EUROSLA Conference in York

EUROSLA Conference in York

The end of the summer is almost synonymous with the annual EUROSLA conference, and this year was no different. The conference moves around Europe, with recent previous conferences being held in the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. This year the gathering headed to the UK where the conference was hosted by the University of York on its brand new campus.

The University of York Campus
The University of York Campus

As a graduate of the university I was especially happy to attend and was delighted to have the opportunity to revisit some of my favourite haunts. The conference venue is very new, and situated in still undeveloped green space, so it was interesting for me to see how the university has evolved since I left. The building was the perfect space for the conference and we publishers were situated in the entrance atrium with lovely views out to the lakes where numerous ducks and geese were enjoying a dip!

Conference Drinks Reception at the Yorkshire Museum
Conference Drinks Reception at the Yorkshire Museum

The programme consisted of the usual array of high quality posters, talks and plenaries on the many aspects of second language acquisition. We brought all the recent titles in our SLA series to the conference, as well as a few of our other related titles. Unsurprisingly, Vivian Cook and David Singleton’s new textbook Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition was the best-selling book, followed by Measuring L2 Proficiency edited by Pascale Leclercq, Amanda Edmonds and Heather Hilton.

As usual, the conference organisers also put on a fantastic social programme to match the academic one. The delegates enjoyed a drinks reception in the Yorkshire museum which is set in beautiful gardens. There, we were greeted by the Lord Mayor of York and listened to music from a cellist and jazz quartet; the music was so lively some of us were even tempted to dance! The dancing was an excellent warm up for the next evening.

Conference Dinner at the National Railway Museum in York
Conference Dinner at the National Railway Museum in York

The conference dinner was hosted by the National Railway Museum and we dined among a selection of fascinating trains, my favourites being Queen Victoria’s carriage and the post cart. After dinner a ceilidh (a traditional Scottish dance) was a fun way to end the evening. A few of us had rather sore feet the next day!

EUROSLA 2015 is to be in Aix-en-Provence in France – we are already looking forward to it!

Laura

Books, snakes and snacks aplenty – AILA 2014

This week saw Kim and Laura banished from the office. No, we weren’t sent to the other side of the world for bad behaviour but rather, we headed to Brisbane, Australia for the triennial AILA conference. With a theme of ‘One World, Many Languages’, we knew this would be a great conference for Multilingual Matters. AILA is always exciting for us, as so many of our authors and editors are in attendance. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with old friends as well as make new connections, and hear some fascinating papers.

Some wildlife enjoying our books!
Some wildlife enjoying our books!

The week started well, with strong sales and lots of interest in our new books, particularly Language Globalization and the Making of a Tanzanian Beauty Queen (Billings), Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition (Cook and Singleton) and Measuring L2 Proficiency (edited by Leclercq et al). We also got to meet a different type of delegate – the organisers had arranged for some local creatures to join us for the opening reception! We met snakes, a wombat, a kookaburra, a tortoise and a baby crocodile – some even seemed quite interested in our books.

Jan Blommaert's keynote
Jan Blommaert’s keynote

The conference was pretty busy all week so we didn’t get to many sessions, but those we did attend were high quality and very interesting. Of particular note were the keynotes by Lourdes Ortega, Elana Shohamy and Jan Blommaert, as well as the session on publishing by Mary Jane Curry, and the symposia on indigenous languages organised by Gillian Wigglesworth and Teresa McCarty. Jan had some particularly comical examples of lookalike language!

Brisbane by night
Brisbane by night

The Wednesday afternoon was a chance for everyone to take a breather, as it was a national holiday in Brisbane for their county show, known as the Ekka. We took the opportunity to explore some of Brisbane and had a lovely time doing the typical tourist attractions – we loved the Big Wheel and got a great view of the city. Back to the conference the next day and the stand was as popular as ever, with more animals to see including koalas, possums and a skink. Our best-sellers of the week really did sell well, with Identity and Language Learning (Norton), Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes (Blommaert) and A Scholar’s Guide to Getting Published in English (Curry & Lillis) taking the top spots.

We couldn’t possibly write a piece on this conference without mentioning the food. We’ve never been so well fed! The organisers truly laid on a feast every day, with cakes, pies and biscuits aplenty. Needless to say – the diet went out of the window for the duration of the conference!

Thanks Brisbane, not only for hosting a fabulous conference but also for showing us the very best of your city. We loved it! We’re already looking forward to the next AILA in Rio in 2017.

Measuring L2 Proficiency

Having just published Measuring L2 Proficiency edited by Pascale Leclercq, Amanda Edmonds and Heather Hilton, we asked the editors to tell us a little bit more about how the book came about.

Measuring L2 ProficiencyAs all teachers, trainers and researchers know, assessment in any field and for any type of knowledge or skill can be difficult. For the person being assessed, performance can vary as a function of time of day, moment during the test, individual characteristics, and so on. On the side of the assessor, not every aspect of a given skill can be feasibly tested. Thus, performance on specific items or questions is generally intended to provide the assessor with a general idea of an assessee’s abilities. Most testing situations are thus required to assume that performance as measured with assessment tool X at time t is representative of general ability for a given skill or set of knowledge. However, as both teachers and students can attest, this assumption is often problematic.

Within the field of second language acquisition, proficiency assessment is a necessary building block for almost any research project. However, it has received relatively little direct attention. For example, institutional proficiency level (e.g., first year university students versus third year university students) are assumed to reflect a difference in language proficiency. Although we, as teachers, certainly hope that this is the case, most research projects do not attempt to verify this assumption, meaning that claims of development made in such studies are open to questioning.

As language teachers and researchers interested in how individuals acquire language, we have long been interested in assessment practices in both the language classroom and in the field of second language acquisition. In both contexts, a learner is on their way to acquiring a second language, a highly complex skill involving both knowledge of the new language and the ability to use it (involving both automatic and controlled processes). Assessing such a complex skill has long been recognized as a difficult enterprise. Our book grew out of challenges that we have personally encountered in both teaching and research contexts. We wanted to bring together researchers working in both of these contexts in order to reflect on how to create valid, reliable but also feasible assessment tools for language teachers and researchers alike.

The Common European Framework of ReferenceIf you would like more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting you might also like The Common European Framework of Reference edited by Michael Byram and Lynne Parmenter.