Next up on the Multilingual Matters conference schedule come the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) and TESOL conferences and our editorial team will be heading to those gatherings which are due to take place on the west coast in Portland and Seattle later in March. We very much enjoyed our last trip to Portland for AAAL in 2014 and are looking forward to a bustling few days at the conferences. A particular highlight of the AAAL calendar will be the celebration that we’re hosting during the Monday afternoon coffee break at AAAL, to which all delegates are invited.
On return to the UK, Anna will be attending the iMean conference which is hosted right on our doorstep at the University of West of England, in Bristol. Jo Angouri is one of the organisers of the conference and also one of the series editors of our new Language at Work series. We are looking forward to introducing the delegates to the first book in the series, Medical Discourse in Professional, Academic and Popular Settings edited by Pilar Ordóñez-López and Nuria Edo-Marzá, which was published last year.
I’ve just got back to the office from the first Multilingual Matters conference of the year – the National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE) convention, which this year took place in glittering Las Vegas. NABE conferences have a history of being in wacky places – the first time I attended it was held in Disneyworld, Florida – but I’m always impressed by how the delegates manage to abstain from the temptations of the host city and make the conference a success.
However, by far the bestselling book of the conference was The Bilingual Advantage: Language, Literacy and the US Labor Market edited by Rebecca M. Callahan and Patricia C. Gándara. Patricia gave the final keynote presentation of the conference during which she portrayed the book as a detective story. She explained how the book looks for something that we think must exist (that bilingualism is a labour advantage) but for which there is no evidence. By posing numerous questions, such as which languages are acknowledged as an economic force and whether the background of the language speaker makes a difference to the perceived value of their language abilities, the contributors of the work set out to uncover the truth about the value of bilingualism to both individuals and society.
The excitement was palpable in the hall as Patricia led us through the studies presented in the book to the finding that balanced bilingualism is associated with a host of really important outcomes and that losing bilingualism comes at a cost for society. The conclusion that it is not a waste of money to educate children bilingually was met with a round of applause and everyone left the hall feeling armed with proof to support any claim otherwise. I had a small stand outside the hall displaying the books and was delighted as a long queue of delegates formed, each one eager to get a copy of the work.
Before Patricia Gandara’s keynote speech, State Senator Ricardo Lara (from California’s 33rd District) was awarded the NABE Citizen of the Year award for his significant work on improving educational equality and opportunities for all students. Ricardo is an advocate for multilingual education and has created the California EdGE Initiative (Education for a Global Economy), which will go to a vote in 2016. If passed, California’s English-only instruction mandate in public schools (prop 227) will be amended. The evidence reported in the book can be used to convince the public of the benefits for individuals and society of the maintenance of the home language and that it is time to remedy the damage done by prop 227. Patricia Gandara ended her keynote by reminding us that while what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, what happens in California often does not stay in California and there may be implications of this vote outside California.
As for Las Vegas, well, what a venue for a conference! Outside of the conference hours I tried to get a feel for all that the city had to offer and do something different every evening. Most of the attractions are in the numerous hotels: I rode a rollercoaster in one; went up the tallest freestanding tower in the USA in another and saw Britney Spears perform live in a third! I am also proud to be leaving Las Vegas $15 richer than when I arrived, having had a bit of luck on the roulette! I tore myself away from the temptations of the casinos to return home for a week, before the next round of conferences begins. Look out for Tommi at GURT this week, or Kim, Tommi and me at AAAL in Toronto the week after as our spring travel schedule hots up!