14th International Conference

Advances in Research on Language Acquisition and Teaching 

14-16 December 2007 
Capsis Hotel, Thessaloniki Greece

Invited Speakers 

Martin Bygate
University of Lancaster

Tasks in language acquisition and pedagogy research: issues of focus and context.

Language acquisition is often seen as fundamental research, while language pedagogy is seen as applied. Pedagogic tasks however provide a construct which can bring together research in both fields. Designed to require holistic language use, they provide a context both for studying language learning, and for relating learning to the use of tasks. From this perspective tasks are unusual in combining both the study of learners and the study of intervention. In this presentation I will review progress so far, identify some potential problems, and propose some ways forward. In particular I will argue that, in both pedagogy and SLA, some of the directions that have been pursued may be causing us to miss some of the rich potential that tasks can offer. For instance, within language teaching, tasks have often come to be associated exclusively with task-based syllabuses, while SLA research has perhaps overemphasised the value of negotiation for meaning. Both emphases risk neglecting potentially valuable aspects of tasks: tasks can enable a much wider range of aspects of language learning than negotiation for meaning; and since they engage holistic language use, they can be used in very different ways, and in many kinds of curriculum, not just within task-based approaches. With this in mind, I will suggest we might benefit from considering three concepts that have tended to be upstaged in research to date: field, purpose and involvement. I will argue that taking these dimensions into account might bring tasks into a richer relationship with both teaching and language acquisition, and perhaps help contribute to the development of a researched language pedagogy.

Martin Bygate is Professor of Applied Linguistics and Language Education at Lancaster University. He specialises in oral language pedagogy, the use of pedagogic tasks, and classroom language learning. He has taught English in France, Morocco, the UK and Brazil, and lectured on teacher education programmes in Brazil and, in the UK, at Reading and then at Leeds. He was co-editor of Applied Linguistics (1998-2004), and was Meetings Secretary of BAAL from 1989-1995. He has published on the teaching of speaking (OUP, 1987), the teaching of second language grammar, (co-edited with Alan Tonkyn and Eddie Williams, Prentice Hall 1994), co-edited a book on tasks with Peter Skehan & Merrill Swain (Pearson, 2001), and has written more generally on applied linguistics. He is co-author with Virginia Samuda of Tasks in Second Language Learning (Palgrave, 2007).


Bessie Dendrinos (Vassiliki Dendrinou)
University of Athens


This talk problematizes the notion of ‘mediation’ as defined in the Common European Framework of Languages and views it in the larger context of intra- and inter-cultural communication as well as of L1 use in programmes of foreign language teaching, learning and assessment. Concerned with the socially important role of intra- and interlinguistic mediator, it investigates how this role is inscribed in English language teaching programmes and in high stakes exams. Crucially, the talk provides a definition of the concept of mediation which is informed by and in turn informs the design of the English KPG exams, and proposes that successful mediation requires different types of knowledge and awareness, literacies and competences. Finally, it presents the results of in-depth mediation task analysis as well as findings from candidate script analyses.

Bessie Dendrinos is Professor of Sociology of Language and Foreign Language Education at the Department of Language and Linguistics of the Faculty of English Studies, University of Athens. Since the late 70s she has been involved with initial and in-service teacher education programmes and since the 80s she has served as head of national committees that initiated reform in ELT school curricula and materials. As of 1992, when she published The EFL Textbook and Ideology, she has been critically investigating the discourses of language education planning, particularly in the European Union, as well as the discourses of foreign language didactics. Her academic publications, which have appeared mainly in English and Greek, but also in Portuguese and Spanish, are often concerned with critiquing the cultural politics of English as a ‘global’ and ‘globalizing’ language. One of her most recent books, The Hegemony of English (in collaboration with Donaldo Macedo and Panagiota Gounari, Colorado: Paradigm Publishers, 2003) won the 2004 AESA [American Educational Studies Association] Critic’s Choice Award. Currently interested in interlinguistic and intercultural literacies for European citizenry, she is co-editor of the Politics of Linguistic Pluralism and the Teaching of Languages in Europe. Athens: Metaixmio Publishers and University of Athens (2004). From 2003 until now she has been devoting most of her time to developing the Greek exam battery for the state certificate of foreign language competence and has the responsibility for the exams in English.


Glenn Fulcher
University of Leicester

The Reification of the CEFR and Creative Rating Scale Development

Language education in Europe is lurching toward a harmonized standards-based model in the interests of so-called competitiveness in global markets. The rhetoric is one of progress and change, but as J. S. Mill argued in his analysis of earlier attempts at harmonization, "It proscribes singularity, but it does not preclude change, provided all change together." Today's tool of both proscription and change is the CEFR, made effective through institutional recognition of only those programmes or tests that are CEFR-aligned. But the rather worn approach to scale description in the CEFR is hampering more creative, theoretically motivated, and linguistically valuable attempts to describe what learners are able to do in specific domains. This talk outlines the problems CEFR-bounded thinking creates, and shows how we can nevertheless use the CEFR as a heuristic to create more innovative descriptive scales.

Dr Glenn Fulcher’s main interests lie in the field of language testing and the philosophy of educational assessment, including validity theory, construct operationalization, and task design. He also takes a keen interest in research methodology and statistics in testing and applied linguistics research, and has worked in the fields of Second Language Acquisition, Discourse Analysis, lexis, CALL, teaching and methodology. He has extensive experience of test development and design, and has been involved in a number of large-scale testing operations. For example, from 2001 to 2005 he was a Member of the Educational Testing Service TOEFL Committee of Examiners, and was Chair of the TOEFL Research Subcommittee from 2003 to 2005. In 2006 he was President of the International Language Testing Association (ILTA), and has previously served on the Executive Board of ILTA as a Member at Large, and Vice President. He is also an expert member of the European Association of Language Testing and Assessment (EALTA). He is currently on the Editorial Boards of the journals Language Testing (Sage) and Assessing Writing (Elsevier), and review for a number of other journals. From 2007 - 2011 he is co-editor of Language Testing, with Cathie Elder (University of Melbourne). In the School of Education he is a member of the English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics Research Group. He is the author of Testing Second Language Speaking (Longman/Pearson ,2003) and Language Testing and Assessment (Routledge, 2007). He has published extensively in Peer Reviewed Journals and he is the editor of Writing in the English Language Classroom (Pearson, 1997).


David Little
Trinity College Dublin

Learner autonomy, inner speech and the European Language Portfolio

Learner autonomy is currently one of the most widely discussed concepts in second language pedagogy and a common goal of second language curricula. It also underlies the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe 2001), whose scales of communicative proficiency define the autonomous second language learner¬¬–user. And its development is one of the key purposes of the European Language Portfolio, which the Council of Europe presents as “a tool to promote learner autonomy” (Council of Europe 2006: 9). It is generally accepted that reflection is a key constituent of learner autonomy: autonomous learners are characterized by their active involvement in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of their learning. Indeed, it is in precisely these terms that the Council of Europe explains what it means by the phrase “a tool to promote learner autonomy” (ibid.). It is much less generally accepted, however, that these reflective processes should be conducted as far as possible in the target language (but see Little 2001, 2007). This paper will argue that using the target language for reflective purposes is central to language learner autonomy since it plays an essential role in developing learners’ capacity for L2 inner speech, which in turn is an essential component of communicative proficiency. I shall begin by explaining what I understand by learner autonomy, drawing on dialogical theories of child development, language and learning. Within this conceptual framework I shall go on to consider the phenomenon of inner speech, the different forms it takes and the different functions it fulfils. And I shall then discuss the role of inner speech in second language learning and teaching, with particular reference to the form and pedagogical functions of the European Language Portfolio.

Council of Europe, 2001: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Council of Europe, 2006: European Language Portfolio: key reference documents. Stasbourg: Council of Europe.
Little, D., 2001: We’re all in it together: exploring the interdependence of teacher and learner autonomy. In L. Karlsson, F. Kjisik and J. Nordlund (eds), All together now. Papers from the 7th Nordic conference and workshop on autonomous language learning, Helsinki, September 2000, 45–56. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, Language Centre.
Little, D., 2007: Language learner autonomy: some fundamental considerations revisited. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching 1.1, 14–29.

David Little is Head of the School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Sciences and Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at Trinity College Dublin. His principal research interest is the theory and practice of learner autonomy in second language education, on which he has published several books and many articles. He has been centrally involved in the development and promotion of the European Language Portfolio and is currently chair of the Council of Europe’s ELP Validation Committee. He is also Director of Integrate Ireland Language and Training, a government-funded unit that provides English language courses for adult newcomers with refugee status and supports the learning of English as a second language in Irish schools.


Carmen Muñoz
University of Barcelona

Asymmetries in age effects in naturalistic and instructed L2 learning

The effects of age on second language acquisition constitute one of the most frequently investigated and debated topics in the field of Second Language Acquisition. Two different orientations may be distinguished in age-related research: an orientation aiming to elucidate the existence and characteristics of maturational constraints on the human capacity for learning second languages and an orientation purporting to identify age-related differences in foreign language learning often with the aim of informing educational policy decisions. Because of the dominant role of theoretically-oriented studies that aim at explaining age-related outcome differences between children and adults, it may be argued that research findings from naturalistic learning contexts have been somehow hastily generalized to formal learning contexts and the results of classroom research have been interpreted in the light of the assumptions and priorities of the former. In this talk I will present an analysis of symmetries and asymmetries that exist between a naturalistic learning setting and a foreign language learning setting with respect to those variables that are crucial in the discussion of age effects in second language acquisition, among them ultimate attainment, length of exposure, initial age of learning, age of first exposure, significant exposure, aging effects and maturation effects. On the basis of the differences observed, I will argue that the amount and quality of the input bear a significant influence on the effects that age of initial learning has on second language learning. This influence explains the older learners’ persistent advantage in rate of learning as well as the difficulty that younger learners have to show any long-term benefits due to an early start in a school setting.

Carmen Muñoz received her MA in Applied Linguistics from the University of Reading, UK and her PhD in English Linguistics from the University of Barcelona, Spain, where shes is now a Professor of English Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at the University of Barcelona. Her research interests include second and foreign language acquisition, as well as bilingual acquisition. She is the coordinator of the Barcelona Age Factor (BAF) Project. Her more recent publications are: the edited volume Age and the Rate of Foreign Language Learning, Multilingual Matters (2006), and the chapter “Age-related differences and second language learning practice” in the volume edited by R. DeKeyser Practice in a Second Language. Perspectives from Applied Linguistics and Cognitive Psychology, Cambridge University Press (2007).