Last week I was fortunate enough to travel to the Psychology and Language Learning conference in Graz, Austria. This conference was the very first of its kind and Multilingual Matters was honoured to be invited to attend. We have recently published several books of relevance to the theme of the conference so it was a fantastic opportunity to share our publications with a group of scholars dedicated to the topic.
The conference was hosted by the Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz and seamlessly organised by Sarah Mercer and her efficient team of student helpers. The 3 day conference schedule included seminars, workshops and 6 plenary sessions related to the theme “Matters of the Mind: Psychology and Language Learning”. The sessions were sandwiched between Zoltán Dörnyei’s engaging opening plenary on the significant role of narratives in the psychology of language learning and Jean-Marc Dewaele’s closing plenary in which he presented a solid case for the defence of individual differences peppered with many entertaining anecdotes!
Outside of the sessions, I was kept busy in the book exhibit as our new books, Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA (edited by Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams) and Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individual Differences (by Tammy Gregersen and Peter MacIntyre), were snapped up by the delegates. As ever with international conferences, it was a pleasure to meet some of our authors for the first time. I was particularly pleased to meet Kata Csizér who I have recently been working with as her book The Impact of Self-concept on Language Learning has just been approved for publication in September. She edits the book together with Michael Magid and I was amazed to hear that they have never met each other in person!
The conference also had a packed social schedule and I really enjoyed catching up with both familiar and new colleagues as we sampled typical Austrian wine and schnitzel! Having not been to Austria before I was glad that some of my expectations about the country were correct – the food really is delicious; the city was enchanting and the countryside absolutely stunning and my ability to speak German is just as rusty as I feared! I was also interested to learn new things about the country (and region in particular) that surprised me – pumpkin seeds (or their by-products) are served with almost everything; I actually do quite like Sauvignon Blanc (or at least that from the Styrian region) and Austria is one of a few EU countries where smoking is still permitted in some bars and restaurants.
At some point in the conference it was mentioned that, on average, each delegate sends 4 emails to the conference organiser before the event. For a conference of this size, that makes well over a 1000 emails demanding to be answered, on top of the usual correspondence involved in conference organisation and of course the continuing commitments of daily life. I think I echo the sentiments of all the delegates in saying how grateful we are to Sarah Mercer for arranging such a vibrant and successful few days. At the beginning of this post I referred to the conference as “the first” and I don’t think I’m alone in hoping that there will be a second “Psychology and Language Learning” conference in the future…
If you’d like to see more of the photos from the conference please visit our Facebook page and search the photos albums.
My first conference for Multilingual Matters was AAAL in Portland. I had been reliably informed the AAAL crowd were a very pleasant bunch and that Portland was a gastronomic delight, so when I left the house at 3.30am on a Friday morning I was hoping it was all going to be worth it! I wasn’t disappointed.
The conference itself was great, very well organised and we saw many of our authors and editors during the event. We’re told it was AAAL’s best ever attendance, with 1,700 delegates and a high number of delegates from Australasia and Asia. Our books sold very well indeed, with Bonny Norton’s 2nd Edition of Identity and Language Learning taking the top spot. Other popular books included Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA edited by Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams, Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert, and Language, Migration and Social Inequalities edited by Alexandre Duchêne, Melissa Moyer, and Celia Roberts (the second volume in our new Language, Mobility and Institutions series). Tommi gave a talk on how to publish your first book to between 50-100 people, and wasn’t too scared, and took part in the colloquium on the future of academic publishing in applied linguistics and was terrified, but both went very well! We had very nice comments about both sessions, with lots of insightful questions from the audience.
Portland was a joy. We ate incredibly well, with the foodie highlight being soufflés with our lovely colleagues from the Center for Applied Linguistics. We managed to squeeze in a trip to Voodoo doughnuts, a must-do in Portland, as well as a visit to Powell’s bookstore – a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. It didn’t take long before we found some of our own books in there!
While we didn’t have long to explore the city, we loved what we saw. From resistance banknotes to bars filled with pinball machines – Portland was a total treat and we can’t wait to be back one day!
2014 has begun in force for our Second Language Acquisition series. Already this year we have seen the publication of Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality by Tammy Gregersen and Peter D. MacIntyre: an exciting book which offers not only an up-to-date, accessible introduction to the theories of learner characteristics but is also jam-packed full of practical classroom activities. Tammy and Peter told us about how the project came about in their blog post last year. If you missed it, you can catch up here.
Also on our blog you may have seen Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams’ introduction (here if you missed it) to their edited collection Multiple Perspectives on the Self which was published at the start of February. This collection of papers brings together a diverse range of conceptualisations of the self in the domain of second language acquisition and foreign language learning. The volume attempts to unite a fragmented field and provides a thorough overview of the ways in which the self can be conceptualised in SLA contexts.
The third addition to our SLA series so far this year is Sociocultural Theory and L2 Instructional Pragmatics by Rémi A. van Compernolle. This book outlines a framework for teaching second language pragmatics grounded in Vygotskian sociocultural psychology. Using multiple sources of metalinguistic and performance data, the volume explores both theoretical and practical issues relevant to teaching second language pragmatics from a Vygotskian perspective. Van Compernolle’s book is the 74th to be published in our SLA series and we are hoping to make it to 80 titles by the end of 2014.
The academic series editor for our SLA series is David Singleton, University of Pannonia, Hungary and Fellow Emeritus, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and our in-house Acquisitions Editor is Laura Longworth. Should you be interested in submitting a proposal or discussing any book ideas with us, please do not hesitate to get in touch. More information can be found on our website here.
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.
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!
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.