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!