This month we published Danuta Gabryś-Barker’s new book The Affective Dimension in Second Language Acquisition and she took a couple of minutes to answer a few questions about her research.
Well, I have to confess that a lot of the themes of my research derive from personal and intuitive feelings concerning my own experiences of foreign language acquisition and use. Looking back at my first language learning experiences, I can clearly recall feelings of frustration and negative perceptions of my own language ability, resulting in mental blocks and failures, as well as the moments of success in part ascribable to the words of praise given by my first language teacher. Also when in the 1990s I first started researching multilinguality by means of introspective methods – mostly simultaneous introspection – I did observe how much cognitive processing in language tasks as reported by the subjects was determined – either enhanced or impeded – by the affective states that they went through.
What makes your book different from others that have been published before?
First of all, I would like to say that although affectivity is the major factor in language learning (and not only in this context), not that much has been published on it in the domain of bi- and multilinguality. The book The Affective Dimension in Second Language Acquisition, edited together with Joanna Bielska, is an example of a monograph contributing to this field in that it gathers papers on various themes dealing with affectivity and not all of them just focusing on the usual and most often discussed topics of motivation and attitude. A whole variety of contexts and types of language learners are the focus of the empirical studies presented in the volume. Some of them look at the author’s own affectivity and teaching and learning experiences. Also the research methods used in the studies reported are helping to promote qualitative methods such as introspection and narrative inquiry, which in my view are more relevant in the context of studying affectivity or at least complement the quantitative data.
Which researchers in your field do you particularly admire?
Ok, this is quite an easy question to answer. Although there are quite a few scholars who research issues connected with affectivity in language learning contexts, there are two names that I would like to mention: Aneta Pavlenko and Jean-Marc Dewaele. They are pre-eminent both in relation to their individual research and their joint projects on the emotions of multilinguals. I would also mention the researchers in Geneva Emotion Group and particularly Klaus Scherer, who inspired me to study appraisal systems in the context of multilingual affectivity. I was very happy that Aneta Pavlenko kindly agreed to contribute to this volume.
What is next for you in terms of research projects?
Last year I published a book on teacher reflectivity, a substantial part of which deals with affectivity in the context of foreign language teacher training, which is very relevant to the other side of my professional interests (working with pre-service teachers of English). At the moment I am exploring the possibilities narrative and autobiographical methods offer in researching multilinguality, in studying the languages of thought and of dreams of multilingual speakers.
The image on the cover of your book is very picturesque – can you tell us a bit more about where it was taken?
With pleasure, as it brings back a lot of happy memories from the places which I associate with sun, wine and holidays. It was taken in Lisbon on one of our romantic walks with Tony, my husband. And it seemed to me when I was looking through the photos I took last summer (and I can’t resist taking hundreds of them) to choose one for the cover of the book on affectivity, that the sight of an unknown young couple in the archway of one of Lisbon’s cosy side-streets would be most appropriate.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing/editing books?
Well, I have to say that I do enjoy my professional duties, which constitute a very important part of my life. I mean here, lecturing and teaching – especially my M.A. seminars on language teaching and learning. Although I have been teaching for almost thirty years now, I still feel pretty fresh and treat it as an adventure and something of a challenge with every new group of students. But enthusiasm has to go beyond one’s professional life, too. I have to admit to one weakness, which may sound a bit silly in the context of being an academic and researcher. I love branded and vintage handbags and not only collect them (you can’t imagine how big my collection is), but also study their history. My life is so busy at the moment that another passion of mine, painting (though I’m not very skilful at it), has had to be put aside for a while as it requires too much of my concentration and devotion. But I will return to it some day. Perhaps when I retire.
If you liked this book you might also like Danuta’s other book Morphosyntactic Issues in Second Language Acquisition.