The importance of situating work within deeper historical contexts

3 August 2017

This month we published Statehood, Scale and Hierarchy: History, Language and Identity in Indonesia by Lauren Zentz. In this post Lauren reveals the surprising inspiration behind the book.

A month or so ago, after I’d completed this book and actually had time to let my thoughts wander again, I flashed back to the first time that I appreciated history. I was on my first study abroad trip as a college student in 2001 in Avignon, France, sitting in a 13th century building that had become our class building. In the upstairs library I picked up a historical linguistic book on the history of European languages dating all the way back to Roman times. Throughout high school I had developed a great disdain for learning history, as the histories taught in US high schools are not only entirely suspect but they are also incredibly boring, and usually ‘taught’ by a rotating stream of sports coaches (at least in my high school). But this dusty book that I found in this 13th century building in France transported me to a Rome that actually had people (not just Caesars), who walked, and talked, and yelled at politicians, and had relationships and were humans, just like us some millennia later.

I’d never related this experience to the current project at hand – a book about contemporary language in Indonesia – until I sat down that day and reflected on the obsession I’d had with historicizing the Indonesian context as I wrote this book. This need to historicize most certainly had links with current researchers’ calls for the addition of more history to our work; but I’d like to also think that I was driven to do so by that one experience I had so long ago, when I learned that history was where we could see living people exercising agency – and having it exercised over them – in their contexts over long periods of time.

Statehood, Scale and Hierarchy: History, Language and Identity in Indonesia is clearly a book for graduate students and professionals in the fields of Sociolinguistics, Linguistic Anthropology, Applied Linguistics, and Indonesian studies in general. I hope that readers will take away from this book the importance of situating our work within deeper historical contexts. Part of this importance for me comes from the desire to explain that Indonesia’s current historical context is not the way it is simply because of the development of the nation-state in reaction to European colonialism. Many of Indonesia’s current sociolinguistic facts are due to human currents and power dynamics that have been going on for far longer and in far more complex ways than only colonial and post-colonial states can answer for. I have attempted to situate contemporary Java and my college student participants in such a deep history, as individuals conditioned not only by their contemporary subjectivities in Indonesian statehood under globalization, but also as historically situated subjects whose linguistic practices reflect a deep and complicated history of life on Java over centuries.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Race and Ethnicity in English Language Teaching by Christopher Joseph Jenks.

Celebrating 1000 books in 35 years of Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters

6 April 2017

With the recent publication of the 6th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, we hit a real milestone and published our 1000th book since the company began. In this post, Tommi reflects on the last 35 years leading up to this point and discusses how the company and wider world of publishing has changed over time. 

Tommi and David Singleton at the MM drinks reception at AAAL

At the recent AAAL conference in Portland, OR, we celebrated the publication of our 1000th book, the 6th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, co-authored by Colin Baker and Wayne E. Wright. Since I remember the publication of our very first book in 1982, Bilingualism: Basic Principles by Hugo Baetens-Beardsmore, this led me to reflect a little on what has changed at Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters (CVP/MM), in the world of academic publishing, and attitudes to bilingualism since then.

Marjukka and Mike at Frankfurt Book Fair

Many of you will know that CVP/MM is a family business, founded originally by my parents in response to being told by our family doctor not to speak Finnish to my brother and me, stating that “they didn’t know what damage they were doing”. Fortunately, being a formidable combination of a stubborn Finnish mother and an entrepreneurial Essex-man father, they not only refused to take such unwelcome advice, they took it as an opportunity to find and publish world-class research focusing on the many positive benefits of bilingualism. Although we now publish in a very wide range of topics – including applied linguistics and sociolinguistics, educational research, language disorders and translation studies under our Multilingual Matters imprint and, under our other imprint Channel View Publications, tourism studies – language rights and positive attitudes to bi- and multilingualism remain at the heart of what we do. We believe that no mother or father should ever be told not to speak the language of their heart to their children without extremely well-informed reasons for doing so.

Although in many cases attitudes towards bilingualism may have switched towards the more positive and even aspirational, this is often only the case if the languages you speak are privileged western languages, and in many cases only if you are of the majority population. It is fine and admirable to learn Spanish or Arabic if you are white, but society might be less positive about you retaining your Spanish or Arabic if you are an immigrant. There is still much work to do in changing attitudes towards languages where these languages are associated with immigration or are minority indigenous languages.

Some of my first memories include sitting under our dining room table, “helping” my parents stick the mailing labels onto envelopes that would carry our first catalogues out into the world. Among the many addresses we sent catalogues to, 252 Bloor Street West stuck in my mind. As a 6 year old child I struggled to understand how so many people lived in this one house! In the years since then I have come to know the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) well, and have got to know the very many authors and friends who are based there. We no longer pack and mail our catalogues ourselves, this is one of those tasks that computers and automation have simplified, but as the editor of my local orienteering club newsletter I have to pack and mail all the copies to our members, so I like to think that I have retained those valuable skills!

The office in Clevedon before everything was done on computers

In 1982 we were already using computers for journal subscription processing, but all correspondence with authors and editors was by mail. We used to do so much mailing back and forth that the local post office gave us our own postcode! All of our records were kept in large filing cabinets and a system of racks, T-cards and folders would track the process of book and journal manuscripts from initial proposal to published book. Sales reports from our distributor would be couriered once a month to us in a large box, and even as recently as the late 1990s we would wait with excitement to go through the monthly sales reports and see how well our books had been selling. These days everything we do is reliant on computers, the internet and data. We only have to log in to our distributors’ reporting sites to get the sales figures from the day before, and we can communicate easily even while travelling. This availability of data and immediacy of communication brings with it a new set of demands and challenges. There is a sense that we must respond to everything as quickly as possible and that we absolutely have to know how many books were sold in the last 24 hours. A lot of time is taken up by responding to queries that in the past would have waited for a single letter, and of course we put the same pressures on to other people.

In the early days of our company the only reliable way to purchase books was via the bookshop, or to put a cheque in the post with an order form from our catalogue. These days the rise of companies like Amazon, Books etc. and the Book Depository, as well as our own website, means that wherever you are you should be able to order a print copy of our books and have it posted to you quickly. If you choose to purchase an ebook, you can place an order now and have the full text, even in some cases with embedded video files and links to relevant websites and resources, delivered direct to your computer, tablet or reading device within seconds.

Libraries are able to buy one multi-user license of a digital book, which does not degrade with age and usage, and are able to share this with multiple users of the library, even off-site users of the library, at the same time. Shelf space is making way for more computer spaces and learning environments, and university campuses are changing accordingly. Of course the downside of this is that the number of copies required to service the same population has fallen, and so in general across the publishing industry we have seen the total number of sales of any one academic title fall quite dramatically in the past 10 years or so. Since the majority of overhead and fixed costs of publication have not fallen, this means that book prices have risen much faster than inflation in order to cover those costs.

While it is interesting to look at what has changed, it is also very instructive to consider what has stayed constant over all this time. Digital technology and distribution has meant that the barriers to entry into the publishing industry have fallen dramatically. In a world where anyone can write, typeset and publish a book relatively quickly, easily and inexpensively, the role of the publisher in providing a measure of review, revision and quality control is just as important as it was in 1982. It is arguably even more important now, given the recent attention to fake news stories and alternative facts. CVP/MM has always believed in reviewing manuscripts thoroughly and as transparently as possible, and while peer-review is not a flawless system, it is a vitally important step in ensuring that the books we publish can be trusted by students, researchers, parents and policy-makers.

Flo, Sarah, Anna, Tommi, Elinor and Laura

We continue to grow as a business, this year we will publish 60 titles across all of the various subject areas, where just 10 years ago we would schedule 30 titles. But we remain a small and friendly operation with approachable staff. We have fostered an atmosphere where we can thrive and grow within our jobs, and so our staff turnover is extremely low. It is highly likely that you will deal with the same people through the life of your book project, if not your whole career! You will have seen me at every AAAL for the past 19 years, but you may not be aware that Sarah and Anna will this year celebrate their 15th anniversary of working for Multilingual Matters, and Elinor and Laura are not that far behind. Our most recent full time colleague, Flo, already feels like part of the family, and our intern, Alice, reflects the values that we all share.

Although my father, Mike, is no longer around to see the progress we have made since he and my mother, Marjukka, retired, he would still recognise everything that we do and be proud of how we have continued to build on what they started 1000 books ago. We would not have been able to publish 1000 books if it wasn’t for the many authors, series editors, reviewers and readers who have contributed in so many different ways. There are too many to name here, but I hope you know just how important you are to us. It has been a pleasure to work with you all and I hope that you will continue to partner with us, to work with us and to hold us to account when we do occasionally get things wrong, so that as we go on to publish books together we can all grow and improve, and look back on the next 1000 books with just as much pride!


A-Z of Publishing: I is for…

13 July 2015

I is for ImprintI is for Imprint. Depending on which topics of our publications are of interest to you, you may know us as one of our two imprints: Channel View Publications or Multilingual Matters. These are our two separate areas of publishing – books published under Channel View Publications are on the subject of tourism research while those published under the Multilingual Matters imprint are related to applied linguistics. Whichever imprint you know, the same people work on the books – for example, Sarah is the production manager and Elinor is the marketing manager whatever the imprint of the book! We’re also an entirely independent company – there is no bigger power controlling either of our two imprints or company.

This post is part of our ‘A-Z of Publishing’ series which we will be posting every Monday throughout the rest of 2015. You can search the blog for the rest of the series or subscribe to the blog to receive an email as soon as the next post is published by using the links on the right of the page.

Working Memory in Second Language Acquisition and Processing

3 June 2015

A recent title in the Second Language Acquisition series was Working Memory in Second Language Acquisition and Processing edited by Zhisheng (Edward) Wen, Mailce Borges Mota and Arthur McNeill. In this post, Edward reflects on the journey of how the book has come to completion.

The term ‘working memory’ is derived from its predecessor, ‘short-term memory’, which often calls to mind the buzzword ‘the magical number 7 plus or minus 2’, originally coined by George Miller in 1956. In this sense, working memory is short-term memory! But, it is more than that as well, simply because it does not just refer to the storage of information, but also involves the manipulation of it (in other words, how we work on this active information in our head). Given these cognitive functions, working memory usually implicates (to activate, rehearse, sustain, inhibit etc.). So, it is not difficult to imagine that it is both necessary and essential for language learning and processing. Indeed, considerable research in cognitive psychology (psycholinguistics) has amply demonstrated that working memory plays an important role in key language learning domains (e.g., vocabulary, grammar etc.) and processing activities (listening, speaking, reading, and writing).

9781783093571But what about its role in second language acquisition (SLA) and processing? This is particularly important in today’s modern world of globalization and intercultural communication, where there are more people who are using or learning a second language. Unfortunately, based on our previous extensive literature reviews, we have found that our knowledge of this topic is rather limited. What’s more, our survey also revealed to us that our current research in this area has been severely constrained by a lack of consensus on working memory theories in cognitive psychology (besides Alan Baddeley’s classic model, there are at least a dozen other models!). To make matters worse, such a predicament is further complicated by the dismal number of working memory span tasks from the literature (the digit span, the nonword span, the reading span, just to name but a few). Given this rather messy situation, we thought that it might be helpful (to the SLA field) if we could bring together scholars from both fields, cognitive psychology and applied linguistics, to discuss relevant issues more openly. It was exactly these initial thoughts that, even before we were quite aware of it, triggered the whole series of subsequent events that ultimately led to the completion of this edited book.

Arthur, Mailce, and Edward at the Hong Kong Roundtable

Arthur, Mailce, and Edward at the Hong Kong Roundtable

Formally then, the story of our book began with our Roundtable in Hong Kong three years ago. In order to create an interactive forum for cognitive psychologists and SLA researchers to have more fruitful discussions on key theoretical and methodological issues regarding the role of ‘working memory’ in various aspects of SLA, the three editors (Edward Wen, Mailce Mota and Arthur McNeill) convened and organized the International Language Learning roundtable seminar on “Memory and Second Language Acquisition” at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in June 2012 (thanks again to Language Learning for its financial support that made this possible in the first place). Overall, the Roundtable featured a workshop (by Michael Ullman) on broad human memory systems and general learning; and three plenary speeches (by Michael Ullman, Peter Skehan and Cem Alptekin) that offered state-of-the-art literature reviews and insightful perspectives on theoretical issues; as well as a dozen individual papers reporting empirical studies looking into the inextricable relationships between working memory and major aspects of second language learning and processing. This Roundtable turned out to be a great success and was well received by the participants, which of course provided further impetus for us to move on with our journey!

Following the Roundtable, we began to push our invited speakers to turn their presentations into chapters and contribute it to our edited volume, and most of them readily agreed and did so (big thanks here!). As a result, we already had nine chapters in hand out of the Roundtable that addressed relationships between working memory and (a) L2 processing (the three chapters in Part II by Sun-A Kim et al., Yuncai Dai, Alan Juffs); (b) L2 interaction and performance (the four chapters in Part III by Shaofeng Li, Mohammad Ahmadian, Yanbin Lu, and Peter Skehan); as well as (c) two theoretical chapters on depicting a WM-SLA conceptual framework (by myself, Edward Wen) and a systematic review of WM-interpreting models (Yanping Dong).

At this stage, when all these nine chapters were put together, you may think they should be good enough for a complete book! Yes! But we didn’t stop there. In order to have a more thorough and comprehensive representation of all possible WM-SLA connections, we decided to expand the original themes of the Roundtable by soliciting chapters from SLA scholars who had not participated and presented at the Roundtable. So, we had five additional chapters (Part IV) that discuss the role working memory plays in L2 instruction and in long-term development of L2 proficiency (by Kindra Santamaria & Gretchen Sunderman, Kaitlyn Tagarelli et al., Melissa Baralt, Ann Mitchell et al., and Clare Wright).

By now, you may again be thinking that we should be happy with what we had now got for the book (14 chapters already). Not quite! Indeed, things had turned even more exciting at this later stage, as we had taken one bigger – and bolder – step by attempting to bring in some leading cognitive psychologists of working memory to join the project (or the ‘WM-SLA enterprise’ as I shall call it from now on!). The obvious reason and the logic for this was quite simple and direct; that is, SLA researchers have relied so much on their models and theoretical frameworks in cognitive psychology; so it should be worthwhile and interesting to see and hear what they, as advocates of these pioneering models of working memory, have to say on the same topic!

Edward holding the first copy of the book

Edward holding the first copy of the book

The result, as it turned out, was gratifying and encouraging indeed! We were just so pleased (lucky?) to have all the three key players of working memory in the field of cognitive psychology (Alan Baddeley, Nelson Cowan, Randall Engle; whom I would like to call “The Three Giants”) readily agreed to contribute to our volume (a very big thank-you!). Thus we came to have our Foreword (by Bunting & Engle) and the first two introductory chapters on the arguably most influential theoretical models of working memory (by Baddeley & Cowan). The manuscript was then assembled and sent to the publisher and reviewers. We then received the publisher’s feedback which highlighted the positive features of the collection but also areas in need of improvement, such as the need for a clearer integration of working memory theory with second language acquisition.

Integration has never been easy though! (as Peter had warned me!) And I was indeed pondering over this issue for some days, until the name of John Williams came to mind. John proved to be the perfect choice for handling this task as his own research and expertise virtually cuts across both fields of working memory and SLA in the truest sense. Indeed, we were lucky this time (or I should say ‘luckier’, as he was actually in our invited-speakers list for the Roundtable but just could not make it in the end) as he agreed to help us to put the final touch to our book by contributing the epilogue/afterword. Thus, we now had the last piece of the jigsaw, i.e., the final commentary that summarizes both the challenges and prospects facing current and future WM-SLA research. In that respect, John’s verdict was loud and clear, that is, despite what the book has achieved (in theoretical and methodological advancements), the ‘WM-SLA enterprise’ is still in its infancy (‘crying’ out for more!). Wow, there is still a long way to go. So now, dear readers, the ball is in your court – do catch it!

Now that we’ve got all these additional chapters in place, we hope (believe) that the contents of our book have significantly expanded and improved from what emerged from the Roundtable! In this sense, our book is far more than a collection of conference papers. Indeed, when looking back at this lengthy but quite rewarding journey again, despite all the tedious work involved, we as editors are feeling just so pleased and proud (with the way the book has come to its present form) and so grateful (to all our contributors from both fields of cognitive psychology and SLA) and particularly gratified and blessed (thanks to God!) that we could accomplish our initial mission by bringing on board both cognitive psychologists and SLA researchers together for the very first time in the same volume to talk about the same topic that has occupied just so much of our time and energy for many years (in my case ten years!) Ok, I have to agree that I am just a ‘working memory’ enthusiast!.

Indeed, given the multidisciplinary nature of SLA research, we certainly believe that a bridge thus built between the two fields, applied linguistics and cognitive psychology, should be able to create effective dialogues that can benefit researchers from both sides. More importantly though, as we have put it rather clearly in our ‘Introduction’ to the book, (and here I am saying it again), we sincerely hope that our book can serve as a kind of springboard for much more research efforts coming from both fields to jointly contribute to building our ‘WM-SLA enterprise”! And that will prove to be the biggest reward and the ultimate goal for us as editors of this book! So, enjoy your reading – while our journey continues!

Zhisheng (Edward) Wen, PhD
Macao Polytechnic Institute

If you would like more information about Edward’s edited book please see our website or his personal homepage or just contact him directly at the email address above.

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