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Center for Language Acquisition Invited Speaker Series

Center for Language Acquisition Invited Speaker Series


Speaker: Angel Lin

Date of Talk: February 17, 2020

Location: Foster Auditorium

Title and abstract:

Translanguaging as flows: The process turn in applied linguistics

Speaker: Peter de Costa

Date of Talk: September 23, 2019

Location: Willard Building

Title and abstract:

Multilingualism, Language Education, and Linguistic Entrepreneurship: Critical Perspectives

I examine the way in which multilingualism and language education is appropriated by the ideology of neoliberalism, using the perspective of linguistic entrepreneurship, which is defined as “the act of aligning with the moral imperative to strategically exploit language-related resources for enhancing one’s worth in the world” (De Costa, Park & Wee 2016, p. 696). By exploring how linguistic entrepreneurship is instantiated in a range of formal and informal educational contexts across the world, I offer a critical perspective on the processes by which language learning is reframed as a moral responsibility of neoliberal subjects. In particular, I investigate (1) the material conditions that have enabled and constrained the emergence By drawing on these country examples, I illustrate how linguistic entrepreneurship illuminates the concrete processes by which people come to align themselves with the ideal of neoliberalism, developing a particular sense of self as subjects, through a range of ideological, historical, and political economic conditions.


Speaker: Julia Menard-Warwick

Date of Talk: September 24, 2018

Location: Foster Auditorium

Title and abstract:

“Translating right on the spot: Bilingual paraprofessionals in a contact zone school”

The translingual practice framework (Canagarajah, 2013) theorizes the communicative strategies and dispositions of cosmopolitan individuals in contact zones (Pratt, 1991), spaces where diverse languages and cultures encounter and confront each other. Much of this work examines successful meaning-making through lingua franca English. However, little research on contact zone communication stems from contexts where potential interlocutors have no lingua franca, and where ideologies inhibit less-than-fully-proficient use of standardized languages. This presentation is based on ethnographic research at one such site, a california elementary school, which had both a bilingual and an English-only strand. In this context, although English and Spanish were languages of instruction, English remained the language of power, wihle approximately half of all parents were monolingual Spanish speakers. To deal with the resultant dilemmas, the school had hired bilingual paraprofessionals to handle communication between immigrant parents and monolingual-English-speaking teachers and administrators. These employees were almost entirely female, poorly-paid, and highly-dedicated: used to functioning in situations of vast responsibility and minimal authority, they were expected to perform miracles of translingual practice on behalf of the entire school. Based on interview data with bilingual paraprofessionals, as well as field-note and audio-recorded observation data of their work in public parent meetings, this presentation explores not only the extent to which linguistic norms at the school upheld monolingual ideologies, but also moments when these norms shifted, temporarily allowing wider participation across the school’s language boundaries. Within these contradictions, the presentation highlights the importance of bilingual employees’ mediation for establishing (limited) spaces where Spanish-speaking parents could claim a voice (Blommaert, 2005) in their children’s education. Having considered these theoretical paradoxes, the presentation concludes with practical recommendations for contact zone institutions that wish to promote translingual participation. 



Speaker: Luke Plonsky

Date of Talk: January 29, 2019

Location: Foster Auditorium

Title and abstract: 

“Methodological reform as an ethical imperative in applied linguistics”

There is a methodological reform movement currently taking root in applied linguistics. Evidence of this movement can be found in a wide variety of outlets such as editorials (e.g., Trofimovich & Ellis, 2015), revised journal author guidelines (Mahboob et al., 2016), methodological syntheses (e.g., Plonsky, 2013), specialized symposia (Norris, Ross, & Schoonen, 2013), studies of methodological literacy and training (Gonulal et al., in press), the newly added Research Methods strand at AAAL, and the introduction of new analytical techniques (Larson-Hall & Herrington, 2010). Several years ago, in fact, Byrnes (2013) referred to what she saw as a “methodological turn” (p. 825) already underway. The concerns that led to and that are often backed empirically within this body of research are not merely fodder for technocrats or nit-picking for research methodologists. To me, arguments in favor of ensuring that we produce “good” research are perhaps best viewed through the lens of ethics.


In this paper I will discuss some of the initiatives—ranging from empirical to organizational—currently underway that seek to examine and improve the state of our science. As part of this larger discussion, the paper will also present a study that seeks to complement the body of mostly synthetic evidence of research practices by asking applied linguists about the extent to which they have engaged in a range of questionable data handling and reporting practices including clearly fraudulent activities such as data falsification and fabrication. A survey of questionable research practices (QRPs) based on Fanelli (2009) was sent to 2,230 applied linguists; 364 sets of responses were collected. We calculated descriptive statistics for all item responses. We then compared and correlated responses across and with participant demographics (e.g., years since completion of PhD). The results reveal fairly widespread fraud in applied linguistics: Approximately 1 in 6 participants reported having falsified or fabricated data on at least one occasion. I will discuss this finding, as well as those for other QRPs, from several angles. For example, to provide a broader context, I compare our results to those from other fields and in light of the replicability crisis (see Open Science Collaboration, 2015) currently being discussed in psychology. In addition, I’ll propose a number of possible causes for the prevalence of such practices such as the pressure to publish, insufficient training, and the lack of accountability. I also address the apparently very serious need for methodological reform as a matter of theoretical, practical, and yes—of course—ethical urgency.


Speaker: Carl Ratner

Date of Talk: April 2, 2019

Location: Foster Auditorium

Title and abstract: 

What Does An Emancipatory, Scientific Psychology Look Like? Cultural-historical Psychology”

This presentation endeavors to 1) conceptualize social and psychological emancipation, 2) explain how Psychological science can contribute to this emancipation, 3) explain how Vygotsky’s psychological theory, named cultural-historical psychology, makes this contribution to emancipation.

Specifically, I shall conceptualize genuine emancipation as solving social problems by eradicating their political-economic causes. Psychology contributes to emancipation by treating psychological issues as cultural issues having cultural causes. This role for Psychology alters its traditional orientation toward using individual processes to change individual behavior.

Vygotsky’s cultural-historical Psychology is the best, if not the only, psychological approach that fits this bill for social and psychological emancipation. Cultural-historical Psychology directs individuals to join psychological fulfillment with social emancipation.


Speaker: Richard Kern

Date of Talk: March 12, 2018

Location: Foster Auditorium

Title and abstract: 

“Five Principles of a Relational Pedagogy: Building on the Social, Individual, and Material Foundations of Language Use”

This talk outlines an approach to language teaching that brings attention to relationships among material, social, and individual dimensions of language use, with particular emphasis on literacy practices. This approach involves reflection on how technologies and mediums influence the design of communication and embody values and fundamental ideas about what communication is. A critical semiotic awareness of how meanings are made, framed, and transformed in particular contexts of language use is essential to twenty-first century learners because they face a singularly pervasive mediascape that is potentially as exploitative as it is emancipatory.

Speaker: Ofelia Garcia

Date of Talk: Feb 15, 2018

Location: 62 Willard

Title and abstract: 

 “A Critical Review of the History of Bilingual Education in the US”

This critical review will look at the promises of the beginning of institutionalized bilingual education in the 20th century, as well as the pitfalls into which it has fallen. We begin with the struggles of the mostly Chicano, Puerto Rican and Native American communities to educate their own children bilingually, and we focus on the support they received from government and scholars outside of the community. We provide evidence from bilingual education programs in NYC run by Latinx educators and parents during the 1970s and early 1980s, where Latinx children were often relegated to basements, but were seen as normal capable children. We compare this early ideology on bilingual education with the one that has been produced as it has been professionalized, and especially as education success started to be measured through standardized tests in English only. From normal children, minoritized children in bilingual education programs today are pathologized. Labels and categories have proliferated: newcomers, long term English language learners, Students with Interrupted Education (SIFE), English language learners with disabilities, Former ELLs. Even though these labels are not helpful to students or teachers, it normalizes the quantification of academic success through standardized assessment instruments that have little validity for this population, taking away their humanity, their childhood, their ability to exist and learn bilingually. The professionalization of bilingual education seems to have worked for white middle class parents who clamor for the so called dual language programs. But it has diminished minoritized Latinx children even beyond the basements in which we found them originally.


Speaker: Terrance Deacon

Date of talk: Friday, Oct 6, 2017 3:00 p.m.- 4:30 p.m.

Title and abstract: 

“Universal Grammar: Neither Nature nor Nurture”

Terrence W. Deacon will discuss some recent work that takes an unprecedented approach to universal grammar and the poverty of the stimulus argument. In his discussion, he will focus on symbolic reference and constraints by investigating four main categories: semiotic constraints, neural processing constraints, evolved sensorimotor schemas and cognitive biases, and pragmatic social communication constraints.


Speaker: Dr. Anna Stetsenko

Date of talk: Mar 29, 2017

Title of presentation: Agency and Commitment to a Sought-after Future: Reclaiming Activism in Research and Theorizing


Recent advances in research and theories at the intersection of psychology and education have focused on situated, dynamic and culturally mediated processes. However, these approaches rarely address the ethical and axiological dimensions of the dominant onto-epistemologies and, as a result, do not offer sufficient grounds on which to resist current marketization of science and education. This talk will discuss a broadly dialectical-transformative approach, in expanding upon Vygotsky’s project, to address this gap. This approach offers a unique worldview underwritten by an activist stance premised on ideology of equality and social justice. The focus will be on how agency and commitment to a sought-after future are indispensable constituents of theorizing, methodology, and onto-epistemology that always entail and demand activist stance.



Speaker: Dr. Peter Smagorinsky

Date of talk: Feb 22, 2017

Title of presentation: Towards a social understanding of Mental Health


Dr. Smagorinsky will discuss his most recent work in neurodiversity which takes a social perspective on “disability” and “disorder,” viewing them as relational and situational rather than fixed in pathology. This talk will center on “mental health” as both whole-body and environmental and challenge assumptions about how to construct satisfying life pathways for the neurodiverse population. (See attached flyer for full abstract.) 




Speaker: Dr. Olga Esteve

Date of talk: Jan 30, 2017

Title of presentation: “Helping Teachers to Reconceptualize their Teaching Practice through the Barcelona CBI-based Formative Model”


In the field of language teacher education in Europe, over the past years an increasing number of researchers and language teacher educators have engaged in a process for reshaping language teacher education programs in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice and promote a more meaningful appropriation of the pedagogical principles underlying the new official curricula for additional language learning. If we focus exemplarily on the Spanish region where I am based, i.e. Barcelona, this reshaping process has already had a considerable effect on teacher education programs, following the introduction of a new formative model (Esteve et al, in press). This model is based on a sociocultural perspective of language teacher development  (Johnson, 2009; Johnson and Golombek, 2016) and is carried out through an external dialogic mediation drawn both on the Vygotskian double stimulation principle, as applied by Engström (2011), and on the principles of Concept- based Instruction (CBI), as developed by Galperin (1992). During this process (student) teachers find their own pre-understandings about additional language teaching and learning when confronted with the scientific concepts related to the new pedagogical approach which also draws on Concept-based Instruction (Lantolf & Poehner, 2014; Negueruela 2008,2013): CBI for CBI.  In my presentation I will discuss how the CBI-principles are integrated into the design of the teacher education programs I have developed in the Barcelona region to prepare teachers to implement effective language instruction in schools. Details of program design and how teachers transferred and transformed what they learned in the teacher education program will be presented and discussed.



Speaker: Dr. Dwight Atkinson

Date of talk: Oct 03, 2016

Title of presentation: Homo pedagogicus: The evolutionary nature of second language teaching


Second language teacher educators tirelessly teach others how to teach. But how often do we actually define teaching? Without explicit, focused definitional activity on this most fundamental second language teaching (SLT) concept, it remains implicit and intuitive–the opposite of clear, productive understanding.

I therefore explore the definitional question “What is teaching?” in this paper. First, I establish the claim that the SLT literature rarely defines teaching explicitly or in any detail, most likely because of its technical “how-to” focus, and that this is a problem. Second, I introduce the idea of teaching as evolutionarily adaptive behavior (TEAB)–as existing fundamentally because it enables individual and group adaptation to our extremely varied and complex natural and social environments. Perhaps surprisingly in this context, TEAB is not uniquely human; therefore, third, I briefly summarize research on animal teaching to sharpen the focus on what may be special in human teaching. Fourth, I describe teaching as studied by anthropologists–as it varies across the broad tapestry of human societies and cultures. It turns out that classroom teaching is just one form, and a relatively rare and recent one, in our evolutionary past. Fifth and finally, I employ the results of this definitional exercise to examine, in an exploratory way, what happens in SLT environments, at least as I know them.



Speaker: Dr. Ken Hyland (Gil Watz memorial Lecture)

Date of talk: Sep 21, 2016

Title of presentation: International Publishing and the Myth of Linguistic Disadvantage


English is now more than a choice of language for those following an academic career; with globalization and growing managerialism in Higher Education, it has come to designate research of a high quality worthy of a place in peer-reviewed journals. Accompanying this dominance of English, however, are questions of communicative inequality and the possible disadvantages or even prejudice inflicted on L2 English-speaking academics.  In this paper I critically examine the evidence for linguistic disadvantage by a review of global publishing patterns, author attitudes, case studies and research into linguistic advantage together with my own interviews with EAL scholars in HK and analysis of journal peer reviews.  I show that while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence for disadvantage, framing this in terms of a coarse native/non-native distinction has serious problems and may serve to discourage non-Anglophone authors and perpetuate a deficit view of their writing.  The disciplinary conventions of disciplinary writing in English make serious demands on all academic writers, but these are less important than a lack of resources and research writing expertise.  So while a hindering factor in getting published, language is not a terminally decisive one. 


Speaker: Marilia Ferreira

Title of presentation: Contributions of Cultural Historical Activity Theory to Academic Literacy


Academic literacy in English has become a high valued commodity due to the
internationalization of universities and the increasing pressure upon postgraduate students
and academics, specially from non-English speaking countries, to publish in well-ranked
international journals. There are several perspectives that study academic literacy: from more
textual approaches like corpus linguistics (Hyland, 2004, 2008) and English for Academic
Purposes (Swales & Feak,2004) to more sociological ones like Academic Literacies, based on
the New Literacies movement (Lea and Street, 1998; Lillis and Curry, 2010) and with a
geopolitical view (Canagarajah (2002). The aim of this talk is to discuss the contributions of the
cultural historical activity theory perspective to the topic and how it sheds light on several
issues like concept formation, mediation, dialectical thinking, and practice. These issues will be
discussed based on data from an academic writing course in English for Brazilian graduate
students which was implemented using Davydov’s pedagogical approach (Davydov,1988).





Speaker: Brian Paltridge

Date of talk: Apr 01, 2016

Title of presentation: Context and the Researching and Teaching of Academic Writing


Learning to write in the academy involves acquiring a repertoire of linguistic practices which are based on complex sets of discourses, identities, and values. These practices, however, vary according to context, culture and genre. This presentation discusses how these issues can be taken up in the researching and teaching of academic writing. It will do this, first, by examining how the notion of context is taken up theoretically in linguistics research more broadly and, then, how contextualised understandings of the use of language have been explored by academic writing researchers. It will then discuss ways in which the context in which students’ writing is produced impacts on the texts they are expected to produce and how students can be made aware of, and take account of this in their writing.



Speaker: Dr. Lourdes Ortega

Date of talk: Mar 21, 2016

Title of presentation: Multilingual Success: Continuous, Probabilistic, and Beyond Language


The phenomenon of bi/multilingualism is as old as humanity, but multilingualism has been catapulted to a new world order in the 21st century. In today’s globalized, transnational, technologized, highly mobile and wired world, increasingly numerous and more diverse populations of adults and youth live with two or more languages. Some do by choice, some by necessity, many for a complex mixture of reasons. How successful are they in their learning of new languages, ultimately? Traditionally, the field of second language acquisition (SLA) has answered this question rather pessimistically. But this may be a function of the willingness to directly compare the development of single-language competencies during early childhood to the development of multiple-language competencies later in life. This comparison is fundamentally invalid. Moreover, when multilingual success is directly compared to monolingual success, a late start will always lose out. I will explore an alternative view of multilingual success that is continuous and probabilistic, and that goes beyond language. It is continuous because the single phenomenon to be explained is the development of multiple-language competencies across the lifespan. Therefore, the same explanations can be investigated for early and late bilingualism: differential experience of language during usage events. It is probabilistic because we must make space for degrees of success, rather than categorical success or failure, for both early and late timings for multilingualism. Understandings of success must also go beyond language because strictly linguistic notions of multilingual competencies are insufficient to properly understanding the object of inquiry, since language mediates intersubjective thinking, feeling, and doing with others. A continuous, probabilistic view of multilingual success that is more than just linguistic in scope has transformative implications for SLA research and also for language teaching in educational contexts. It holds great potential to generate a research base that supports current innovative proposals for multilingual and transcultural approaches to language instruction.



Speaker: Dr. Wataru Suzuki

Date of talk: Mar 03, 2016


My talk consists of three main parts. In the first part, I will describe two theories that oriented research on the role of languaging in second language (L2) learning: sociocultural theory and cognitive psychology. The second part gives an overview of previous research findings about the effect of languaging on L2 learning. I also briefly review research regarding the role played by languaging in learning non-L2 knowledge (e.g., biology, physics, and mathematics). In the last part, I will consider implications for theory and research and then discuss L2 pedagogy.