L2 Learning, Teaching and Assessment

13 September 2016

This month we are publishing L2 Learning, Teaching and Assessment by Nihat Polat which explores second language learning, teaching and assessment from a comprehensible input (CI) perspective. In this blog post, Nihat writes about what inspired him to put the book together.

L2 Learning, Teaching and AssessmentGrowing up in the bilingual context of eastern Turkey, I struggled with understanding and communicating messages with different audiences on a daily basis. Some of these difficulties could be attributed to not knowing the vocabulary or the grammatical structures, which is not surprising for any bilingual person. Yet, often I knew the words and/or the grammar but I still had difficulty understanding what my Turkish or Kurdish family members or my friends or teachers were trying to tell me. For me, this was quite interesting. I became even more interested in ‘what it means to understand a particular linguistic sample’ or ‘know a foreign language’ while I was learning English at high school. However, my interest in technical aspects of ‘comprehension’, ‘comprehensibility’, and ‘input’ in second language (L2) learning, teaching and assessment peaked when I met Stephen Krashen at a conference in graduate school. Being on the conference organizing committee gave me additional ‘opportunities of exposure’ to Professor Krashen. As a big fan, I got to ask him a lot of questions to which he kindly offered detailed answers, often with a wonderful sense of humor.

In the process of doing research on different aspects of second language acquisition (SLA) and teaching graduate courses on SLA and L2 teaching and assessment it became clearer and clearer to me that the term ‘comprehensible input’ (CI) is used rather loosely in the field. Thus, I decided that a need is warranted (1) to define the term in light of current SLA research, and (2) explore SLA and L2 teaching and assessment from the perspective of CI. Taking a compressive blended approach that champions the intertwining of theory (Part I) and research (Part II) with L2 pedagogy and assessment (Part III), I particularly focused on the following questions:

  • What is the conceptual foundation of CI?
  • What are CI’s linguistic, cultural, semiotic and stylistic elements?
  • What are CI’s multimodal and dynamic interpretations in the subfields of psychology, anthropology and linguistics?
  • How is CI used/discussed in different SLA theories and research?
  • As far as its role in L2 teaching is concerned, what role do multimodal forms of CI play in different discourse and interaction patterns in different teaching settings around the world?
  • What factors (e.g. curriculum, learner, teacher, setting-related) do the classroom teachers need to consider in modifying CI for pedagogical purposes in different settings?
  • What role does CI play in terms of assessment modifications in different kinds of test techniques for receptive and productive skills?

In short, I hope this book helps students, teachers and researchers in the field to have a better understanding of L2 learning, teaching and assessment from the perspective of CI. I would like to conclude with this caveat that I highlighted in the Conclusion section: “If the ultimate goal of L2A is ‘authentically languaging one’s L2 self’, offering straightforward remedies as to how it happens would be no less unwise than trying to take a still picture of a constantly self-organizing dynamic system with countless elements.”

For more information about this book, please see our website.


Positive Psychology in SLA

21 April 2016

This week we have published Positive Psychology in SLA edited by Peter D. MacIntyre, Tammy Gregersen and Sarah Mercer. In this post, the editors tell us a bit more about how the book came together.

Positive Psychology in SLAWe are proud of this book, and very pleased to see it in print. We think that the book will appeal to a variety of audiences, especially teachers and researchers. From a macro-perspective, the book opens up a treasure chest full of gold coins, concepts that language teachers and researcher will eagerly engage with – from grit and perseverance, to developing social capital through language, to new ways to look at the self.

This is not a pop psychology book. There are novel and well-defined concepts, rigorous research methods, and specific positive psychology activities that have received research support.

When one thinks about the concerns of teachers and learners, there are many good reasons to take a serious look at what makes people thrive and flourish in educational settings. Of course we still need to understand the way negative experiences such as anxiety can disrupt learning processes, but we also need to know how positive emotions such as enjoyment can promote and foster successful learning. The positive dimensions of learners have been somewhat neglected and under-researched in SLA, and this collection opens up a whole new area for reflection and empirical study of that which goes well. The authors have taken account of both the positive and negative, but are emphasizing the positive, drawing it into the conversation in a thoughtful way.

From a researcher’s perspective, a notable dimension of the collection is the mixed methods that appear in the chapters. It reminds us that right now Psychology itself  is facing something of a replication problem, where it is being argued that results of foundational studies are not able to be duplicated. In this respect, the applications of Positive Psychology in SLA are already well ahead of Psychology itself in that they embrace a more eclectic mixture of methods. The diversity of methods will allow us to avoid some of the replication problems that arise with strict reliance on a limited range of methods, and help to better contextualize the empirical results.

Another aspect of the collection that stands out for us is the blend we have been able to include of theoretical, empirical and practical papers. We have been privileged to work with a great collection of authors, researchers and teachers, who shared their thinking, research and real-world practical experiences, ensuring that the collection has far-reaching implications. With authors from around the globe, the collection includes a broad range of content relevant to practitioners and researchers in many different places.

When we started thinking about this collection, we did not know how many people might be interested and willing to contribute. We have been thrilled with the response. As it turns out, the volume seems to have hit a sweet spot for several authors. All of us are enthusiastic about the future potential of Positive Psychology in SLA, and ways in which we can understand, study and facilitate the flourishing of language learners and teachers.

If you would like to contact us about the book we can be reached by email:
Peter MacIntyre, peter_macintyre@cbu.ca
Tammy Gregersen, tammy.gregersen@uni.edu
Sarah Mercer, sarah.mercer@uni-graz.at

Gregersen-MercerIf you found this interesting, you might like to find out more on our website or take a look at the editors’ other books: Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality edited by Tammy Gregersen and Peter D. MacIntyre and Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA edited by Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams.


Authenticity, Language and Interaction in Second Language Contexts

19 April 2016

This month we’re publishing Authenticity, Language and Interaction in Second Language Contexts edited by Rémi A. van Compernolle and Janice McGregor. Their book is the first in this area and brings together research from different contexts. In this blog post, the editors tell us a bit more about the book.

Authenticity has been a central concept in applied linguistics in general and in second language learning in particular for several decades. And yet, there has been no consensus on what authenticity actually means in research and practice. Most people typically think about whether, and to what extent, language (e.g. as used by a learner, as represented in pedagogical materials) corresponds to native speaker conventions, while some have argued that learner language should be considered authentic in its own right because it is authentically the learner’s way of communicating. To date, little work has attempted to unify the two perspectives in a more holistic way.

Authenticity, Language and Interaction in Second Language ContextsThis book is the first of its kind. Motivated by our own interest in what authentic language is, who can be counted as an authentic speaker, and how authenticity can be achieved, we invited diverse scholars working on a variety of languages, in formal and informal learning contexts, and from different theoretical and methodological frameworks to contribute chapters. We asked our authors to explicitly address the relationship between appropriating community-wide or native-speaker norms on the one hand, and the genesis of authenticity in the learner on the other.

The chapters explore such topics as pragmatic and sociolinguistic variation, interactional and grammatical competencies, language socialization and the negotiation of expertise and epistemic statuses. The end result of the book is a multifaceted understanding of authenticity and authentication in second language contexts that compels us to consider issues as diverse as online processing constraints, identity construction, social relationship maintenance and sociocultural linguistic norms. And, as Alan Firth wrote in his endorsement of the book, the collection “addresses the pressing issue of how we should do Applied Linguistics in the 21st century.”

We hope readers will find the book to be a useful resource for understanding the nature of authenticity in second language contexts, for researching the various ways in which authenticity is achieved between people, and for designing pedagogical materials and tasks.

Pinner-TaguchiFor more information about this book please see our website.

Other recent titles include: Reconceptualising Authenticity for English as a Global Language by Richard S. Pinner and Developing Interactional Competence in a Japanese Study Abroad Context by Naoko Taguchi. 


Is corrective feedback effective for L2 learners?

8 March 2016

Last week we published Written Corrective Feedback for L2 Development by John Bitchener and Neomy Storch. Here, the authors introduce their book and examine the importance of corrective feedback in L2 learning.

Written Corrective Feedback for L2 DevelopmentJudging by the large and growing number of research articles, theses and conference presentations, the feedback that second language (L2) teachers provide L2 learners on their writing is clearly a topic of great interest. This interest can be partly explained by the amount of time that writing teachers spend on providing feedback, particularly feedback on language use, termed corrective feedback (CF). The underlying assumption of CF, held by many teachers and indeed L2 learners, is the belief that the feedback will lead to improved accuracy. While research findings on the potential of written CF to facilitate improved accuracy and L2 development has been consistently positive, there is more uncertainty about the conditions and circumstances under which the type and delivery of written CF may aid such development.

Our goal in this book is to consider the body of research on written CF, but to do so from a theoretical perspective. This is because we believe that theories can provide us with insights about why written CF may or may not be effective for some students or in some L2 learning environments.

We focus in this book on two major theoretical paradigms in the field of second language learning: cognitive and sociocultural. The two paradigms present different perspectives on the process and the factors that lead to L2 development and thus provide different explanations about the potential role that written CF may play in L2 development. Two chapters are devoted to each of the paradigms: Chapters 2 and 3 discuss cognitive perspectives and Chapters 4 and 5 sociocultural perspectives.

Chapter 2 discusses the nature and conditions of cognitively processing L2 information, including the information provided by written CF. Chapter 3 follows with a critical review of research on written CF informed by cognitive perspectives. Chapter 4 discusses the social nature of all cognitive development, including L2 learning, as explained by sociocultural theorists. It discusses key constructs such as scaffolding, mediation and the notion of activity and how these constructs apply to written CF. Chapter 5 provides a critical review of the relatively modest body of research that has been informed by this perspective.

By using theories of second language development to frame the discussion of written CF and of research on CF, the book provides the reader with insights about both leading theories of second language development and empirical issues in research on CF. We conclude in Chapter 6 with a discussion of future theoretical and research directions as well as a consideration of how the two major theoretical perspectives can complement each other in pedagogical practice. In this sense, the book can serve as a valuable reference for theorists, researchers and L2 instructors.

Collaborative Writing in L2 ClassroomsFor further information about this book please see our website. You might also like Neomy Storch’s previous book Collaborative Writing in L2 Classrooms.


What is CLI and why is it so interesting to researchers?

7 January 2016

This month we are publishing Rosa Alonso Alonso’s new book Crosslinguistic Influence in Second Language Acquisition which is a collection of chapters written by key scholars researching in the field. In this post, Rosa introduces her book and tells us a bit more about crosslinguistic influence (CLI).

Crosslinguistic Influence in Second Language AcquisitionInterest in the influence of one language on another goes back a long time, with a variety of motives – historical, psychological, social, and pedagogical – figuring in diverse research traditions. The eleven chapters of this volume offer, it is hoped, an unprecedented look at the phenomenon of crosslinguistic influence from a cognitivist perspective by leading scholars in the field, including pioneer researchers such as Terence Odlin and Håkan Ringbom and current scholars such as Scott Jarvis or ZhaoHong Han.

This collection offers viewpoints that, although distinct, overlap. The book also addresses crosslinguistic influence involving vocabulary in some analyses (e.g. Chapters 2, 3, 5, and 10), while other studies consider morphosyntactic categories (Chapters 4 and 9), semantic structures (Chapters 6, 7, and 8), and phonetic and phonological structures (Chapters 1 and 2). Of course, some boundaries between morphosyntactic and semantic transfer can be elusive, as in the discussion of crosslinguistic influence involving prepositions (Chapter 6) and of articles (Chapter 8), and not surprisingly, these analyses have possible implications for the study of cognitivist problems such as linguistic relativity. Readers will find some perennial themes of cognitive linguistics in the volume, such as the notion of construal (e.g. Chapters 6, 7, and 8) and the notion of activation (Chapters 1, 2, and 5). Another issue of concern, linguistic relativity, has grown more prominent in cognitive linguistics in general and is likewise the focus for a number of studies here (Chapters 4, 6, and 9). Other cognitivist topics appear in other chapters, including the possible contributions of neurolinguistics (Chapters 3 and 5), the problem of cognitive development (Chapter 10), and the role of frequency of structures in acquisition (Chapter 7). While every chapter discusses some empirical work, Chapters 6-10 present new empirical investigations.

The relevance of crosslinguistic influence research for teaching comes in for discussion in a number of chapters (e.g. 1 and 5), as does the phenomenon of multilingualism. Moreover, many languages figure in the theoretical discussions and empirical work, including Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Malay, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish and Ukrainian. The book ends with the thoughtful critique by Janusz Arabski and Adam Wojtaszek in the final chapter of the volume.

The variety of approaches taken in the different chapters provides the reader with the most revealing studies on CLI. The volume as a whole is intended to provide novel insights about both theoretical and empirical issues in CLI, and can serve as a reference for SLA researchers, as a text book and might also prove interesting to the general reader in the field of language acquisition.

New Perspectives on Transfer in Second Language LearningYou can find more information about Rosa’s book on our website. If you found this interesting you might also like New Perspectives on Transfer in Second Language Learning edited by Liming Yu and Terence Odlin.


Study Abroad and its Extension beyond Language Study

18 June 2015

This summer sees the publication of Developing Interactional Competence in a Japanese Study Abroad Context, the latest work by Naoko Taguchi.  In this post, Naoko introduces us to the key themes of her work and what led to her interest in the topic.

“What skills and abilities do you think are important when living in Japan?”

I asked this question to the participants in my study in this book. Instead of answering speaking, listening, or vocabulary knowledge, one student said “singing.” He continued:

“They [Japanese people] do karaoke all the time, and I feel awkward when I just listen to others in karaoke. In China, people play mahjong, but not here. I like to learn how to sing in Japanese. It’s a little weird to sing old songs. They always sing new pop music.”

This episode summarizes what studying abroad really means. It extends far beyond the language study. It involves learning a new cultural practice and participating in it in a manner shared among local members. Through this socialization into a shared practice, language improves as a byproduct.

I have been teaching Japanese language and culture for over a decade, and I often wonder how students learn materials that are not in the textbooks. Obviously what teachers can provide is limited in time and scope, so I have been curious about the nature of independent, incidental learning occurring in a naturalistic setting. A study abroad context is naturally a prime venue to investigate this question, and this research monograph is the outcome.

cover TaguchiDICJ9781783093731This book describes the development of two linguistic features – style shifting and incomplete sentences at turn-taking – among 18 international students during their semester in Japan. These linguistic features do not appear in most Japanese textbooks as learning objectives, but they are indeed critical linguistic resources for interaction in Japanese. Japanese speakers use plain and polite forms skillfully to project social meanings of formality, affect, and hierarchy. They shift between these forms corresponding to the changing course of interaction. They often leave a sentence incomplete and prompt the listener to complete the unfinished turn, which is a feature of interactive turn construction.

These linguistic features indeed developed during a semester abroad among the participants in this study, and the development was grounded in their socialization into the local community. The community consists of a variety of domains of practice, each of which involves distinct settings, goals, memberships, and participant structures. By participating in these diverse communities, the participants learned patterns of speech that are contingent in context. Frequent style-shifting at dinner conversations in homestay, fast-paced, highly interactive talk with a same-age-peer, and participation in the senior-junior relationship in club activities served as venues where speech styles, incomplete sentences, and collaborative turn constructions are constantly observed and practiced. The critical skills while abroad could be summarized as one’s abilities in seeking these opportunities for practice and committing to them as venues for their linguistic and cultural growth.

You can find more information about Naoko Taguchi’s book on our website here.  This work joins our other titles on Japanese learners and study abroad – do search our website for more books on these and similar topics.


Working Memory in Second Language Acquisition and Processing

3 June 2015

A recent title in the Second Language Acquisition series was Working Memory in Second Language Acquisition and Processing edited by Zhisheng (Edward) Wen, Mailce Borges Mota and Arthur McNeill. In this post, Edward reflects on the journey of how the book has come to completion.

The term ‘working memory’ is derived from its predecessor, ‘short-term memory’, which often calls to mind the buzzword ‘the magical number 7 plus or minus 2’, originally coined by George Miller in 1956. In this sense, working memory is short-term memory! But, it is more than that as well, simply because it does not just refer to the storage of information, but also involves the manipulation of it (in other words, how we work on this active information in our head). Given these cognitive functions, working memory usually implicates (to activate, rehearse, sustain, inhibit etc.). So, it is not difficult to imagine that it is both necessary and essential for language learning and processing. Indeed, considerable research in cognitive psychology (psycholinguistics) has amply demonstrated that working memory plays an important role in key language learning domains (e.g., vocabulary, grammar etc.) and processing activities (listening, speaking, reading, and writing).

9781783093571But what about its role in second language acquisition (SLA) and processing? This is particularly important in today’s modern world of globalization and intercultural communication, where there are more people who are using or learning a second language. Unfortunately, based on our previous extensive literature reviews, we have found that our knowledge of this topic is rather limited. What’s more, our survey also revealed to us that our current research in this area has been severely constrained by a lack of consensus on working memory theories in cognitive psychology (besides Alan Baddeley’s classic model, there are at least a dozen other models!). To make matters worse, such a predicament is further complicated by the dismal number of working memory span tasks from the literature (the digit span, the nonword span, the reading span, just to name but a few). Given this rather messy situation, we thought that it might be helpful (to the SLA field) if we could bring together scholars from both fields, cognitive psychology and applied linguistics, to discuss relevant issues more openly. It was exactly these initial thoughts that, even before we were quite aware of it, triggered the whole series of subsequent events that ultimately led to the completion of this edited book.

Arthur, Mailce, and Edward at the Hong Kong Roundtable

Arthur, Mailce, and Edward at the Hong Kong Roundtable

Formally then, the story of our book began with our Roundtable in Hong Kong three years ago. In order to create an interactive forum for cognitive psychologists and SLA researchers to have more fruitful discussions on key theoretical and methodological issues regarding the role of ‘working memory’ in various aspects of SLA, the three editors (Edward Wen, Mailce Mota and Arthur McNeill) convened and organized the International Language Learning roundtable seminar on “Memory and Second Language Acquisition” at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in June 2012 (thanks again to Language Learning for its financial support that made this possible in the first place). Overall, the Roundtable featured a workshop (by Michael Ullman) on broad human memory systems and general learning; and three plenary speeches (by Michael Ullman, Peter Skehan and Cem Alptekin) that offered state-of-the-art literature reviews and insightful perspectives on theoretical issues; as well as a dozen individual papers reporting empirical studies looking into the inextricable relationships between working memory and major aspects of second language learning and processing. This Roundtable turned out to be a great success and was well received by the participants, which of course provided further impetus for us to move on with our journey!

Following the Roundtable, we began to push our invited speakers to turn their presentations into chapters and contribute it to our edited volume, and most of them readily agreed and did so (big thanks here!). As a result, we already had nine chapters in hand out of the Roundtable that addressed relationships between working memory and (a) L2 processing (the three chapters in Part II by Sun-A Kim et al., Yuncai Dai, Alan Juffs); (b) L2 interaction and performance (the four chapters in Part III by Shaofeng Li, Mohammad Ahmadian, Yanbin Lu, and Peter Skehan); as well as (c) two theoretical chapters on depicting a WM-SLA conceptual framework (by myself, Edward Wen) and a systematic review of WM-interpreting models (Yanping Dong).

At this stage, when all these nine chapters were put together, you may think they should be good enough for a complete book! Yes! But we didn’t stop there. In order to have a more thorough and comprehensive representation of all possible WM-SLA connections, we decided to expand the original themes of the Roundtable by soliciting chapters from SLA scholars who had not participated and presented at the Roundtable. So, we had five additional chapters (Part IV) that discuss the role working memory plays in L2 instruction and in long-term development of L2 proficiency (by Kindra Santamaria & Gretchen Sunderman, Kaitlyn Tagarelli et al., Melissa Baralt, Ann Mitchell et al., and Clare Wright).

By now, you may again be thinking that we should be happy with what we had now got for the book (14 chapters already). Not quite! Indeed, things had turned even more exciting at this later stage, as we had taken one bigger – and bolder – step by attempting to bring in some leading cognitive psychologists of working memory to join the project (or the ‘WM-SLA enterprise’ as I shall call it from now on!). The obvious reason and the logic for this was quite simple and direct; that is, SLA researchers have relied so much on their models and theoretical frameworks in cognitive psychology; so it should be worthwhile and interesting to see and hear what they, as advocates of these pioneering models of working memory, have to say on the same topic!

Edward holding the first copy of the book

Edward holding the first copy of the book

The result, as it turned out, was gratifying and encouraging indeed! We were just so pleased (lucky?) to have all the three key players of working memory in the field of cognitive psychology (Alan Baddeley, Nelson Cowan, Randall Engle; whom I would like to call “The Three Giants”) readily agreed to contribute to our volume (a very big thank-you!). Thus we came to have our Foreword (by Bunting & Engle) and the first two introductory chapters on the arguably most influential theoretical models of working memory (by Baddeley & Cowan). The manuscript was then assembled and sent to the publisher and reviewers. We then received the publisher’s feedback which highlighted the positive features of the collection but also areas in need of improvement, such as the need for a clearer integration of working memory theory with second language acquisition.

Integration has never been easy though! (as Peter had warned me!) And I was indeed pondering over this issue for some days, until the name of John Williams came to mind. John proved to be the perfect choice for handling this task as his own research and expertise virtually cuts across both fields of working memory and SLA in the truest sense. Indeed, we were lucky this time (or I should say ‘luckier’, as he was actually in our invited-speakers list for the Roundtable but just could not make it in the end) as he agreed to help us to put the final touch to our book by contributing the epilogue/afterword. Thus, we now had the last piece of the jigsaw, i.e., the final commentary that summarizes both the challenges and prospects facing current and future WM-SLA research. In that respect, John’s verdict was loud and clear, that is, despite what the book has achieved (in theoretical and methodological advancements), the ‘WM-SLA enterprise’ is still in its infancy (‘crying’ out for more!). Wow, there is still a long way to go. So now, dear readers, the ball is in your court – do catch it!

Now that we’ve got all these additional chapters in place, we hope (believe) that the contents of our book have significantly expanded and improved from what emerged from the Roundtable! In this sense, our book is far more than a collection of conference papers. Indeed, when looking back at this lengthy but quite rewarding journey again, despite all the tedious work involved, we as editors are feeling just so pleased and proud (with the way the book has come to its present form) and so grateful (to all our contributors from both fields of cognitive psychology and SLA) and particularly gratified and blessed (thanks to God!) that we could accomplish our initial mission by bringing on board both cognitive psychologists and SLA researchers together for the very first time in the same volume to talk about the same topic that has occupied just so much of our time and energy for many years (in my case ten years!) Ok, I have to agree that I am just a ‘working memory’ enthusiast!.

Indeed, given the multidisciplinary nature of SLA research, we certainly believe that a bridge thus built between the two fields, applied linguistics and cognitive psychology, should be able to create effective dialogues that can benefit researchers from both sides. More importantly though, as we have put it rather clearly in our ‘Introduction’ to the book, (and here I am saying it again), we sincerely hope that our book can serve as a kind of springboard for much more research efforts coming from both fields to jointly contribute to building our ‘WM-SLA enterprise”! And that will prove to be the biggest reward and the ultimate goal for us as editors of this book! So, enjoy your reading – while our journey continues!

Zhisheng (Edward) Wen, PhD
Macao Polytechnic Institute
https://ipm.academia.edu/EdwardZhishengWen
edwardwen@ipm.edu.mo

If you would like more information about Edward’s edited book please see our website or his personal homepage or just contact him directly at the email address above.


Multilingual Matters on the Road at Recent Conferences!

1 May 2015

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!

Laura


Simone Pfenninger joins David Singleton as joint Series Editor for our SLA series

19 February 2015
Recent books published in our SLA series

Recent books published in our SLA series

A couple of years ago readers of the blog may have seen our piece Random thoughts on the SLA series – now a vintage product which David Singleton wrote to celebrate 10 years of the Multilingual Matters Second Language Acquisition series.  Since then, the series has continued to grow and recent exciting additions to the series include Theorizing and Analyzing Agency in Second Language Learning edited by Ping Deters et al, Consciousness and Second Language Learning by John Truscott and Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning edited by Zoltán Dörnyei, Peter D. MacIntyre and Alastair Henry.

Simone Pfenninger

Simone Pfenninger

However, recent exciting additions to the SLA series do not stop at books!  We are delighted to announce that Simone Pfenninger has accepted our invitation to join David Singleton as Co-editor of our Second Language Acquisition series. Simone works in the English Department at the University of Zurich and researches in the areas of multilingualism, psycholinguistics and the age factor in SLA, especially in regard to quantitative approaches and statistical methods and techniques for language application in education. She is currently conducting research into early vs. late learning of multiple foreign languages and the cognitive and psycholinguistic mechanisms that drive language change. To better understand the contextualized processes involved in the learning of several languages over the course of mandatory school time, she typically uses longitudinal designs and multilevel modeling. She has been involved in EFL in Switzerland for ten years at different levels: secondary school, adult education, higher education, language policy, and assessment of processes and outcomes in language education.

David Singleton

David Singleton

I first met Simone in person at the Psychology and Language Learning Conference in Graz last year but David and Simone have known each other longer than that. They became acquainted in recent years at international conferences on second language learning and on multilingualism. With their research interests converging around such topics as age factor and cross-linguistic influence, they have in the last few months had a joint book proposal accepted and have been collaborating on several articles and plenary conference papers. They have also co-operated in the area of teaching and plan to expand this domain of their work together.

We are delighted that Simone has joined David on the SLA series and we are hoping that their strengths and interests will both complement each other and diversify our list. We are all looking forward to working together as the series continues to grow and flourish.

We would love to hear from anyone who is working in the field of SLA and who might be interested in writing a book for our series.  Please visit the proposals section on our website and contact Laura Longworth, the in-house acquisitions editor, directly.

Laura


New edition of Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education

10 February 2015

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


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