We recently published Twelve Lectures on Multilingualism edited by David Singleton and Larissa Aronin. In this post the editors reveal 10 things you might not have known about multilingualism…
Multilingualism is a specifically human feature. Other species generally use only their own communication systems. Interesting exceptions are domesticated animals which learn to understand human instructions like sit, stay and whoa, as well as apes who have been taught the rudiments of sign language!
The use of two or more languages by individuals almost certainly goes back to the very beginnings of humans’ experience of language and in today’s world is a feature of the profile of a majority of the world’s population.
This latter fact is unsurprising when we consider the number of human languages in the world. Despite the yearly extinction of languages, estimations of this number typically revolve around 6,000 but dramatically increase as soon as we take into account non-standardized language varieties popularly known as “dialects”.
Sometimes you do not even need to have learnt a language in order to understand it! “Receptive multilingualism” is a phenomenon which is common among speakers, of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, where mutual understanding is assured by the closeness of the languages in question. Within other language families too the phenomenon of language proximity facilitating understanding is fairly widespread.
Very often, everyday communication and language-based reflection depend largely on neither one single language nor a person’s entire language repertoire. Instead, small sets of languages (two, three or four), labelled as “Dominant Language Constellations”, provide the principal resources for language use and mainly underlie patterns of language use.
A multilingual may either acquire his/her languages together from infancy or may acquire them sequentially at different ages. A common cliché is that languages learnt beyond childhood will inevitably be condemned to remain at a low level of proficiency, but the reality is that very many adolescent and adult learners of additional languages do so well that they routinely pass for a native speakers of the languages in question.
On the question of age and language acquisition it is also necessary to say that such acquisition also does not stop at any point in life. Our capacity to go on learning languages, including learning aspects of our native language, continues until the very end of our lives.
Bilingualism and multilingualism (three +) are close, overlapping in many ways, but also seem to be significantly different from each other. There is little doubt that, with more experience in multilingual learning, additional language mechanisms develop that would not otherwise be there. These are important not only in language acquisition and teaching, but also in relation to dealing with multilingual communities.
Multilinguals who (because of e.g. stroke or brain surgery) lose their languages have various patterns of recovering them. Recovery patterns in bilingual speakers can be parallel (when all languages improve at similar rates), differential (when one of the languages shows recovery but the others show less recovery or none at all), or selective (when the recovery of some languages comes before the recovery of others). There is also sometimes an incidence of blended recovery – when speakers lose control of their ability to keep their languages apart, and unintentional mixing of elements from their languages ensues. Finally, in antagonistic recovery, the language most available to the patient may change every few days.
The question of whether there is – in a general sense – a “multilingual advantage” is a fraught one. It has been pointed out that the impressive linguistic skills possessed by polyglots sometimes coexist with inadequacies in other areas of life. It may be objected that such observations apply to a very small category of multilingual individuals. A better understanding of such cases may, however, contribute to a fuller and perhaps more broadly applicable sense of individual multilingual possibilities.
For more information about Twelve Lectures on Multilingualism please see our website.
Last week I attended the 30th annual International Conference on Foreign and Second Language Acquisition (ICFSLA) conference in Szczyrk, Poland. This conference is well-loved by those who’ve attended regularly over the years, and upon arrival I was struck by how welcoming everyone was and what a warm and friendly atmosphere the organisers had created, despite the unseasonably chilly, rainy May weather!
As Multilingual Matters hadn’t been to this conference since 2015, the delegates seemed pleased to see us and find that they could actually buy the books we were displaying. Our SLA series was so popular among the conference-goers that a few of them assumed that was the name of the publisher, not realising it was just one of a number of our series! Alongside the SLA books, the first book in our new PLLT series, Language Teacher Psychology (coedited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas), was a particular favourite, selling out on the first day.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Identity in Second Language Acquisition and Foreign Language Learning” and I was able to take some time out from manning my stand to go to the plenaries by our authors and series editors Rod Ellis, David Singleton, Sarah Mercer and Simone Pfenninger. Topics discussed included social identity and language development in study abroad, bi-/multilingual communication and identity, language teacher identity and third age identity, and it was nice to have the opportunity to see our authors in action!
Apart from a packed programme of plenaries and sessions, the conference organisers also put on some great entertainment in the evenings. First up was an “Evening of Memories” in which ICFSLA enthusiasts past, present and regretfully absent reminisced (some by audio/video!) about the past 30 years, accompanied by a slideshow of ICFSLA conferences gone by, and with many fond memories of the late Janusz Arabski, the conference’s founder. A special surprise was saved for the last night, when, following the conference dinner, we all trooped up to the bar, where the conference organisers had arranged a concert by Polish a cappella sea shanty band, Banana Boat. The band was brilliant, and somehow I found myself singing along, despite most of the songs being in Polish! The disco at the end of the night rounded off the conference nicely, with some serious dance moves being exhibited well into the early hours.
The Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Prize is a Swiss prize that is given annually to up to three recipients (an artist, a literary author and a scientist). Simone received the award for her work on the project “Beyond Age Effects”, which she conducted in Switzerland between 2008 and 2017. Parts of the results of this project were published in her 2017 book with David Singleton, Beyond Age Effects in Instructional L2 Learning.
The large-scale longitudinal project, undertaken in Switzerland between 2008 and 2017, focused on the effects of age of onset (AO) vis-à-vis the learning of English that manifest themselves in the course of secondary schooling. The two main goals of the project were to identify factors that prevent young learners from profiting from their extended learning period, as documented in numerous classroom studies, as well as to understand the mechanisms that provide late starters with learning rates in the initial stages of learning which enable them to catch up relatively quickly with early starters. These are questions of considerable theoretical and practical significance, since they are at the heart of debates revolving around age – one of the most controversial variables in foreign language (FL) learning and teaching research.
Over 800 secondary school students (636 of them longitudinally over a period of five years) were tested, who had all learned Standard German and French in primary school, but only half of whom had had English (their third language, L3) from third grade (age 8) onwards, the remainder having started five years later in secondary school. This constellation provided a unique window into the benefits of early versus late FL learning.
Advanced quantitative methods in classroom research (e.g. multilevel modeling) were combined with individual-level qualitative data, rather than examining the relationship between well-defined variables in relative isolation (as in ANOVA-type analyses). The findings cast some doubt on the importance of maturational and strictly durative aspects of FL instructional learning: success mostly does not relate to AO or length of the exposure. Close analysis of the interplay of variables showed that a number of variables are much stronger than starting age for a range of FL proficiency dimensions, e.g. (1) effects of instruction-type, (2) literacy skills, (3) classroom effects, (4) extracurricular exposure and (5) socio-affective variables such as motivation. The findings also suggest that different learner populations (monolinguals, simultaneous bilinguals, sequential bilinguals) are differentially affected by L3 starting age effects, partly due to individual differences (e.g. (bi)literacy skills), partly due to contextual effects that mediate successful L3 outcomes (e.g. language environment at home, classroom effects and teaching approach).
Congratulations to Simone for this brilliant achievement!
Earlier this month, Anna and Laura left Bristol in the midst of a heatwave for rainy Ireland and the biennial International Symposium on Bilingualism, which was hosted this year by the University of Limerick. In this post Laura tells us what they got up to.
The theme of the International Symposium on Bilingualism conference this year was ‘Bilingualism, Multilingualism and the New Speaker’ and delegates enjoyed a packed schedule of presentations, either linked directly to the theme or to any other aspect of bilingualism and multilingualism research. Clearly the topic of the conference lies right at the heart of Multilingual Matters and we were pleased that there was plenty of interest in our books. So much so that we often had a queue of keen customers at the stand during the breaks and were very glad to have each other to share the workload.
Accompanying Jean-Marc Dewaele as other plenary speakers were Ana Deumert, Alexandre Duchêne, Elizabeth Lanza, Tina Hickey and Lisa Lim. The keynotes were all very well-attended and we were glad to be able to slip away from a quiet stand in order to hear them.
Aside from the packed academic schedule, delegates were treated to a drinks reception, Irish BBQ with traditional Irish music and dancing and a Gala Dinner, featuring a live band and welcoming dance floor. Needless to say, we returned home utterly exhausted from an excellent and enjoyable conference and already looking forward to the next one in Canada in 2019!
This month we’re publishing Beyond Age Effects in Instructional L2 Learning by Simone E. Pfenninger and David Singleton. In this post Simone and David discuss the controversial topic of the age factor in second language learning, as explored in their book.
Both of us – from the beginning of our respective careers – have been fascinated by the question of the age factor in second language learning. As we all know, this is a controversial topic; for example, the debate surrounding the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) has not gone away and is not likely to any time soon. There is, however, more consensus than many people realize between CPH sceptics (like Carmen Muñoz) and CPH advocates (such as Robert DeKeyser). The area in which this happy consensus reigns is that of the effects of an early start to L2 instruction in school, which most SLA researchers of all affiliations have for many decades agreed does not yield the advantage one might expect.
There is a sharp difference between the CPH debate and the discussion concerning the optimal age in a formal, educational context. Whereas the CPH question is interesting theoretically, the issue of the best age for starting a foreign language in school (to which, for various reasons, most CPH supporters these days see the critical period notion as irrelevant) is not just intellectually teasing but is also heavy with practical, socio-economic, political and ideological implications. Clearly, for educators, teachers and policy-makers it is of compelling interest to know more about the end state of foreign language instruction, since such research has important implications for multilingual education when making decisions about (1) early teaching of different languages in elementary school and (2) later instruction in different languages in secondary school.
Our book reports on some further long-term findings to this effect, which we explore and expatiate on in relation to a range of variables which, in the instructional context, turn out to be markedly more influential than age. We talk about recent developments and improvements in the methodological aspects of investigating individual difference variables such as age, as well as our observation that in the formal educational setting the age variable is overshadowed to the point of invisibility by other factors. Such factors include contextual effects (e.g. school effects and the transition from primary to secondary school), the effects of instruction-type and intensity of instruction, effects of extracurricular exposure, the influence of literacy and biliteracy skills, and the impact of socio-affective variables such as motivation. A role for starting age is in fact extremely hard to establish. With regard to the school situation, in other words, we can blithely put aside the maturational question, and all agree that when instruction happens is incomparably less important than how it proceeds and under what circumstances.
Actually such findings regarding the effects of early instruction go back a long way. Thus the idea of introducing L2 instruction into primary/elementary schools in the 1950s and 1960s was dealt a severe blow by the findings of research in the 1970s which cast doubt on the capacity of early instruction to deliver higher proficiency levels as compared with later instruction (e.g. Burstall, Jamieson, Cohen, & Hargreaves, 1975; Carroll, 1975; Oller & Nagato, 1974). The disillusionment occasioned by such findings seems, however, to have been rather short-lived, and more recent and continuing negative results in this connection have also been largely ignored. Our own endeavour has been (1) to try to convince the members of the general public that the time is ripe for closer integration between SLA research and L2 pedagogy and (2) to educate them about recent trends in the age factor tradition in SLA research. Our strong view is that consistent and intensive collaboration between practitioners, politicians and researchers is needed in order to understand and address mutual interests and concerns through shared discussions, data collection, analysis and interpretation.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
As usual, we attended both the EUROSLA and BAAL conferences this summer and I was fortunate enough to get to represent Multilingual Matters at both.
This year marked the 25th EUROSLA conference and the special anniversary meeting took place Aix-en-Provence in France. The conference followed the usual format with plenaries by key researchers in the field and many papers on a wide variety of topics within the domain of second language acquisition. The novelty from a publishing aspect was that I got to do my first ever outdoor book display in the glorious (if rather hot!) French sunshine.
The delegates and I very much enjoyed the fresh air during the breaks, as well as the excellent refreshments that were provided. I was most impressed that the organisers provided everyone with a re-useable mug at the start of the conference and we used them during each break – saving well over a thousand disposable cups throughout the conference.
We spent the first evening of the conference at an outdoor drinks reception at the beautiful Pavillon Vendôme where we were welcomed to the city by the mayor. We were treated to tasty canapés, wine and I even tried pastis for the first time. My verdict was positive although I can imagine that the anise flavour might not be to everyone’s taste! The second evening was the conference dinner and again the wonderful French weather meant that we could make the most of another warm evening with drinks and dinner outside. Following the pattern of the conference thus far, we were again spoilt with yet more delicious food and drink!
From EUROSLA in France I headed back home and then straight on to BAAL which this year was hosted by Aston University in Birmingham. Sadly we left the sunshine behind us but having hardly ever been to Birmingham, despite it being less than a couple of hours from Bristol, I was interested to attend a conference in the city. The Aston University campus was located right in the heart of the centre but still manages to be a pleasant, green campus.
The conference was opened by Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese who gave a stimulating plenary during which they played some enchanting vignettes from their research, which included examples of communication in both the city library and market. A further highlight of the conference was a poetry session by Adrian Blackledge who is the current Poet Laureate for Birmingham. He recited some of the poems that he has composed during the past year, which included one to commemorate the start of the First Word War, another to celebrate Burns Night, and one which was not an official poem but that he had written on the birth of his first grandchild, a really touching piece.
Next on our travel list include our annual trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where we meet with our contacts and representatives from the book industry, and then Tommi will be heading to Auckland in November for both the Symposium on Second Language Writing and the Language, Education and Diversity conference. Look out for him there if you are also in attendance!
Ever since I first started working on our SLA list people have raved to me about the International Conference on Foreign and Second Language Acquisition (ICFLSLA) and recommended that I attend. This year I finally found time in our busy conference schedule to go. En route to the conference venue in Szczryk (the seemingly unpronounceable Polish village whose spelling I have to check every time I write it!) I wondered if the conference would live up to its reputation.
Within moments of arriving any fears I had had were allayed. The organisers Danuta Gabryś-Barker, Adam Wojtaszek and Dagmara Gałajda were incredibly welcoming and ensured that everything related to our book exhibit went smoothly. The conference hotel itself was nestled at the foot of some mountains which provided luscious green views, when not obscured by low cloud and heavy rainfall! The mountain air certainly seemed to provide the delegates with plenty of breathing space and inspiration as the talks centring round this year’s theme of positive psychology were full of energy, ideas and optimism, so much so that we could easily forget the miserable weather outside!
Throughout the course of the conference I attended a range of sessions plus the keynotes given by Peter D. MacIntyre, Rebecca Oxford, David Singleton, Simone Pfenninger, Hanna Komorowska, Tammy Gregersen, Sarah Mercer and Alison Phipps. The speakers all spoke passionately about their work, views and experiences and provided plenty of food for thought. And as for real food, we delegates were truly spoilt with wonderful Polish cuisine throughout our stay. So much so, that I felt obliged to find some time out during the conference to go for a run ahead of the Channel View team entering the Bristol 10k run this weekend. The temptation of a stunning view from the top of the mountain lured me into trying to run up it, a very bad idea that I rapidly neglected! If I return to another ICFSLA conference I will certainly take the chairlift up to see the full view that I missed out on seeing.
However, recent exciting additions to the SLA series do not stop at books! We are delighted to announce that Simone Pfenninger has accepted our invitation to join David Singleton as Co-editor of our Second Language Acquisition series. Simone works in the English Department at the University of Zurich and researches in the areas of multilingualism, psycholinguistics and the age factor in SLA, especially in regard to quantitative approaches and statistical methods and techniques for language application in education. She is currently conducting research into early vs. late learning of multiple foreign languages and the cognitive and psycholinguistic mechanisms that drive language change. To better understand the contextualized processes involved in the learning of several languages over the course of mandatory school time, she typically uses longitudinal designs and multilevel modeling. She has been involved in EFL in Switzerland for ten years at different levels: secondary school, adult education, higher education, language policy, and assessment of processes and outcomes in language education.
I first met Simone in person at the Psychology and Language Learning Conference in Graz last year but David and Simone have known each other longer than that. They became acquainted in recent years at international conferences on second language learning and on multilingualism. With their research interests converging around such topics as age factor and cross-linguistic influence, they have in the last few months had a joint book proposal accepted and have been collaborating on several articles and plenary conference papers. They have also co-operated in the area of teaching and plan to expand this domain of their work together.
We are delighted that Simone has joined David on the SLA series and we are hoping that their strengths and interests will both complement each other and diversify our list. We are all looking forward to working together as the series continues to grow and flourish.
We would love to hear from anyone who is working in the field of SLA and who might be interested in writing a book for our series. Please visit the proposals section on our website and contact Laura Longworth, the in-house acquisitions editor, directly.
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.
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!
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.
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!