Over the next few weeks we’re going to be very busy at several conferences. If you’re going to be attending any conferences where we have a stand please come and say hello as we always like to meet people face-to-face and we’ll also have displays of our books available to buy at a special discount.
Following this, Laura will be heading up to York for EUROSLA while Tommi will travel to Warwick for the BAAL conference. Both of these conferences are regulars on our conference schedule and we wouldn’t want to miss them!
The following week in September Kim is heading to the Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication conference in Manchester. Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication is a biannual conference associated with the Linguistic Ethnography Forum, a Special Interest Group of BAAL. This is the first time we’ve attended this conference so we’re hoping to make some useful new contacts. If you’re going to be there, please come and say hello to Kim, she’ll be very pleased to meet you.
After all these conferences, we’ll all be back in the office for a while to catch up before heading to Germany in October for our annual trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair.
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.
We are both teachers at heart, so in many ways this is the book we’ve always wanted to write as it combines a meaningful review of theory and practical applications for teachers. As university professors, we feel fortunate to have jobs (and the inner passion) that inspire us to combine teaching and research, to play with ideas for a living; it really is a match made in heaven. We have found that most teachers, at every level of the education system, are at their creative best when they play with ideas, apply theory to specific cases, look for new approaches to age old questions, and have enough background information to get their creative juices flowing. This process fires their enthusiasm, which ultimately engages learners even more!
This book offers a chance for teachers and learners to play, apply, discover and let their imaginations flow. We don’t get into esoteric theoretical debates or outline the historical positions within this or that school of thought. Our book is made for teachers who are curious about what makes their students tick. Parker Palmer, in his book The Courage to Teach, says that: “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” After all, it is teachers who know their students best, and good teachers bring with them training in a background of theory and methodology to really apply and test concepts. We firmly believe that teachers who seek to actualize the potential of their students benefit from suggestions for activities to try, the reasons why they should work, and then the courage to go for it in real life, to succeed or fail with integrity. Master teachers are born to teach and their passion for reaching their learners at their deepest, emotional and individual levels emanates from their souls. Given the experimentation that goes on in every good classroom, we believe that all teachers are active researchers, open to new ideas and constantly asking “what if?”
Peter’s Journey: The writing process was more fun than most readers of the blog can imagine. When Tammy first asked me to join her in writing this book, I had said that I did not have the time – too many other items pressing for attention. But I was intrigued and wanted to help. So, initially I was a consultant of sorts, a sounding board for ideas. As we went along, usually talking at length over Skype or in exchanging documents, I came to see the awesome potential of the project more and more. Tammy’s approach to teaching and learning is very similar to mine – we both see students as individuals, with hopes and fears, dreams of the future and a collection of unique past experiences. The idea of the perfect teaching method, a ‘one size fits all’ solution in the classroom, is quite foreign to both of us. So as we went along sharing research and theory for this and other projects, and tossing around ideas about how to teach, how to find what students are capable of doing, it became very clear to me that at some point, I had already joined the project. I was hooked! So before too long the informal became formal and my wife Anne and I found ourselves near a lake in Northern Iowa, with Tammy and her husband, Mario, ready to sign a contract with Multilingual Matters. Signing the contract was easy – the book was already written!
Tammy’s Journey: Carl Jung once wrote, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Through our book, we may have provided a bit of what Jung called the “necessary raw material” but it will be up to you, our fellow teachers, to touch your learners’ human feelings and provide the warmth to grow their souls. Working (…well, more like “playing”) with Peter in the sandbox called Skype was a real hoot! Our collaboration never really felt like “work” to me. We often felt like we were in each other’s heads (a much more dangerous place for Peter than me!), tossing around ideas and laughing a lot. Not only do I think that the wedding of theory with practice was a match made in heaven, but so too was Peter’s psychological bent with my applied linguistics leanings.
Peter reminisced in his journey about the way that we – together with our spouses – got together in Iowa as a culminating event where we jointly signed our contract. I also have fond memories of the initiation of our first collaborative efforts when Mario and I traveled to Cape Breton. I will never forget lounging in the Governor’s Pub in Sydney, Nova Scotia with Peter and Anne, the evening we first discussed the idea of this book. “Busy Betty” was sitting at the next table intently (and yes, somewhat impolitely) listening, scrutinizing what Mario and Peter were talking about, bent over and scribbling equations on a piece of paper as they excitedly discussed the dynamic complexity and physics of emotion in language learning. To Betty’s L1 English ear, my husband’s accented English (he’s Chilean) sounded deeply suspect, so she strutted over wanting to know exactly what they were designing with all that math! Did they have sinister intentions? Were we all in danger? After a good laugh, she ended up joining our little party and gave us some great advice on what to put into our book! So here’s a big shout out to Betty and her insight!
This book has been one of the most tangible outcomes of our collaboration. Readers of the blog might also want to check out our virtual seminar for TESOL on December 4, 2013 called “Talking in order to learn.” We will be discussing some of the theory and activities found in the book. We hope you can join us live from wherever you happen to be. If you miss it, the webinar will be archived on the TESOL International site shortly after it is complete.
Finally, we must mention that we are so pleased and honoured that colleagues we deeply respect, Zoltan Dornyei and Andrew Cohen, agreed to help us by writing for the cover. Rebecca Oxford and Elaine Horwitz wrote a preface that told us we had found a sweet spot with the book. All of these people have earned their reputations as teachers and researchers; we thank them for their kind words and for taking the time to write them.
You can find further information about the book on our website.
For us, the month of March is almost synonymous with conference season and our annual trip to the US to exhibit at the AAAL and TESOL conferences. This year was no different, so after our trip to Toronto (which you can read all about here), Tommi and I headed south to Dallas.
In true Texan style, everything seemed big, including our space in the exhibit hall which made our tables and books seem miniature, and it was hard to work out how best to organise our stand. Fortunately, Tommi had great visions and so we set up our stand in a triangular shape, which Tommi dubbed as “the cutting edge”! As usual, we had brought all our new titles and some of our more recent and popular books from our long backlist. The bestsellers at AAAL this year were Language and Mobility by Alastair Pennycook, Kimie Takahashi’s Language Learning, Gender and Desire and Native-Speakerism in Japan edited by Stephanie Houghton and Damian J. Rivers.
The back-to-back scheduling of AAAL and TESOL is very convenient for us as it involves less travel and we find it easy to transfer materials between the two venues. This year we were lucky to have a morning off between the end of AAAL and set up for TESOL so Tommi and I spent the free time visiting the JFK museum which we thought was very well done and really interesting. Then it was straight on to the bustle of TESOL! The TESOL audience can be a bit wider and different to the AAAL one, so we alter our books on display accordingly. Popular titles there included Integrating Multilingual Students into College Classrooms by Johnnie Johnson Hafernik and Fredel M. Wiant and Roger Barnard and Anne Burn’s edited volume Researching Language Teacher Cognition and Practice.
Our evenings in Texas were spent enjoying steaks and Tex Mex, as well as the good company of colleagues we rarely see. We met with Suzanne and John Edwards, who have known Multilingual Matters since our early days, John being the series editor of our original book series; Aneta Pavlenko, who is keen to work closely with publishers at next year’s AAAL, which she is presiding over; and Terry Wiley and Susan Gilson from CAL, who we are working with on an exciting new series of books. We were also able to join the contributors to Zoltán Dörnyei, Peter MacIntyre and Alastair Henry’s forthcoming book for a drink and catch up with many more delegates at the AAAL opening reception.
What with all those arrangements, it’s a wonder that Tommi and I also found time to go to the Cowtown Coliseum rodeo show in Fort Worth and join the other publishers to see the Dallas Stars take on the Calgary Flames in an ice hockey match. If you’re ever in Dallas, we highly recommend both of those trips for a good evening of entertainment!