Dept of Applied Linguistics and Communication | News | Ron Peek presents at the the Ninth International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB9)
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Ron Peek presents at the the Ninth International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB9)

Ron Peek presents at the the Ninth International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB9)

Ron Peek, Research Student for the Department of ALC, tells us about his presentation at the Ninth International Symposium on Bilingualism

10 June to 13 June 2013

Ninth International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB9)

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

With over 500 presentations and 50 posters over four days, the Ninth International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB9), held at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore from 10 to 13 June 2013, was a major gathering of international experts, budding researchers and other interested parties on bilingualism and multilingualism. The programme was packed with a diverse range of interesting plenary, paper and poster presentations, including various colloquia, such as the one on Multilingualism in the Chinese Diasporas, organised by Professor Li Wei, and a special workshop on Early Childhood Bilingualism, chaired by Professors K. K. Luke and Ng Bee Chin (http://linguistics.hss.ntu.edu.sg/ISB9/Main.html)

My paper, ‘Beliefs about language learning: multilingualism matters’, looked at participants’ bi- or multilingualism as an under-researched variable in beliefs about language learning (BLL) research. It examined whether multilinguals who had more than one language before seven years of age (‘early multilinguals’) held significantly different beliefs about language learning than multilinguals with only one language at that time (‘late multilinguals’). I received some very useful feedback, even though my paper was in the last session at the end of the first day. However, this meant that I was able to attend the other presentations over the next few days in a slightly more relaxed manner. This included a talk by Yvonne Chi, another Applied Linguistics PhD student from Birkbeck, on the negotiation of disagreement in multilingual couples.

All in all, ISB9 was a great event to share and get feedback on some of my research findings, to exchange views and network with other researchers, and to find out about the latest research in the area of bi- and multilingualism.

Abstract – Beliefs about language learning: Multilingualism matters

To date, beliefs about language learning (BLL) research has explored links to strategy use, proficiency and anxiety, but also considered the impact of cultural background, gender, learning setting and target languages (Bernat & Gvozdenko, 2005; Horwitz, 2008). Yet surprisingly few studies have explicitly examined participants’ bi- or multilingual background as a key variable, and if so, did not consider statistical significance (Hong, 2006; Nikitina & Furuoka, 2006; Tumposky, 1991). Therefore, as part of a larger project, this paper investigates whether multilinguals who had more than one language in early childhood hold significantly different beliefs about language learning than multilinguals with only one language at that time.

Data were collected through an online survey that included a slightly modified and extended Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory (BALLI) (Horwitz, 1988), containing 49 five-point Likert scale items. Participants (n=815) were divided into early and late multilinguals, based on linguistic repertoire size before the age of seven. Exploratory factor analysis revealed six underlying belief dimensions that best fitted the data.

Two belief dimensions reached significance (independent samples t-test). Early multilinguals were more optimistic about ‘Learning several languages’ and less negative regarding ‘Compatriots’ attitudes and abilities’. Although not significant, early multilinguals also scored marginally higher on ‘Self-efficacy’, ‘The nature of language learning’, but slightly lower on ‘Optimal conditions’ and ‘Motivations and expectations’. At belief item level, comparisons reached significance for four items, with near-significance for one item. Early multilinguals believed more strongly in having foreign language aptitude, but disagreed that the most efficient way to learn several languages is to learn them one after the other. By contrast, late multilinguals believed that learning several languages simultaneously is confusing, and disagreed more strongly that language learning mainly consists of translation or vocabulary learning. These findings provide further evidence that also within BLL research, multilingualism matters.

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