SLA Program Newsletter: Fall 2020

SLA Director’s Message

Dear SLA Community,

I am enormously pleased to be able to ‘talk to you’ via our newsletter and would be delighted if you would share with us what has been happening in your lives and how we can stay connected. We have many great memories to call upon but also exciting current events and lots of good things on the horizon. Going forward, we hope to communicate via the newsletter more frequently – and you are the news!

Our dear colleague Cathy Stafford recently concluded four years of service as SLA Program Director, following in the footsteps of previous (co-) directors Diana Frantzen, Maggie Hawkins, Sally Pierce (Magnan), Junko Mori, and Richard Young. They have all worked alongside the many wonderful colleagues in SLA and our affiliate programs, who have been and are giving their time, expertise, and advocacy to support the program and all of its members. Our gratitude also goes to our students, who have honored us with their trust that we will help them develop their full potential.  The vibrancy of our program is in good deal owed to their positive spirit and can-do attitudes.  I would also like to acknowledge our former SLA colleagues Charles James, Gail Prasad, Tom Purnell, and Jane Zuengler (as well as Diana Frantzen, Sally Pierce, and Richard Young), who have created the structures that we still benefit from and who have remained our faithful supporters. Special recognition goes to our alumni, who have truly carried our program around the world and who most recently have agreed to become mentors to our current students. We are so very happy to still be or to be back in touch! The program has also been fortunate to welcome new program administrator Kristin Dalby (without whom you wouldn’t be reading this… and without whom a number of other great things wouldn’t be happening) after Wendy Johnson – who had been the ‘soul of the program’ through many (including some challenging) years – moved into a new career. And what would the program be without the support of the Language Institute under the leadership of Dianna Murphy (who has stepped up over the years to help hold it all together) and Jana Martin (a former SLA Minor!)? – Please, don’t answer this question!

Many, many thanks to all of you, not just for the nitty gritty of your work but also for your intellectual companionship, the joy of exploring together, cheering each other on at conferences (and sometimes following up with a drink), your tenacity (life in an interdisciplinary program can have its challenges!) and the laughter (and occasional disappointments) that we have all shared.

I look forward to the coming years as we try to build new connections for our program even as we will work to maintain our cherished existing relationships; think about how to help our students map professional directions that are as of yet quite unfamiliar to us ‘elders;’ and continue to seek cogent (and witty) responses when people ask us, ‘So, you are in Second Language Acquisition… what is that exactly?’

On, Wisconsin! On, SLA!

Headshot of Monika Chavez
SLA Director, Monika Chavez
Fall 2020 SLA Welcome Back Event

Featured SLA Stories

SLA Student Spotlight: Bingjie Zheng

Bingjie Zheng is preparing to defend her dissertation by the end of this year. Bingjie did classroom (4th-grade) ethnography throughout the 2018-2019 academic year in two different types of Chinese-English dual language schools in two U.S. states. The first research site is a one-way foreign language immersion school located in the suburban Midwest, where most students are from middle and upper-middle-class English-monolingual households; the second research site is a dual language bilingual school located in Chinatown in the urban area of a large city in the Northeast, where most students are from lower-incoming Asian immigrant families.

In this video on the AAAL website, Bingjie shares her dissertation Appropriating and Legitimating Chinese-English Dual Language Learning: A Multisite Ethnographic Study of Language Policy, Repertoires, and Socialization. Bingjie spent a substantial amount of time in the two schools/classrooms to understand the practices and policies of dual language learning and teaching. For example, how is the dual language model appropriated in these two schools at different levels (e.g., administrative, classroom, official, and unofficial levels)? How are classroom resources organized, socially, spatially, and semiotically? How does the organization shape the outcomes and discourses of learning and teaching? How do students from diverse backgrounds socialize into the Chinese-English dual language learning?

It is amazing to see how the policy, learning, and teaching is ingrained within the social, historical, and cultural worlds of the particular school communities with interests of dominant groups, and also, how learners are socialized into particular ways of thinking and behaving through years’ of dual language learning. In the meantime, it is frustrating to see how the broader social dynamics and power structures are embedded: even in a dual language setting where minoritized learning and culture are supposed to be valued, minoritized communities’ and learners’ access to learning is restricted. Bingjie hopes her research can validate diverse voices by including multiple social actors’ perspectives and participants from diverse racial, ethnic, social, and cultural backgrounds. More findings from Bingjie’s pilot study can be found in Language and Education and International Journal of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education.

Bingjie confessed it was a very difficult year for her to navigate the different social and physical environments when doing ethnography. It was, however, a fruitful and meaningful year that she will remember forever. She got to talk with and learn from students, parents, administrators, and teachers from disparate communities. Outside of the research work, she explored the neighborhoods, the museums, and cultural events. Bingjie is so grateful for the multiple dissertation grants that made her research possible!

SLA Alumna, Bicho Azevedo

A UW-Madison SLA alumna experience: from a course in the SLA program to opening a Spanish-language Writing Center

Writing is usually the hardest language skill to develop when learning a language. Maybe that is why I, Bicho Azevedo, have always been interested in second language (L2) writing skills development, and even more after I took an L2 writing course with Prof. Monika Chavez at UW-Madison. This interest is why I started a Spanish-language Writing Center (SWC) or Taller de Escritura in Fall 2019 at the University of San Diego (USD). The SWC serves students from fourth-semester to upper-division courses. The goals of the SWC are to provide students with reflection and constructive feedback during the multiple stages of the writing process, from planning to composing to revising a text in Spanish, providing students with tools to improve and gain confidence in their writing skills.

The writing consultants are undergraduate students that were nominated by professors in the Spanish program. They commit four hours per week to the SWC. The Spanish course population at USD includes students for which Spanish is either an L2 or a heritage language (HL); the consultant group also reflects that population. During the training sessions to improve the consultants’ tutoring skills, I cover writing difficulties for L2 and HL learners as well.

 Students learn about the SWC through class announcements and their instructors periodically encourage them to use this service, and they have come. We have had approximately 60 sessions with student-writers per semester during the first SWC year, even with the switch to fully remote sessions in spring 2020. Around 40% of the student-writers that use the SWC services used them more than once during a semester, and although most were in the fourth-semester Spanish courses (both L2 and HL courses) at the beginning, we are receiving student-writers from more upper-division courses during fall 2020. The SWC is having an impact and more students are using its services.

The consultants and I have learned many things with the SWC. We have learned that L2 writing sessions involve working with lower-order concerns (i.e. grammar, spelling, accent marks) besides higher-order concerns (e.g. text structure, organization) and that every session is different, from the language used to the writing stage of the writer, to the assignment topic. It has been a great experience working with these amazing consultants to create this unique Taller de Escritura that supports our students’ language learning process.

Bicho Azevedo
Assistant Professor of Spanish
University of San Diego

SWC consultants’ training session, Feb. 2020
SLA Alumnus, Kazeem Sanuth

Kazeem Sanuth: From UW- Madison SLA Doctoral Student to Associate Director of the National African Language Resource Center

While applying to the UW SLA doctoral program, Kazeem Sanuth wrote that his objective for the degree was to establish a career in research, in educating people, and in making impacts in policies that would enhance practices and the pedagogy of African languages. At this time, he knew he wanted a program that that would prepare him for research and how to apply knowledge of language sciences to social and developmental issues. He believed that the UW-Madison’s interdisciplinary SLA Program, with the quality of the faculty, scholarship, and the variety of work experience available could lead him to that goal.

Kazeem entered the SLA program with a plan to conduct interdisciplinary research on language teaching with feature films but he also approached his academic journey with an open mind. The plethora of SLA courses allowed him to try out different ideas. The faculty mentors he encountered respectively offered him models of research that eventually shaped his study: Among many others, Richard Young’s courses got him interested in the socio-cultural aspect of SLA; Junko Mori pointed him to the circle of scholars and courses on Conversation Analysis; Monika Chavez introduced him to the works on Linguistic Ecology while Heather Willis Allen guided him to Multiliteracies Approach to Language Teaching. Katrina Thompson’s work on Critical Applied Linguistics provided him with a paradigm and voice with which to investigate language users’ discursive practices. Lastly, in Dianna Murphy’s profile and work at the Language Institute, he saw a model for his professional self.

Kazeem’s research work focuses on multilingualism, superdiversity, and the promotion of cross-cultural understanding. His dissertation on language Study Abroad (SA) in Nigeria focuses on how American learners of Yoruba experience the multilingual contexts in which Yoruba is spoken in South-west Nigeria. It highlights the various affordances that the contexts present to learners, and how these resources shape their language use opportunities.

After graduation, Kazeem started a position as the International Education Outreach Administrator with the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies (HLS), Indiana University-Bloomington (IUB). A year into this position, he moved to become the Associate Director of the National African Language Resource Center (NALRC) at IUB. The NALRC serves the community of African language educators and learners in the United States and beyond by sponsoring a wide range of educational and professional activities designed to improve the accessibility and quality of African language instruction.

Kazeem believes that his UW-Madison’s training in SLA fulfills his primary goal. He has started a career in a position that connects teaching and research in the field. He seeks to contribute to shaping society through programming for the promotion and professionalization of the field of African language pedagogy.