discourse), quintessential knowledge at one place, interesting readability, and direction for future research.

How does this book complement the previous volume Critical Debates in Tourism?
It complements Critical Debates in Tourism by identifying leftover problems (vast tourism cannot be confined to one volume) – more, it meets the needs of freshers and juniors.

What is your next research project?
Ah!! Next project? Possibly a magnum opus of tourism….

What do you find rewarding about editing books?
The joy of creation and dissemination of knowledge plus scholars’ satisfaction with the book.

What advice would you offer to other academics editing their first book?
They should identify the demand of the curricula and market needs; it might be better that they undertake a preliminary training course in editing.

How would you compare the experiences of writing a book and writing a journal article?
Almost the same – just like writing story or a drama.

Do you find that the role of books in the tourism research community has changed over the years? Are they valued more or less today than they were a decade ago?
Can’t say precisely, but I can speak about tourism, where books are more valued than the journals, specially in the Third World.

9781845413415For more information about the book please see our website. You might also be interested in Critical Debates in Tourism.

An Interview with Philip L. Pearce and Anja Pabel, authors of “Tourism and Humour”

Earlier this month we published Tourism and Humour by Philip L. Pearce and Anja Pabel. We asked them a few questions to find out more about the background to the book.

What inspired you to study tourism and humour?

Anja: My primary PhD supervisor, Prof Philip Pearce aka “Prof”, pointed me into the direction of tourism and humour. During a pre-PhD meeting, I remember quite clearly that we talked about three potential PhD topics: social media use in tourism, poverty alleviation and tourism and humour in tourism. When I heard about the humour topic, my alarm bells went ringing: “Ding ding ding, this is so going to be my topic!” The rest is already history.

Tourism and HumourPhilip: Erik Cohen and I discussed humour at the 2007 Academy of Tourism conference and at a number of subsequent meetings in Thailand. I then systematically explored some well-known situations in an early Annals of Tourism Research paper. I do recognise nationality differences, but the way humour enlivens many human interactions has always been of interest to me and its role in tourism interactions was not formally appreciated. The choice of the topic is consistent with identifying key facets of tourist behaviour which have defined some of our earlier work at James Cook University

What insights have you gained from writing the book?

Anja: The research for the PhD and the book made me realise just what a multifaceted phenomenon humour actually is. It is something so nebulous because it is a personal and subjective experience. The research shows that tour guides who are successful in using humour during tourism experiences contribute to the tourists’ comfort, connection and concentration levels. Overall it can be said that humour may not apply to all tourism settings but this research has shown that is it likely to contribute to making many tourists’ experiences more enjoyable.

Philip: The breadth and depth of scholarship relating to humour has now given me the ability to identify common humour styles and patterns in tourism humour. For example, I recently visited the United Kingdom and witnessed many of the identical techniques identified in tourist–guide humour in our chapters. Guides who gently mock their audience and interpreters who build their stories with humour and turn the humour against themselves can be richly entertaining for many in the audience. But it is not just about guides. Humorous promotion and humorous post travel storytelling are very important links in the humour-tourism nexus.

How did the two of you come to collaborate on this book?

Anja: Prof was my PhD supervisor and having some of my PhD findings published in a book was a great opportunity. I enjoyed working on this book with Prof and the Channel View Publications team.

Philip: From my interest and from Anja’s PhD there seemed to be much to say in a book. Importantly, co-writing with a consistently happy, fun seeking but high quality graduate student with supportive Channel View staff was always going to be a great choice of working colleagues and friends.

What’s the favourite place that you’ve travelled to in the course of your research?

Anja: To collect data for the PhD and ultimately the book, I travelled to some of my favourite places in Far North Queensland such as the Atherton Tablelands and Cape Tribulation. It was very insightful to see tour guides using humour to engage with tourists during different tourism activities and to observe what effect it had on the tourists’ experience.

Philip: My first studies of humour in Hawaii and New Zealand captured my appreciation of how good humour use adds to beautiful environments and fun activities. These great places were made better for tourists by very entertaining, humorous, culture presenters and fun loving, adventure tourism staff.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing books?

Anja: I enjoy travelling, walking my dog, paddle boarding and reading.

Philip: Meeting new people overseas, travelling, looking after my three dogs and enjoying watching and, if possible, participating in sport.

What is the most humorous experience you’ve had as a tourist?

Anja: I remember a funny situation in Penang, Malaysia where my mother and I went for dinner at the restaurant of the hotel where we were staying. This particular restaurant was very quiet that evening. In fact only one other table had diners. The food was fantastic but the funny part was the huge amount of attention we received from the restaurant employees. Four different waiters, the maître d’ and then the actual chef who cooked our meals came to our table to enquire how everything was. First my mother and I were a bit uncomfortable by all this attention, but then we just started laughing whenever someone new approached our table. In the end we were in stitches but I guess you had to be there to see the funny side of all this. My mum and I still laugh when we remember this dining experience.

Philip: One or two are in the book. Please enjoy them.

What is your next research project?

Anja: Prof and I are still working on some humour related projects but apart from that anything is possible.

Philip: Helping to make tourists behave more patiently and intelligently, understanding non-returning visitors, the world learning to interact with Asian tourists.

For more information on the book please see our website.

Tourism and Trails

In December we published Tourism and Trails by Dallen J. Timothy and Stephen W. Boyd. We asked them a few questions to find out more about the background to the book.

Tourism and TrailsWhat inspired you to write a book about tourism and trails?
Since our youth, we have had personal interests in trails. Dallen has fond memories of utilizing nature trails during primary school field trips and his family using them during Easter egg hunts. He also grew up enjoying trails in some of Utah’s most spectacular national parks. Since that time he has become especially interested in researching long-distance heritage trails, including religious-oriented pilgrimage paths and trade routes. Stephen has fond memories as a child of lots of walking on family holidays over the traditional beach holiday and so nowadays when he visits new destinations he is keen to explore the landscape using formal and informal trails of varying scales and importance.  From a scholastic point of view both of us realize the importance of trails and routes in connecting disparate parts of regions for economic development and developing broader tourism products, yet few people have systematically examined them from a holistic perspective. There are many studies about the recreational impacts of trails, but we saw a need to treat linear resources more comprehensively from tourism and recreation standpoints.

How did the two of you come to collaborate on this book?
We have known each other since graduate school in Canada, where we shared many personal and professional interests in nature-based and cultural heritage-based tourism. In 1999, based upon our own experiences and our emerging professional interests in the management of linear tourism resources, we co-wrote and presented a conference paper conceptualizing trails as management mechanisms. Since then we have maintained our common research interests in trails and spent much time visiting and researching, largely from a policy perspective, many trails and routes in the UK, Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. We are planning to carry out much more empirical collaborative work on tourism trails in the near future.

What makes your book different from others that have been published before?
Well, honestly, there are no other scholarly books out there that deal with recreational and tourism trails, let alone one that delves into the management, conservation, supply and demand and experiential elements of linear resources. The book consolidates a disparate range of literatures and concepts into a volume that is accessible to researchers and students. It provides in-depth analysis of the current trends, issues and implications of routes and trails as crucial resources for tourism and recreation.

Which other academics in your field do you particularly admire and how have they influenced your own research?
There are far too many to mention individually, although Richard Butler comes to mind first. He was Stephen’s PhD supervisor and one of Dallen’s master’s mentors. His pioneering work in tourism studies influenced us in many ways during our formative years as emerging academics, and we will forever be grateful for his mentorship. Geoff Wall, Dallen’s PhD advisor, is another tourism pioneer who taught us much and who has led the field for decades; it was Geoff’s simple typology of classifying tourism attractions as points, lines and areas that started our thinking that there is a lack of attention by tourism scholars to study linear attraction with the one exception of linear coastal resort development.

As a tourism academic you must get to travel to some exotic locations. Where is the most unusual or interesting place you have travelled to for work?
Dallen’s preferred places are where most mass tourists don’t go. For him, in this regard the most interesting locales have been Greenland, Lebanon, Mongolia, remote parts of Myanmar, North Korea and Bhutan. Stephen has visited many locations often to present at conferences; some of the most interesting over the years have been Singapore, North Cyprus, Brisbane, Vancouver; others have been more remote like Umea, Sweden and Valapariso, Chile where he experienced a student riot when entering the city!

What are your next research projects?
We are planning a new book on heritage tourism and technology, and we will continue our research on pilgrimage trails in Ireland and other parts of Europe. We are also exploring an edited book on political tourism which is around concepts and issues as opposed to case studies. Stephen is looking to undertake research on the Wild Atlantic Way; one of the largest coastal touring routes that takes you on a journey around the south and west coast of Ireland, linking to some of the touring routes along Northern Ireland’s coastline.

For more information about the book please see our website.

The Bilingual Advantage

Next month we are publishing Rebecca Callahan and Patricia Gándara’s book The Bilingual Advantage. Here, we have a short interview with Rebecca and Patricia which gives further insight to the themes of their book.

Why did you feel this was an important book to write?

We were driven by two very strong interests: what we perceived to be a strong need to revisit the existing research on bilingualism in the labor market, and if that research yielded new findings, to frame it in such as way that it might capture the attention of policymakers.

We were both aware that the literature to date has shown that there is no real advantage to bilingualism in the US labor market, and in certain cases even a bilingual penalty, something that is counter-intuitive to most people, especially in an increasingly globalized world. This raised questions in our own minds about whether past research may have suffered from data and analytical problems, or if looking at the issue with younger cohorts, or in different geographic areas might yield different results. The studies in the The Bilingual Advantage draw on relatively new data, on longitudinal samples of young people, and attempt to more carefully define balanced bilingualism. And, indeed, we find very different outcomes for young balanced bilinguals, both in the labor market and in education.

If there are so many advantages to bilingualism, and if many of the young people in the US today who are most likely and able to achieve bilingualism are also those individuals who have little access to the rigorous schooling that would support biliteracy development, it seems that policy makers should be re-thinking these counterproductive education policies. However, we have seen that the research on the cognitive and social advantages of bilingualism has not been sufficiently compelling to motivate change in educational policies. It occurred to us that perhaps the economic arguments would be more compelling and bring the world of business in as allies in attempting to re-fashion policy.

The Bilingual AdvantageHow did the two of you come to collaborate on this book?

We had both discussed the importance of bilingualism, and the disconnect between what we saw as the value of bilingualism and the research suggesting there was little labor market advantage to mastering two languages. With the Civil Rights Project, Patricia had commissioned a series of studies to investigate the value of bilingualism. Once we decided that we wanted to do a book, Rebecca immediately came to mind as the ideal person to lead the shepherding of this set of studies toward a coherent volume.  She was familiar with the methods and datasets, she knew the area substantively, and had published in this area. Her background and interest in the value of bilingualism helped to shape the arguments at the core of The Bilingual Advantage.

Who do you hope will find your book interesting/useful?

Everyone from monolingual and bilingual parents and community members, to classroom educators and educational policy makers. The Bilingual Advantage is important to consider in the many decisions we make about how to educate the growing language minority, or more specifically, emergent bilingual population, as well as all other students who should be prepared for a global economy. To date, the educational policy that governs the instruction of this growing population is not aligned with the research.

What are three main points you hope readers of your book come away with?

Policy: There is a cost to not maintaining this national resource. An established base of effective instructional practices and programs exists to guide the successful education of the emergent bilingual population; failure to take advantage of the linguistic resources these students bring with them to the classroom will cost the national economy greatly in the long run.

Research: These studies make it clear that researchers in the field must carefully consider how they define ‘bilingualism’; most available data are not designed to answer questions about literacy and language proficiency in one, much less two languages. Lack of data in this area results in conclusions that may be inaccurate. Determining the true value of balanced bilingualism in the labor market is as much a question of measurement and empirical methods, as it is of the economy. Additionally, these studies point up the fact that the demographic changes occurring so rapidly in the US require that we revisit research findings based on data that reflect a different population in our schools and in the society.

Conventional wisdom: As we enter into a new era, the generations that have grown up in the information age are acutely aware of the new global economy. In this realm, everyone’s child really can benefit from proficiency in two or more languages.

Have you gained any surprising or unexpected insights from writing the book?

The impact of the methods was astonishing. Using appropriate measures, Santibañez and Zárate were able to show that balanced bilinguals were more likely to go to a four-year college, and were less likely to drop out compared to monolinguals. In addition, it was striking to note how clearly employers’ preferences drive the economic effects – which we see very clearly in the Porras chapter, but is also hinted at in the Alarcón chapters which allude to a muffled advantage, tempered by a context historically defined by its racial stratification. Also, Agirdag’s thesis that rather than just asking about economic advantages to bilingualism one should actually consider the costs of not educating students bilingually caused us to think of this issue in a whole different way!

What do you find rewarding about authoring and editing books?

Contribution to the larger field—shaping how we ask questions and having the opportunity to move the field forward. In addition, the whole process of getting to know other colleagues’ work intimately; forming what are really very lovely relationships with colleagues.

What other books on bilingualism have you enjoyed recently?

I really enjoyed Bialystok’s Bilingualism in Development, and we use Baker’s Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism in our graduate and undergraduate courses. I repeatedly draw on and refer students to Menken’s English Learners Left Behind, her seminal work investigating how standardized testing has resulted in a de facto language policy in K-12 schools. Some books you read once, others you go back to over and over. The Education of Language Minority Immigrants in the United States, edited by Wiley, Lee, and Rumberger, is one of those books. I recently re-read several chapters. The selection of works for that volume is exceptional.

What is your next research project?

Rebecca will be working on two projects, one which investigates the role of science efficacy in EL students’ middle to high school transition, and the other teachers’ use of an innovative engineering curriculum in the elementary age classroom. Patricia is working on bilingual, multinational open access secondary math curriculum to facilitate immigrant students’ high school completion and is about to launch a national survey on what teachers of English learners know, have been trained to do, and need support in doing to effectively educate EL/emergent bilingual students.

If you would like more information about this book please see our website.



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.

Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams introduce their new book “Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA”

Ahead of the publication of Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA next month, we asked its editors, Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams, a few questions about the book and their experiences working on the project.

Could you tell us a bit about where the idea for the book came from?

Sarah: I’ll perhaps respond to this as it is partly a result of my personal journey that has brought us to this point. Whilst I was doing my PhD on self-concept in foreign language learning, I became aware of the vast number of constructs in the field. In discussing my work with others, I often found myself having to explain the different nature of self constructs and ‘defend’ my choice of construct. However, the more I work in this area, the more acutely aware I become of the vastness of the self and, hence, the more humble I become about what I feel we can know and understand about learners’ and teachers’ sense of self in respect to language learning and teaching. Although we perhaps tend to have a preferred way of viewing things, we both feel it is important to respect a diversity of views on the self. Rather than feeling that one perspective is inherently superior or ‘more valid’ than another, we feel it is more important to appreciate how different perspectives can each contribute a piece of the puzzle towards a fuller, more comprehensive understanding of self in SLA. We thus felt a book was needed that brought different perspectives together.

Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA

What makes your book different from others that have been published before?

Marion: As Sarah explained, many books on the self consider it from a single particular perspective. Our aim with this book was to bring together multiple different perspectives in one volume to facilitate an overview and help make salient where interconnections between perspectives may exist and how they may complement each other. We were keen not to specify how or in what ways the self should be conceptualised and/or researched by the contributors, as we deliberately wanted to explore the diversity of perspectives on self. As we conclude in the book, the self is so complex and vast that we feel it cannot possibly be explained by one single theory or perspective. Instead, we believe that the field will ultimately benefit from engaging with multiple perspectives.

This is not the first book that you two have edited together, how did you first come to work together?

We actually first worked together back in 2007 when we worked on a symposium for IATEFL on language learning psychology. Building on our shared interests, we then went on to co-edit a book in 2012 together with our colleague Stephen Ryan entitled “Psychology for Language Learning” published by Palgrave Macmillan. It was the first time that the three of us had worked together and we found the experience positive and stimulating and we learnt a lot from each other in the process. So much so, that we are currently working on another book project together. Although other commitments prevented Stephen from joining us in editing this collection, we were delighted that he contributed a chapter to the book with a colleague and we are very grateful to him for his help in the indexing – a skill we knew he had from our last book together. We have found working in a team to be such a rewarding and enriching experience that we are sure it won’t be our last project together.

So, what is your next research (or other!) project?

We are already working on our next book, jointly with Stephen Ryan, again in the field of psychology in language learning. We mostly work with each other online with regular Skype sessions, but sometimes we find the chance to work together at Sarah’s house in the hills of Austria, which aides our productivity! We are also all involved in a conference Sarah is organising at her home university entitled “Matters of the Mind: Psychology and Language Learning”. Within the conference, we will be promoting this book and there will also be a symposium on the self in SLA run by Sarah and involving several contributors to the collection. So, plenty to keep us busy!

Marion Williams presenting copies of the book to Desmond Morris; we are honoured that he offered to let us use his image on the cover. The picture is entitled 'The Imaginer', which is the theme of one of the chapters.
Marion Williams presenting copies of the book to Desmond Morris; we are honoured that he offered to let us use his image on the cover. The picture is entitled ‘The Imaginer’, which is the theme of one of the chapters.

Finally, you have chosen an unusual piece of artwork for the cover – can you tell us a bit more about the artist and why you thought it relevant?

Marion: For some time I have been an admirer of the works of Desmond Morris, the UK’s renowned surrealist, with their strong colours and powerful images. I have attended his exhibitions in Oxford and talked to him about his work. When it came to choosing an image for our cover, I had the idea of asking this great artist if we could use one of his paintings as many of the themes link to psychology – indeed, he generously allowed us to use one of his paintings for our previous book. When I approached him again in respect to this book on the self in SLA, to my surprise and delight, he agreed again. We think the image makes a fantastic cover and we’re thrilled with it.

For more information on this title and for ordering information, please visit the book’s page on our website here. If you found this of interest, you may also like other titles recently published by us, such as Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality (by Tammy Gregersen and Peter MacIntyre), Self and Identity in Adolescent Foreign Language Learning (by Florentina Taylor) and Identity and Language Learning, 2nd Edition (by Bonny Norton).

Author interview with Deirdre Martin

A few months ago, we published Deirdre Martin’s latest volume Researching Dyslexia in Multilingual Settings. We recently caught up with Deirdre and asked her a few questions about her research.

Researching Dyslexia in Multilingual SettingsHow did you first come to research dyslexia in multilingual contexts?

I have been both drawn and driven to researching dyslexia in multilingual contexts. I have been interested for many years in language and communication disabilities in multilingual contexts. Language and meaning making are the bedrock of literacy practices and literacy skills in reading and writing. So I was very curious to take the next step to research difficulties in literacy skills, also known as dyslexia. Dyslexia usually emerges most noticeably in the early years of formal schooling when children are taught literacy skills in reading, writing and spelling. I was driven – very willingly- to researching dyslexia in multilingual contexts by the global increase in multilingual learners being introduced to English literacy skills. For example, many countries now introduce English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and English literacy skills to young learners, and from another perspective ‘superdiverse’ global population movements to the UK, EU and elsewhere, have brought multilingual learners into largely monolingual schools, creating multilingual contexts. Research is needed in these multilingual contexts to understand dyslexia-type difficulties.

Why are there so many disciplines involved in this type of research?

Dyslexia is a complex weave of the natural and the cultural, and these two main areas of knowledge require different approaches to investigation. Understanding dyslexia as a dichotomised study is essential. During the hundred years and more of researching dyslexia different branches of study have emerged to examine the multifaceted nature of dyslexia, taking account of the changing contexts of languages, literacy practices and skills and most recently digital. For example, a biological approach explains dyslexia through medical, neurological and genetic study; psychological studies understand dyslexia through cognitive processing skills and personality. Critical, social and cultural studies have opened up the field to even more concepts of the ‘situatedness’ of dyslexia. Yet there is a great need to develop rigorous informed research study in areas of pedagogy and intervention.

Why is your book different from others in the field that have been published before?

It offers a bird’s eye view of different understandings of dyslexia. This edited volume focuses on methodology, that is, the approaches to creating different knowledges adopted by different disciplines in their studies of dyslexia. Books and journals on dyslexia usually publish studies that share one approach and a set of procedures to creating knowledge. This volume includes a range of approaches and methods to engage readers in the different ways of knowing and understanding dyslexia. Readers can be better equipped to select research methods and findings for their purposes, to inform their own research studies in dyslexia.

Who do you hope will find your book interesting/useful?

I hope that this volume will be interesting and useful to professionals, researchers and parents for different reasons. I hope that those in professional development such as trainee teachers, EAL and EFL specialists, speech/language therapists and psychologists are persuaded of the complexity of the phenomenon of dyslexia. Similarly, I would imagine that novice researchers, such as undergraduates, masters students and new doctoral students, would be impressed by the disciplinary scope and methodological breadth of the study of dyslexia.

I hope that more experienced researchers identify with an approach to understanding dyslexia that they want to develop and create new ways of understanding dyslexia in multilingual settings. Parents encountering dyslexia for the first time may find so many perspectives on dyslexia bewildering! Nevertheless, I hope that multilingual families find it helpful for their needs when they talk to teachers and other professionals about multilingual literacy difficulties. Perhaps there is a further group – multilingual speakers with dyslexia – who may find this book fascinating.

Which other researchers in your field do you particularly admire?

I admire colleagues who have engaged in researching literacy practices and skills in other languages and other places so that we can understand the complexity of literacy/ies – for example Brian Street and Gunter Kress. I take my hat off to those who have published prolifically in the field of dyslexia and, more recently, included multilingual contexts, such as Gavin Reid and his colleagues. The research in multilingual and multicultural literacy pedagogy by colleagues such as Viv Edwards, Naz Rassool, Eve Gregory and Charmian Keener, has been instrumental in changing our perceptions and practices. Most of all I just love reading the work of these colleagues – I continue to find new insights and new meaning in their work.

What is your next research project?

I have projects running with my doctoral students studying in the field of dyslexia in multilingual contexts and multilingual dyslexia. I am very interested in studying multimodality – such as digital literacy skills and practices – with multilingual young people with low literacy skills.

Language Disabilities in Cultural and Linguistic DiversityIf you found this interesting you can find more information about the book here. You might also be interested in Deirdre’s other book Language Disabilities in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity.

Identity and Language Learning

This autumn we published the 2nd edition of Bonny Norton’s book Identity and Language Learning. Here, we ask her a few questions about the new edition.

Identity and Language Learning The first edition of your book Identity and Language Learning was published in 2000. How has the field changed since then and why did you see a need to update the book?

As I indicate in the Preface to the second edition, my students at the University of British Columbia encouraged me to bring out my 2000 book as an ebook. I was excited by the idea of making my work more widely accessible – and affordable! This is why the subtitle of the second edition is: “Extending the Conversation”. It was also clear that research on identity and language learning had grown exponentially over the past decade, and that there was a need to locate the earlier research in this wider literature. In the Introduction to the second edition, I update the literature on identity and language learning, including an elaboration of my theory of investment. Issues of imagined identities and imagined communities are also central in this literature review. I have taken the opportunity to address other related areas of interest such as teacher identity, digital identity, and transnational identity. Claire Kramsch’s Afterword places the text in its wider historical context, and is an inspired piece of writing.

How has the term ‘identity’ evolved since the publication of the first edition of your book?

What my 2000 book did was to highlight the ways in which a poststructuralist theory of identity can contribute to an understanding of language learning and teaching. The idea of identity as multiple, changing, and a site of struggle has helped to inform debates on language learning and teaching, and these ideas have gained momentum over time, particularly with emerging scholars.  The theory of investment has also helped to inform changing conceptions of motivation in the field, as exemplified in the work of Zoltan Dörnyei and Ema Ushioda.

How then does your theory of investment differ from conventional theories of motivation?

Investment is a sociological construct, while motivation is a psychological construct. This is a very important distinction between the two constructs.  The construct of investment helps teachers to understand the relationship between engagement in learning and learner identity. It also highlights the ways in which relations of power might impact social interaction in classrooms and communities, both virtual and face-to-face.  For example, a teacher might have a seemingly unmotivated student who doesn’t participate or talk in class. But if the student, for example, is a good guitar player, the teacher could say, “let’s have a jam session and play some music.” The student’s identity then shifts from ‘unmotivated student’ to ‘musician’, and the student becomes more engaged in the activities of the classroom. The student may have always been motivated to learn, but not necessarily invested in the language practices of that particular classroom. Because of the jam session, the relationship between the student and the class changes, and the student begins talking with greater comfort and ease. The identity ‘musician’ gives the student more power in the classroom.

Can you elaborate on how investment relates more specifically to teacher identity?

To consider a different scenario: there may be a disjuncture between what the teacher (or school) considers good teaching, and what particular students (or their families) consider good teaching. Such a disjuncture may arise from different cultural traditions with respect to pedagogical practice, and what are perceived to be productive relationships between teaching and learning. For this reason, it is helpful for the teacher to ask not only, “Why is this student not motivated to learn?” but also, “Why is this student not invested in the language practices of my classroom?” The construct of investment assumes that both learners and teachers are central in the learning process, which is open to negotiation and change. How can teachers ensure that students are invested in the language practices of their classrooms? The most important challenge for the teacher is to promote practices that validate student identity and encourage student investment.

Does your future research address issues of identity?

Any research that includes human participants will have implications for theories of identity and investment, and this includes questions of researcher identity. Like many scholars in the field of language education, one of my identities is that of a transnational citizen, having been brought up in South Africa, had children in the USA, worked in Canada, and done years of research in Uganda. Over the next few years, I will be active in the groundbreaking African Storybook Project, an initiative of the South African Institute for Distance Education (see This project draws on advances in digital technology to promote the multilingual literacy of children in sub-Saharan Africa. Open access digital stories, in multiple languages, are currently being developed for the three pilot countries of South Africa, Uganda, and Kenya. The stories are being uploaded on a comprehensive website, available for use not only in Africa, but also in the wider international community. As research advisor on this project, I’m helping to set up a research network that will advance the goals of the African Storybook Project. As learners, teachers, and communities engage in innovative ways with digital stories, there will likely be important shifts in both teacher and student identity. It’s a very exciting project, with huge implications for the future. Check out the 10-minute YouTube video at:

You can find more information about Bonny’s book on our website

Introducing our new book series ‘Language, Mobility and Institutions’

To tie in with the publication of the first books in our new series, the series editors Melissa Moyer (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and Celia Roberts (King’s College  London) have written this post presenting the series.

We are very happy to introduce this new series on ‘Language, Mobility and Institutions’. The theme of this series and the manuscripts we seek to publish address a new sociolinguistic reality brought about by globalization. This worldwide social process challenges researchers dealing with language to adopt innovative perspectives in order to provide an improved understanding of how language is implicated in the various institutions of society. ‘Institutions’ in the title of the series is not just limited to established social, administrative, political or economic entities in the public, private or non-governmental sector but also to sites and contexts where institutionalized practices are produced and reproduced in the daily undertakings of people who move around the world.

Communicative Practices at Work

The first books in the new series are being published this autumn. We hope these will be the first of many which aim to link the experience of being mobile with the institutional responses to increasing diversity. Institutions, understood in a wide sense, are grappling with the conundrum of national or institutional ideologies which assume standardization or homogenous ways of thinking in situations of superdiversity. Meanwhile, migrants see their social and cultural capital leeching away or look for ways to resist and develop alternative strategies to gain agency and cope with inequality and social exclusion.

Sitting on the train in any major city in the world, it is commonplace to hear five or six different languages in a carriage. In everyday life multilingualism is a banal event. But how does this play out in institutions? Much of the time, it is swept under the carpet as a largely unrecognised and rarely remunerated workforce of multilingual people is expected to act as interpreters and translators. At the same time, linguistic gatekeepers are at work in selection panels, designing an oh-so-narrow gate for the few to pass through.

The present series seeks to bring forth the innovative ways people are pushing at these very gates which are being safeguarded by powerful institutions and how they are finding creative ways of contesting exclusionary practices by setting up their own businesses. Similarly, some organisations are championing communicative flexibility within their own workforces.

Language, Migration and Social Inequalities

And this is one of the themes of Jo Anne Kleifgen’s book which was published last week. Communicative Practices at Work is an ethnographic and sociolinguistic account of how one US firm is drawing on the multilingual and multimodal resources of its staff. In November Language, Migration and Social Inequalities edited by Alexandre Duchêne, Melissa Moyer and Celia Roberts takes a critical look at sites of control, selection and resistance across settings in Europe, Africa and Australia.

Both these books draw the reader into research sites quite far removed from the majority of books on sociolinguistics which tend to focus on language rights, education or local communities. With this new series, workplace settings such as high-tech factories, the marketplaces of South Africa or the world of the airline stewardess are explored. Similarly, light is shed on the backstage work of institutions where language use is negotiated as migrants’ lives are made bureaucratically processable.

We are finding the editorship of this series a pretty exciting experience since any one aspect of language, mobility and institutions is nested in wider contexts, discourses and interactions. Local and national politics, the forces of the neo-liberal economy, the multiple networks of migrant groups and the contact they maintain with their countries of origin and transit are all part of the tangled web which has language as its centre.

We welcome manuscripts or book projects that presents research that would contribute to the widely defined themes of the present series. If you think you have a proposal to make then do get in touch with Anna Roderick at Multilingual Matters and we will get back to you soon.

Celia and Melissa