Category Archives: PhD Research

World Congress of Applied Linguistics - AILA 2017 in Brazil

AILA 2017 in Brazil: World Congress of Applied Linguistics

AILA 2017: World Congress of Applied Linguistics

The 18th World Congress of Applied Linguistics (AILA 2017) will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from July 23 to 27, 2017. The call for papers has been extended to May 31, 2016, so submit your proposals (in English, Portuguese, or Spanish) for papers, posters, workshops, or symposia at the official website.

This is the largest gathering of applied linguists in the world, and it only happens once every 3 years. The last one was in Brisbane, Australia, and since I was doing my PhD in Australia at the time, I was fortunate enough to go. Over 1,500 delegates attended and the conference ran for 5 full days. It was an exhausting, but amazing, week. The theme for this year is Innovation and Epistemological Challenges in Applied Linguistics.

AILA 2017 also has a Facebook page if you’d like to follow their updates. I don’t think there’s an official Twitter hashtag but I use #AILA2017

Hope to see you all in Rio next year!

If you’d like to start learning Portuguese in preparation for your trip to Brazil, check out the Portuguese tutorial with audio recordings by native speakers, the Foreign Service Institute course From Spanish to Portuguese, and the Romance Languages Comparative Vocabulary Lists or Verb Conjugations!

Dr Jennifer Wagner

Introducing Dr Jennifer Wagner

It’s official. I am Dr Jennifer Wagner.

As of December 10, 2015, my degree was conferred by the university council and I have the right to call myself a doctor. My PhD took more than four years, even though nine months at the end was mostly doing paperwork and waiting. The actual research and thesis writing portion was around 3.5 years, which is normal for a PhD in the Commonwealth where there is no coursework. I wrote almost 80,000 words on language and culture in French textbooks. I like to joke that my thesis is a 300 page complaint of the way textbooks teach French – but honestly, I’m only half-joking.

So what led me to do an entire PhD on French textbooks? Anger, mostly. And the frustration at learning things in class that I never heard or used in real life and being utterly confused at the French I heard and read everywhere in France. I learned French in the days before Youtube, or FluentU, or Yabla, and I couldn’t afford expensive cassettes or CDs to listen to French – but that is exactly what I needed. I’m still surprised at how many of my students today think that reading a textbook means they will be able to understand spoken language and have conversations with their peers. Sorry, but it’s not going to happen. Technology is your friend.

I have returned to the US since my Australian visa was expiring but I am looking for jobs in North America, Europe, or Australia/New Zealand. Please let me know if you hear of opportunities in Applied Linguistics, French, or English as a Second Language. If it involves languages, then I’m interested.


Applied Linguistics Associations of Australia & NZ Conference in Adelaide 2015

The 2015 combined conference of the Applied Linguistics Associations of Australia and New Zealand (ALAA and ALANZ) – together with the Association for Language Testing and Assessment of Australia and New Zealand (ALTAANZ) – will be held November 30 to December 2 in Adelaide, Australia. The Research Centre for Languages and Cultures at the University of South Australia will be hosting the conference, with the theme Learning in a Multilingual World. Abstracts can be submitted until February 28 at this site.

Applied Linguistics Associations of Australia

This conference was not held in 2014 due to the AILA World Congress in Brisbane. The conference in 2013 was held in Wellington, New Zealand, and it will return to New Zealand again in 2016. I was excited to find out that my research centre and university were hosting the conference this year, but I may no longer be in Australia by November since my visa expires in October. Fingers crossed that I find a job soon that keeps me in this part of the world!

AILA World Congress 2014: International Applied Linguistics Association Conference

I was in Brisbane all last week for the AILA 2014 World Congress, the largest conference for applied linguistics in the world. It is held every three years and I had just missed out on the Beijing conference in 2011 by one month when I first started my PhD. I presented my research on stylistic and geographic variation in French textbooks and was pleasantly surprised at how many people were interested in my presentation. The conference was quite large – over 1,600 delegates – and exhausting but definitely worth it. The program was over 200 pages, not including the abstracts, and there were about 25 parallel sessions to choose from. I found all of the plenaries interesting and was overall impressed by how well run everything was. I can’t imagine organising a conference of this size is an easy task.

Opening ceremony of the AILA Olympics

Opening ceremony of the AILA Olympics

You can check out the program and abstracts via the website to see the diversity of presentations and symposia. It can be a bit overwhelming reading through it all – now imagine having to choose only one session among all of them. Tough decisions!

Plenary on language that looks like English but isn't really

Plenary on language that looks like English but isn’t really

I tended to stick to the strands on language teaching, learning and educational technology. I even found myself in a talk that reported on a Māori teaching course, which I wasn’t expecting from the title since it didn’t mention any specific languages. Hearing Māori – and let’s be honest, incredibly adorable New Zealand accents – is always nice!

So happy to find myself in a talk about Māori language

Jocelyn even said a mihi before the presentation and it was beautiful

My favorite presentation was by Tom Cobb since it’s very relevant to my research. He has recently been adopting English-based corpus tools to French, which also helps improve his amazing Compleat Lexical Tutor website.

Top 2,000 words of French account for 92% lexical coverage

Top 2,000 words of French account for 92% lexical coverage (cf only 80% in English)

Even though it’s winter in Australia right now, it was in the 20s C / 70s F in Brisbane. I love Queensland! However, learning about the existence of gigantic burrowing cockroaches at the (free!) Queensland Museum did leave me a little traumatized…

Swimming in winter

Swimming in winter

The next AILA World Congress will be held in August 2017 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! See you in South America, my fellow applied linguists!

The end of my PhD is near, so what’s next?

I have just finished writing the last chapter of data analysis for my thesis. Now I need to write the conclusion and abstract, update my literature review, and do some final revisions then the printing and binding of four copies. Technically I have until March 2015 to submit, so if I haven’t managed to find a job this (Australian) summer, I’ll at least still have student status for a while longer. You’re probably thinking that I could finish in no time since I don’t have much left to do, but I have about seven jobs right now – more than half are actually volunteer positions – so I can’t exactly work on my thesis every single day. Plus turning my chapters into manuscripts to submit to journals takes a while, but needs to be done sooner rather than later since finding an academic job without having research publications is very difficult.

This may or may not be the same size as my stack of data and thesis copies...

This may or may not be the same size as my stack of data sets and thesis copies… [Photo Credit: gadl via Compfight cc]

I love all of my jobs though and wouldn’t give any of them up without a fight. The most time-consuming right now is teaching three classes this semester: first year French, second year French, and a tutorial on intercultural communication. I am a tiny bit obsessed with finding and creating fun speaking and vocabulary activities for my French students (see exhibit A: my Teaching French at Uni board on Pinterest).

I’m in Brisbane this week for the 1,600 delegate-strong AILA World Congress (the most important applied linguistics conference in the world!) and then I’m off to Sydney in October for the Easter Island exhibition that I’m co-curating as well as Taiwan in December to present at the Pacific History Association conference.

I’m also an assistant editor of the Journal of New Zealand & Pacific Studies which publishes two issues a year and has an annual conference in Europe, for which I’m an organiser, as part of the New Zealand Studies Association. (We’ll be in Vienna in July 2015, btw.) Add to those being the student representative for PhD students in my School (I get to complain on behalf of all of the students! I love complaining!), a research assistant, and webmaster of five websites, and hopefully you will understand why I have very little free time these days.

My current student visa expires in October 2015 and I’m still a little unclear as to whether the Department of Immigration changes the expiration date if your degree is conferred before your candidature is up. (It seems that international undergrads who finish their degrees early only have 28 days before they must leave the country.) I’m crossing my fingers that a visa-sponsoring academic job in Australia or New Zealand is available for next year but I’m also trying to prepare for the worst, i.e. packing up everything and moving across the ocean at my own expense for the third time in my life.

Plan B is submitting an expression of interest to obtain a resident visa for New Zealand since university lecturer is currently on the Long Term Skill Shortage List. Plan C is putting my stuff in storage, having friends look after Charlie and basically hanging out in Honolulu or LA until I can find a permanent way back to this part of the world. Just as one language will never be enough for me, one nationality and one passport will never be enough either.

I’ll post a summary of my time at AILA next week, but in the meantime I’m tweeting about the presentations and plenaries I’m attending and you can also check out the hashtag #AILA2014.

Applied Linguistics, CALL and French Conferences in 2014 and Beyond

Upcoming conferences on applied linguistics, computer-assisted language learning/teaching with technology, general language teaching & learning or French studies:

Applied Linguistics / Materials Design

Organization Dates Abstracts due Location
American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) March 22-25, 2014 closed Marriott Downtown in Portland, Oregon
Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics (CAAL / ACLA) May 26-28, 2014 ?? Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario
Materials Development Association (MATSDA) July 28-29, 2014 ?? University of Liverpool in Liverpool, England
International Applied Linguistics Association (AILA) August 10-15, 2014 closed Convention Centre in Brisbane, Australia
British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) September 4-6, 2014 March 1, 2014 University of Warwick in Coventry, England
American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) March 21-24, 2015 August 20, 2014 Fairmont Royal York, Toronto, Canada
International Applied Linguistics Association (AILA) August 2017  ?? Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I don’t believe the applied linguistics associations of Australia or New Zealand will be holding conferences in 2014 since the AILA World Congress is in Australia.


Computer-Assisted Language Learning / Teaching & Learning with Technology

Organization Dates Abstracts due Location
Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO) May 6-10, 2014 closed Ohio University in Athens, Ohio
European Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (EUROCALL) August 20-23, 2014 January 31, 2014 University of Groningen in Groningen, the Netherlands
Technology for Second Language Learning (TSLL) September 12-13, 2014 May 23, 2014 Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa
Globalization and Localization in Computer-Assisted Language Learning (GloCALL) – jointly sponsored by Asia-Pacific and Pacific CALL associations October 10-11, 2014 April 30, 2014 Ahmenabad, India
Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) November 23-26, 2014 ?? University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand
International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT) August 11-15, 2015 ?? Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts


Language Teaching & Learning (Secondary and Tertiary Levels)

Organization Dates Abstracts due Location
Association for Language Learning (ALL) April 4-5, 2014 ?? Lancaster University in Lancaster, England
Foreign Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics May 9-10, 2014 February 15, 2014 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
New Zealand Association of Language Teachers (NZALT) July 6-9, 2014 May 16, 2014 Convention Center in Palmerston North, New Zealand
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) November 21-23, 2014 January 15, 2014 Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas
Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT) with International Federation of Language Teachers Association (FIPLV) and Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association (OMLTA) March 26-28, 2015 May 1, 2014 Sheraton/Crowne Plaza, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Association (AFMLTA) July 9-12, 2015 ?? Melbourne, Australia
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) November 20-22, 2015 ?? Convention Centre / Marriott Hotel, San Diego, California
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) November 18-20, 2016 ?? Convention & Exposition Center / Westin Riverfront Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) November 17-19, 2017 ?? Music City Center / Omni Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee


French Studies

Organization Dates Abstracts due Location
Association for French Language Studies (AFLS) June 25-27, 2014 January 10, 2014 University of Kent in Canterbury, England
The Society for French Studies (SFS) June 30-July 2, 2014 closed University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland
American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) July 19-22, 2014 ?? Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana
Federation of Associations of Teachers of French in Australia (FATFA) July 25-26, 2014 February 21, 2014 University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia
Association canadienne des professeurs d’immersion (ACPI) October 23-25, 2014 ?? Halifax, Nova Scotia
Australian Society for French Studies (ASFS) December 3-6, 2014  June 30, 2014 RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) July 8-11, 2015 ?? Saguenay, Quebec

Applied Linguistics Conference in New Zealand

I’m off to New Zealand in two weeks to present at the Applied Linguistics Association of New Zealand / Applied Linguistics Association of Australia conference in Wellington. My presentation is “Formality and Francophonie: Stylistic and geographic variation in university textbooks of French” (Spoiler alert: there isn’t much.) The conference is November 27-29 at Victoria University of Wellington and I plan to live tweet the sessions I attend, probably with the hashtag #alanz2013.

Wellington with cable car (Wikimedia Commons)

Wellington with cable car (Wikimedia Commons)

Then on November 30, Michelle will be joining me from the US and we will begin our annual vacation together. (Remember our European and Australian vacations?) We’ll be exploring both the North and South Islands of New Zealand as well as the Cook Islands, which is in free association with New Zealand.

This will be my first trip to a tropical island in the South Pacific and my first experience with Polynesian languages. I hope to learn more Maori and Cook Islands Maori because right now my vocabulary is limited to kia ora / kia orana.

Conferences for Applied Linguistics, CALL, Language Teaching & Learning and French

If you’re interested in attending or presenting at conferences on applied linguistics, computer-assisted language learning, modern/foreign languages or French studies, here are some upcoming conferences. You still have time to submit abstracts for some of them. I plan on being in Wellington this November for the ALAA/ALANZ conference and Brisbane next August for the AILA World Congress. Any other organizations or conferences I should know about? My main areas are materials design, technology in language teaching/learning and vocabulary acquisition/teaching.

Applied Linguistics / CALL

Organization Dates Abstracts due Location
Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO) May 21-25, 2013 Manoa, Hawaii
Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics (CAAL / ACLA) June 3-5, 2013 Victoria, British Columbia
International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT) June 11-15, 2013 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Worldwide Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (WorldCALL) July 10-13, 2013 Glasgow, Scotland
Materials Development Association (MATSDA) July 13-14, 2013 Liverpool, England
British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) September 5-7, 2013 Edinburgh, Scotland
European Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (EUROCALL) September 11-14, 2013 Evora, Portugal
Applied Linguistics Association of Australia / NZ (ALAA / ALANZ) November 27-29, 2013 April 8, 2013 Wellington, New Zealand
Vocab@Vic December 18-20, 2013 April 12, 2013 Wellington, New Zealand
American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) March 22-25, 2014 August 21, 2013 Portland, Oregon
International Applied Linguistics Association / AILA World Congress August 10-15, 2014 April 30, 2013 Brisbane, Australia


Language Teaching & Learning / French

Organization Dates Abstracts due Location
International Conference on Languages, Literature and Linguistics April 29-30, 2013 Johannesburg, South Africa
Association for French Language Studies (AFLS) June 6-8, 2013 Perpignan, France
Languages & Cultures Network for Australian Universities (LCNAU) July 3-5, 2013 Canberra, Australia
Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Association / New Zealand Association of Language Teachers (AFMLTA / NZALT) July 5-8, 2013 Canberra, Australia
American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) July 11-14, 2013 Providence, Rhode Island
International Conference on Linguistics, Literature, & Cultural studies in Modern Languages September 12-13, 2013 May 1, 2013 Murcia, Spain
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) November 22-24, 2013 Portland, Oregon
Australian Society for French Studies (ASFS) December 9-11, 2013 August 31, 2013 Brisbane, Australia
Association for Language Learning (ALL) March ???, 2014 UK?
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) November 21-23, 2014 San Antonio, Texas


I’ll continue to update this post if I find more conferences.

Do some academics look down on other academics as well as non-academics?

A recent post on The Thesis Whisperer, a blog designed to help research students in Australia, has been quite popular this past month. The title? Academic assholes and the circle of niceness

Luckily, I have not personally experienced any aggressive or arrogant behavior at the universities I have attended in the US or Australia. My professors and colleagues have always been supportive and helpful. But I have seen this behavior at conferences, and I felt extremely bad for the students who had to deal with it. How are you supposed to respond when a jerk in the audience says your research is pointless? Belittling students and colleagues in front of others in order to feel better about your own research is just awful. Unfortunately, these assholes tend to be perceived as more intelligent than nice people, though it seems to me that people are deliberately arrogant in order to feel superior to everyone else in more than just intelligence. Insecure much? A lot of it is simply bragging – look at me! look at what I can do! look at what I know! – which is incredibly sad considering that academics are supposed to be mature adults and not five year olds.

The Thesis WhispererVery helpful blog for research students

However, I wanted to write about this post because of one of the earliest comments on it, which brings up the issue of academics seemingly acting like jerks to non-academics. Fiona says “In my experience many if not most academics, seem to look down on the lowly general public… Anyone mentioning personal experience or views is usually shouted down by someone demanding an official study is vital to back up the opinion. It’s not possible or acceptable to have a view on anything, it would appear, unless there’s an official study to ‘prove’ it.”

I can understand why she feels that some academics look down on non-academics. There are definitely some Sheldon Coopers in the real world. Academics can seem arrogant when drawing attention to their intelligence, but here’s the thing: academics are more intelligent than non-academics in their chosen fields. I recently posted about my frustration with people who continue spreading myths about linguistics and language learning. It is quite offensive when people who have no professional training in an area that you have been researching for over a decade act as if they know more than you. It is also frustrating when people believe things that have been proven wrong by research for no reason other than they “just do.” When I ask teachers who use the Direct Method why they choose to do so when data show that banning the first language is not beneficial to learning a second language, many are unaware of the research which proves its inefficacy or choose not to abandon it because using the target language 100% of the time “seems” like a better idea, regardless of what the research says. Maybe it is our fault for not popularizing our research more, but what can we do when people refuse to believe our data or change their behavior to incorporate the facts?

Asking what people’s opinions are based on should not be interpreted as academics asserting their superiority, or just plain being assholes. We hope that your opinions will be informed by empirical data, because if not, what exactly are they based on? You can have personal views and tell anecdotes about your experiences, but when you believe things that are not supported by research, of course we want to know why. One person’s opinion is in a separate domain from scientific research, where the conclusions are peer-reviewed, many experiments have been done, and the results can be replicated. So yes, we get quite upset when someone says “I smoked for 20 years and never got sick so smoking doesn’t cause cancer” because years upon years of research involving thousands of people proves that it does cause cancer for some people. Just because something didn’t happen to you, or something didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean you can make a broad generalization for all other people.

Fiona continues her comment: “Most of the public are these days cynical of studies proving this or that, given that so many are contradictory. It seems to me that there’s far more we don’t know that what we do; and that sometimes overly dramatic scare-monger type media releases are simply a way of drumming up more research funding (whilst eroding credibility in the eyes of the public).”

It is true that there is far more that we don’t know than what we do, and that is exactly why we need science. Yet the first sentence epitomizes how misunderstood science really is (especially in the US!). People don’t trust scientists because their results and conclusions are constantly changing, and yes, contradictory. But that is science: the facts must change with the evidence. I don’t know why people are so uncomfortable with this. Granted, there are other reasons why people disregard research in addition to its changing nature. In the case of using the Direct Method, it is easier to teach languages and more profitable to write textbooks in this way, so even with all the evidence against it, teachers and publishers are less likely to do anything differently. I hope everyone can see what an enormous insult to researchers this line of thinking is. To me, disregarding research because it is the easy or profitable thing to do is far more arrogant than what researchers have been accused of.

I am often defensive about the importance of research and academia, mostly because of how much higher education is attacked by right-wingers in the US. I am not trying to brag about how smart I am or make others feel like they are inferior because they are not researchers. I’m just trying to share linguistic research since it’s a shame that so much of it can only be found in journals that are ridiculously expensive (embrace open access, academia!), and since some of the research that makes its way into the popular press only tells one side of the story. If I come across as arrogant online, I apologize for that – but I will not apologize for trying to teach people the beauty of science.

Have any students experienced aggressive and arrogant behavior by colleagues (or even other students)? For those not in academia, how do you feel about academics and researchers?