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Birkbeck at the European Second Language Association

This is a collective blog post, written by members of the Birkbeck delegation at the 27th Conference of the European Second Language Association at the University of Reading (UK), August 30- September 2nd, 2017.

Delegates' experiences

Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele

  • I’ve been attending this conference since its very beginning and I was its president from 2007 to 2011. I love the meetings because of the combination of friends and familiar faces and those of new researchers eager to join the community. The aim of the executive committee and conference organisers is to keep the event relatively limited in scale (300 participants) in order to maintain a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. It’s a community of critical friends, which means reactions to papers can be robust but are (almost) always friendly. Abstract selection is very tough for the open sessions, with typically a 60% rejection rate, which guarantees high quality presentations. The association is also very much in favour of helping out young (PhD) researchers through conference attendance grants, reduced participation fees and PhD workshops where students can present their on-going research and get feedback from two veteran researchers in the presence of anyone who wishes to join the session. Eurosla prides itself on its tolerance and openess towards diverse methodological and theoretical approaches in the study of second or foreign language acquisition and use. I personally enjoyed the 2017 conference as usual, hanging out with my old friends and colleagues, as well as with the impressive delegation of seven Birkbeck PhD students. I greatly enjoyed the presentations of our students and our colleague Dr Kazuya Saito. We enjoyed some delicous Vietnamese and Korean food in Reading, and the conference dinner in Henley on Thames was memorable. It is a good reminder that an important part of the conference is the socialising between and after sessions. As there are many parallel sessions, it’s impossible to attend everything, and sometimes it is a fortuitous encounter at a dinner table that can lead to fruitful exchanges.
  • I presented the paper The keys to unlock Willingness to Communicate in the Foreign Language Classroom. Eurosla has a tradition of publishing a selection of papers presented at the conference. For years this has been the Eurosla Yearbook which was published by John Benjamins. From 2017 the selection of best papers appear in an online open access journal, the Journal of the European Second Language Association. I was particularly pleased to have been awarded the prize for best paper in the first issue: The dynamic interactions in Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety and Foreign Language Enjoyment of pupils aged 12 to 18. A pseudo-longitudinal investigation. This was a paper that I co-authored with my daughter Livia who is studying French and linguistics at the university of Oxford.
  • The next Eurosla conference is in Muenster, Germany, September 5th-8th 2018.

Doctor Kazuya Saito

  • This year, my PhD students (Meltem Ilkan, Yui Suzukida, Mai Tran, Hui Sun) and I presented six different projects at EuroSLA 27. This was a great collaborative experience for all involved and I was very proud and impressed by the quality of presentations that my students delivered at the conference. Furthermore, it was wonderful to see them all make the most of this opportunity by making good connections with other fellow PhD students as well as with senior researchers. For myself, this reinforced the importance of having access to such a great conference venue such as EuroSLA, for students and academics alike. It strengthens the bond among everyone within the community, and also serves as an outlet to disseminate SLA research to external communities.

Louise Rolland

  • This was my first EUROSLA and a relaxed experience for me as I was not presenting! It was an opportunity to support Birkbeck colleagues and to broaden my knowledge of current SLA research. My PhD study focuses on multilinguals’ language use rather than learning (in the context of psychotherapy), however the latest neuroscience and psycholinguistic studies shed light on multilingual language processing, which is highly relevant. The hot topics of language attrition and whether it is appropriate to describe multilingual acquisition using monolingual benchmarks were vigorously debated, to mention just two colloquia.
  • Talks can also grab your attention on a personal level. Professor Núria Sebastián-Gallés’ plenary on early language acquisition gave fascinating insights on how early bilinguals start their language journey: six-month-old babies can differentiate languages visually, with studies suggesting that the gaze of monolingual babies soon shifts to speakers’ eyes whereas bilingual babies continue to gaze at speakers’ mouths.
  • Overall the programme gave researchers plenty to talk about as they mingled over coffee, meeting friends old and new. I'll be back!

Hui Sun

  • It was indeed a pleasant and rewarding experience to present my PhD project at the EuroSLA conference this year. The title was Second Language Speech Development, Experience and Individual Differences in the Early Phase of Immersion: A Longitudinal Study. I was lucky to have an audience with great expertise in various related fields who gave me quite a lot enlightening comments. It is one of the most beautiful things that likely happen when I attend a conference — to find people who share a research interest and exchange ideas with them or even collaborate with them in the future!
  • Another beautiful thing was to obtain the state of the art of a popular area from the round table and plenary speech, which was “neurocognitive methodology” for me at this conference. To put it in a concise way, tools such as event-related brain potentials (ERPs) that measure brain activity during cognitive processing help us to get more understanding of the linguistic processing in child/adult language acquisition and in native/non-native language attainments. And of course, I always have more role models after a conference!

Xuemei Chen

  • I had the chance to present part of my PhD research, entitled Don’t you find this funny? Individual differences in humour appreciation among Chinese L2 users of English, at the EUROSLA 27 doctoral student workshop. I discussed whether and how sociobiographical factors, linguistic profiles as well as domain (humour) specific language experiences affected L2 humour appreciation among Chinese L2 users of English. Results highlighted the role of early acquisition of L2, sufficient authentic L2 input and output, context specific language experiences as well as specific type and quality of emotional experiences in L2 humour appreciation. The feedback was constructive as it helped me know whether or not my research had been on the right track and how I could make it better.
  • I highly recommend this conference to any PhD student or young researcher. My confidence in speaking and presenting in front of an audience has been boosted considerably. Socially, EUROSLA was incredibly helpful for expanding my circle by either meeting potential collaborators or bonding with other researchers, a valuable chance to find your own place in the community. I have to admit that the friendship with other Birkbeck delegates established during the conference was most rewarding and priceless. Most importantly, the conference has always been a golden opportunity to keep updated with the newest trends in the field and get inspired for future research. After all, anyone who is dedicated to vocabulary research would not want to miss the keynote talk by Norbert Schmitt!

Yui Suzukida

  • My very first attendance to EUROSLA in Reading was unforgettable and truly fruitful.
  • Firstly, the doctoral workshop was a great help for PhD students including myself (even as an audience but not presenters). By hearing other PhD students’ presentations and constructive comments on them from experienced researchers, I was able to evaluate my own PhD research design (questionnaire contents, statistical methods etc.).
  • Secondly, fortunately, I was able to meet one of the authors I cited in my presentation and received various insightful feedbacks to improve the presented study. Although I knew that EuroSLA is the conference where a number of leading scholars gather, it was a big surprise to me. In addition, it was such a grateful experience to present my project, Examining the Segmental and Suprasegmental Correlates of Second Language Pronunciation Proficiency receive various questions and comments from the audience, and talk to them in person in the coffee break. This is not only because I could learn more about presentation skills and shortcomings of my study, but also I could expand my researcher-network by communicating with some of the audience and presenters. Since EUROSLA, I have been enjoying exchange thoughts with several PhD students and stimulated by each other.

Mai Ngoc Tran

  • My overall experience at the EUROSLA conference was amazing. First of all, I had a wonderful chance to present my research project Effects of task repetition and corrective feedback on fluency and accuracy in EFL learners' oral production in front of researchers who are experts in the field and students who are interested in my research topic. It was such a great honour. I received a lot of encouraging feedback, valuable comments and suggestions from them which helped me improve my present work and have some ideas about future research. More importantly, I could attend presentations given by my supervisors, team members, famous scholars and various speakers. I could learn lots of useful information after listening to their talks. Moreover, I could speak to new people from different countries and had interesting conversations. Last but not least, it was the first time I have joined such a big international conference like this so it will be a memorable experience in my life. It is extremely rewarding.

Pernelle Lorette

  • For the third year in a row, I had the pleasure to attend EUROSLA. Although I did not have any research to present this year, I did not hesitate one second to go to this conference. Not only does the wide range of covered topics always give you much inspiration, EUROSLA is also one of the best conferences I know when it comes to socialising. Several organised and spontaneous social gatherings enable you to catch up with other “EuroSLA regular visitors” and to learn about new advances in their research. This year at the conference dinner, I was also pleased to meet Yu Kanazawa, from Kwansei Gakuin University (Japan), whose research also focuses on emotion. Since EUROSLA, we have had extensive contact, sharing interesting literature, research groups, upcoming conferences on emotion, and giving each other feedback on past and current projects. EUROSLA is very good at creating this sense of community, which definitely motivate scholars and fosters the quality of research in our field!