Multilingual Matters on the Road at Recent Conferences!

May is now upon us and as I sit here in the spring sunshine it’s easy to wonder where March and April went.  My colleagues will be quick to point out that as well as the months travelling by, I have also been doing some travelling, together with Tommi and Kim.

Following the NABE conference in Las Vegas, the next conference on our spring schedule was GURT which Tommi attended in Washington in March.  The theme of the conference was “Diversity and Super-Diversity: Sociocultural Linguistic Perspectives”.  Our two books Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert and Linguistic Landscape in the City edited by Elana Shohamy et al were popular following the authors’ keynotes.  Tommi then flew over the border to Canada to meet me in Toronto, where we spent the next 10 days.

Tommi with Dolores, Bessie and Smita during our visit to UTP
Tommi with Dolores, Bessie and Smita during our visit to UTP

The first appointment of our trip was with the University of Toronto Press Distribution (UTP), our North American distributor.  We have had a long relationship with them and it was lovely to catch up with people we email almost daily but haven’t seen in person for a number of years.  Smita and Dolores are our first points of contact at UTP and they oversee the processing of any orders to customers based in Canada and the US, be they purchases, review copies, desk copies or anything else.  As well as discussing work, they and Bessie were able share their insider knowledge on Ontario, and recommended a trip to Niagara on our mid-trip afternoon off.

Kim, Tommi and Laura manning the stand at AAAL
Kim, Tommi and Laura manning the stand at AAAL

The next highlight of our trip was the annual AAAL conference, which this year took place in Toronto together with its Canadian equivalent ACLA.  Kim flew out to join Tommi and me and the three of us manned the stand and went to sessions.  The AAAL conference is always a lively and well-attended event and we are always proud to display a full selection of our recent publications to the field.  It’s one of the rare occasions where we see all of our publications side-by-side and reflect on all the work that has been put in by our authors.  Our SLA series had a bumper year, with 4 books in the series making our top 10 list of sellers and Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning edited by Zoltán Dörnyei, Peter D. MacIntyre and Alastair Henry topped the chart.  Of our 2015 titles, Power and Meaning Making in an EAP Classroom by Christian Chun was very popular, as was the 2nd edition of Merrill Swain, Linda Steinman and Penny Kinnear’s work Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education.

Kim and the Yorkshire puddings!
Kim and the Yorkshire puddings!

We celebrated the publication of this new 2nd edition one evening together with the authors and some of their colleagues.  Merrill Swain chose a superb French restaurant for the occasion and that was one of many evenings during our stay in Toronto when we were impressed with the cuisine that the city had to offer.  We seemed to eat our way round the world as we enjoyed not only local Canadian cuisine but also that with influences from Japan, Iran, Italy and in one restaurant, Yorkshire, Kim’s home county in the UK.  The chef was a little intimidated when he heard that a true Yorkshire lass was to taste his take on Yorkshire puddings!

As soon as AAAL was over it was nearly time for TESOL, but not before we had waved Kim farewell (she headed back to the UK for the iMean conference) and Tommi and I had managed to squeeze in a quick trip to Niagara Falls.  The Falls were every bit as stunning as I had imagined and even noisier!  TESOL was its usual busy self and the keynotes given by our authors Michael Byram and Jim Cummins pulled enormous crowds.

Mike Byram giving his keynote
Mike Byram giving his keynote

We also attended some of the smaller sessions, including a panel discussion on L2 Motivational Self-Concept in Language Learning which was organised by future author Nihat Polat and included Zoltán Dörnyei, Kata Csizér and Michael Magid as speakers.  Kata and Michael recently published The Impact of Self-Concept on Language Learning with us, and their visit to the stand afterwards marked the first time that they had been together with the published book!

The final conference of my trip was the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in Chicago.  It was the first time that I had attended AERA and it was a surprise to me to be at a conference with delegates with backgrounds other than language.  However, even those who were there for sessions in another field of study were sometimes drawn to our books and A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker was often picked up for personal rather than research reasons.  The most popular title of the conference was another of our books on bilingualism, the collection The Bilingual Advantage edited by Rebecca M. Callahan and Patricia C. Gándara.

It has been a busy year already for conference travel but isn’t set to quieten down yet.  Next on our schedule are The 10th International Symposium on Bilingualism which Tommi and Elinor are attending in New Jersey in May, and the 27th International Conference on Foreign/Second Language Acquisition which I’ll be going for in Poland.  If you’re at any of these meetings do please pop by our stand and say hello, we’d love to meet you!


New edition of Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education

This month we are publishing the second edition of Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education by Merrill Swain, Penny Kinnear and Linda Steinman. In this post, the authors tell us how the new edition came about and also how their students have responded to the textbook in their classes.

Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education When Multilingual Matters contacted us at the end of 2013 about whether we wanted to make changes to our textbook, Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education we quickly agreed that we wanted to. Our motivation was not entirely based on wanting to update and improve the book. Committing to making changes meant that we could meet and talk about sociocultural theory, explore the new research being done from an SCT perspective and share our experiences of using our textbook. And because it was about the book, we could prioritize those meetings over some of our other responsibilities. We found as we read and re-read the chapters that we were still delighted with the book. We also found in our explorations of new research that we had much more to choose from. More work is being done firmly grounded in SCT.

We had a lot to share about the book. Even though we had each used it with different classes we found that our students all responded to the narratives. Almost all of our students read and empathized with Grace (Chapter 5, Affect and Cognition). The chapter prompted sharing and discussion of their own language learning or teaching, the frustrations, hesitations, fears, triumphs and joys. The connection between affect and cognition developed much richer and more complex connections beyond the simple ‘affective filter’. It seemed to make the contrast between SCT and more traditional SLA theories more salient.

Chapter 2 (Madame Tremblay: A French immersion story) sent students back to their own memories of indelible language teaching characters. Discussions in these classes were often accompanied by gales of laughter and more stories. The stories challenged students’ conceptualization of the zone of proximal development as a place, prompted discussions about what counts as good teaching and where the ZPD fits. As discussions continued we heard students trying to ‘verb’ their own ZPD.

Yang’s recount of being assessed (Chapter 7) triggered passionate discussions about how, why and the repercussions of current assessment practices at all levels of language instruction. By the time any of us had reached this chapter in our classes, we had also seen how the unfamiliar words of mediation, mediational means, public and private speech had infiltrated student discussions. We could hear students expressing their growing understanding of sociocultural theoretical concepts as they used the narratives to create their own ZPDs around the fundamental concepts of sociocultural theory.

If asked, none of us can claim an absolute favourite among the chapters and their stories. We are each attached to them in different ways, have our own memories of the authors or the process of bringing a story into the book. One thing we are all agreed on: we made the right decision when we took a risk and designed our introductory textbook around a collection of narratives. Our students have told us how the stories, together with the discussions, have made SCT accessible and useful to them.

For more information on the book please see our website. To request a desk copy click here

Double figures for MM Textbooks series!

Key Topics in Second Language AcquisitionNext month we are publishing Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition by Vivian Cook and David Singleton. This text provides an introduction to the most important topics in SLA research. This book marks the 10th in the MM Textbooks series which began with its first book in 2008.

The textbook series aims to bring the topics of our monograph series to a student audience. Written by experts in the field, the books are supervised by a team of world-leading scholars and evaluated by instructors before publication. Each text is student-focused, with suggestions for further reading and study questions leading to a deeper understanding of the subject.

We started the series off in 2008 with Allyson Jule’s A Beginner’s Guide to Language and Gender which gave students a broad introduction to the study of language and gender.

Next came textbooks on bilingual first language acquisition, multilingualism and literacy, sociolinguistics and the law and teaching languages online.

Merrill Swain, Penny Kinnear and Linda Steinman wrote the 7th textbook in the series, Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education. Neomy Storch of the University of Melbourne calls their book “a most welcome addition to the growing literature on sociocultural theory” and “an accessible and highly engaging” introduction to the topic of sociocultural theory.

Judit Kormos and Anne Margaret Smith’s book Teaching Languages to Students with Specific Learning Differences aims to provide useful advice for language teachers working with students with various kinds of learning difficulties.

Spanish Speakers in the USA by Janet M. Fuller examines the issues of language, culture and identity for Spanish speakers in the US.

MM Textbooks

Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition is due to be published in early April. This and all our textbooks are available as inspection/desk copies and can be ordered on our website:

The full list of books in the series is:
A Beginner’s Guide to Language and Gender by Allyson Jule
Bilingual First Language Acquisition by Annick De Houwer
Learning to be Literate by Viv Edwards
An Introduction to Bilingual Development by Annick De Houwer
Sociolinguistics and the Legal Process by Diana Eades
Teaching Languages Online by Carla Meskill and Natasha Anthony
Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education by Merill Swain, Penny Kinnear and Linda Steinman
Teaching Languages to Students with Specific Learning Differences by Judit Kormos and Anne Margaret Smith
Spanish Speakers in the USA by Janet M. Fuller
Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition by Vivian Cook and David Singleton

If you are currently teaching a course and do not have an adequate textbook, please let us know at and we will do our best to fill the gap.

Tommi and Laura visit Toronto

In March, Tommi and I visited Toronto on our way from the UK to the AAAL and TESOL conferences in Dallas. Not only is Toronto (surprisingly, to me, as my Geography is a bit patchy) a logical rest-stop en route, but it is also home to our North American book distributor, UTP, and several of our authors.

Tommi and Laura with Hamish, Smita and Carol at UTP
Tommi and Laura with Hamish, Smita and Carol at UTP

UTP are in charge of shipping books to all our customers in Canada and the USA and so we have daily contact with at least one of our colleagues, Smita, Dolores, Carol and Hamish, and the rest of the team, who work there.  I have been working at Multilingual Matters for a couple of years now, so I was very excited to visit a place which I’ve had so much contact with, but not visited in person.  For Tommi, it was more a case of catching up with old friends!

On arrival at UTP, and after meeting everyone, Carol took us on a tour of the warehouse, so I could understand exactly what happens when our orders arrive.  We saw how the orders are processed, from the receipt of the order from the customer, right up to the book leaving the door, packed and ready for shipment.  I particularly enjoyed finding our books on the shelves as we walked through the warehouse and spotting a packer unpacking a box of returned books that I had sent back from the NABE conference in February.

UTP's Warehouse
UTP’s Warehouse

Smita then showed me how she deals with the different types of requests I send on to her, such as sending inspection/desk copies to lecturers and inputting new titles into the system.  We happened to receive a couple of emails from Ellie, who was in our office in Bristol at the time, so Smita had some genuine examples of her work to show me.

Apart from visiting UTP, Tommi and I also went to meet Alister Cumming and his graduate students at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).  They were spending the day discussing their forthcoming presentations at AAAL and during the lunch break, Tommi and I were able to give a talk about publishing their research both with us in particular, and general advice about what is appropriate for publication as a book, and what is better suited for publication as journal articles. It was great for us to meet everyone and hear about what they are working on, and hope that they found our session of interest.

Merrill Swain, Penny Kinnear and Linda Steinman's book
Merrill Swain, Penny Kinnear and Linda Steinman’s book

We thoroughly enjoyed spending our evenings in Toronto with Merrill Swain, Penny Kinnear and Linda Steinman, authors of Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education; long-standing publisher friends of Multilingual Matters, Jonathan and Dorothea Lovat Dickson, of Pippin Press; and Greg Poarch, who has recently moved to York University, Toronto.  Tommi and I were definitely spoilt with excellent company and delicious food throughout the week, and we’re already looking forward to our return to Toronto, which we hope will be before the city hosts AAAL in 2015.