Summer conference travel – EUROSLA and BAAL

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.

Laura with the outdoor book display
Laura with the outdoor book display

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.

The Pavillon Vendôme, location of the welcome reception
The Pavillon Vendôme, location of the welcome reception

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!

The bestselling books of the conference were Measuring L2 Proficiency edited by Pascale Leclercq, Amanda Edmonds and Heather Hilton, Working Memory in Second Language Acquisition and Processing edited by Zhisheng (Edward) Wen, Mailce Borges Mota and Arthur McNeill, and Vivian Cook and David Singleton’s textbook Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition. David Singleton was also the recipient of the EUROSLA Distinguished Member Award during the conference, which was also a proud moment for us as he is founder and co-series editor of our Second Language Acquisition series.

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.

Birmingham's Poet Laureate Adrian Blackledge
Birmingham’s Poet Laureate Adrian Blackledge

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.

Bestsellers at BAAL were understandably quite different to those at EUROSLA and the list was headed up by the second edition of Bonny Norton’s book Identity and Language Learning, Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert and our new title Emerging Self-Identities and Emotion in Foreign Language Learning by Masuko Miyahara.

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!

Laura

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.

2014 set to be an exciting year for MM’s SLA series

Capitalizing on Language Learners' Individuality2014 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.

Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLAAlso 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.

Sociocultural Theory and L2 Instructional Pragmatics

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 Acquisition of Sociolinguistic Competence in a Lingua Franca ContextBooks already on their way to publication include The Acquisition of Sociolinguistic Competence in a Lingua Franca Context by Mercedes Durham, Jian-E Peng’s monograph Willingness to Communicate in the Chinese EFL University Classroom, ZhaoHong Han’s edited volume Studies in Second Language Acquisition of Chinese and Measuring L2 Proficiency edited by Pascale Leclercq et al. Other highlights for the SLA series in 2014 include the International Conference on Motivational Dynamics and Second Language Acquisition at The University of Nottingham which we are very excited to be supporting and our annual attendance of EUROSLA which is to be hosted by the University of York this year.

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.