Monday, September 16, 2013, 3:30pm, Kiva Auditorium
Title: Language Diversity, Cultural Practice, and the Development of Mind
Abstract: Language holds a special place in human life. It is distinctive of our species. It also provides the dominant medium for social interaction, helping to enable cultural traditions. Likewise, it provides an important medium of psychological representation, helping to constitute the individual human mind. Thus language, culture, and mind are intricately bound together at the core of what it is to be human. Though few doubt the importance of language, we still debate just exactly how large a shaping role language plays in this mix and in precisely what ways. Since there is no one universal language but rather myriad individual languages all differing from one another in important respects, one perennial debate concerns just how important these differences between languages are in the mediation of culture and mind. The contention that the particular language we speak influences the way we experience and think about the world has been called the linguistic relativity proposal. This talk will present an overview of recent thinking and research on this topic. The first part characterizes the relativity proposal both conceptually and historically, showing how current approaches fit into our own intellectual tradition. The second part presents some key contemporary findings, showing how research gets done and the range of language-specific effects on thinking that have been identified. The third part describes recent psychological research with deaf people, children, and bilinguals, seeking to uncover the mechanisms underlying language effects. The final closing section suggests how language form, cultural practice, and individual cognition enter into a dialogue during child development to create a characteristically human orientation to the world.
Dr. Ofelia García, City University of New York
Title: Transformative Power of Translanguaging in Schools
Abstract: This presentation will contribute to our understandings of the transformative power of translanguaging in classrooms with linguistically diverse students. I start by reviewing the meanings of translanguaging and its potential to produce alternative representations, while engaging the voices, identities and cognitive functioning of linguistically diverse students. I draw examples from NYC school cases to contextualize how teachers with different characteristics and in different educational programs draw on translanguaging as a resource. I also share our CUNY-NYSIEB work, as university scholars, school leaders and teachers collaborate to improve the education of those we call “emergent bilinguals.”
Bio: Ofelia García is Professor in the Ph.D. programs of Urban Education and of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She has been Professor of Bilingual Education at Columbia University´s Teachers College, Dean of the School of Education at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University, and Professor of Education at The City College of New York. Among her recent books are Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective; Educating Emergent Bilinguals (with J. Kleifgen), Handbook of Language and Ethnic Identity (with J. Fishman), Negotiating Language Policies in Schools: Educators as Policymakers (with K. Menken), Imagining Multilingual Schools (with T. Skutnabb-Kangas and M. Torres-Guzmán), and A Reader in Bilingual Education (with C. Baker). She is the Associate General Editor of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language. García was the recipient of the 2008 NYSABE Gladys Correa Award, is a Fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study in South Africa, and has been a Fulbright Scholar, and a Spencer Fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Education.
Listen to Dr. García’s talk here!
Wednesday, October 2, 2013, 3:30pm, Kiva Auditorium
Dr. K. David Harrison, Swarthmore College
Title: Endangered Languages
Abstract: Approximately half of the world’s 7,000 languages are predicted to go extinct in this century. In this talk I discuss how language death leads to intellectual impoverishment in all fields of science and culture. I also detail efforts by “language warriors” to sustain, value and revitalize linguistic diversity worldwide. Local perspectives on language endangerment and extinction are illustrated with original field materials and recordings of last speakers from Siberia, India, Chile, and the United States. Global trends in language diversity are explored through the use of a new quantitative model “Language Hotspots”.
Bio: K. David Harrison is a linguist and leading specialist in the study of endangered languages. He co-leads the Enduring Voices project at National Geographic and is an associate professor at Swarthmore College. He received his doctorate from Yale University. Harrison has done extensive fieldwork in Siberia, Mongolia, Bolivia, India, and Native America. In his book, When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World’s Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge (Oxford 2007), Harrison provides a vivid picture of the scientific consequences of language loss. He also depicts the human factor, including moving accounts of his encounters with last speakers in remote corners of the globe. Harrison’s work includes not only scientific descriptions of languages, but also storybooks, translations and digital archives for the use of the native speaker communities. Harrison co-stars in the documentary film The Linguists, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews in February 2008, and appeared at film festivals across the country (Boston, Madison, Dallas). Professor Noam Chomsky characterized the film as a “breathtaking thrill ride through the landscape of language.” The Hollywood Reporter writes: “Indiana Jones’ spirit certainly infects the intrepid heroes of ‘The Linguists.’ These are bold academics who plunge into the jungles and backwater villages of the world to rescue living tongues about to go extinct.”
Dr. Anne Pomerantz, University of Pennsylvania
Title: Teaching Humor in the Language Classroom: Seriously?!
Abstract: Language educators often regard humor as either too difficult to teach or ancillary to their curricular goals. Additional language learners, however, often report a desire to initiate and/or participate more actively in humorous exchanges, particularly outside the language classroom. In this presentation, I make a case for focusing on humor in instructional settings, noting how it can be used as a vehicle to promote metalinguistic awareness and a way to increase students’ interactional confidence and competence. Likewise, I offer principles for designing lessons about humor, as well as sample instructional plans. This presentation is intended to pique language teachers’ interest in humor and provide them with a sound theoretical basis for developing their own instructional activities.
Bio: Anne Pomerantz is a Senior Lecturer in the Educational Linguistics program at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education, where she teaches classes on language & identity, second language pedagogy, and intercultural communication. Her work has appeared in Applied Linguistics, Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, Journal of Language & Identity in Education, Journal of Language & Intercultural Communication, Modern Language Journal, and Multilingua.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013, 3:30pm, Ritter Annex 301
Dr. Gary Ockey, Educational Testing Service
Title: Using the group oral discussion test to measure the ability to orally communicate in a second language
Abstract: The ability to orally communicate requires many abilities that are often not measured by second language oral assessments. The group oral discussion task has been shown to measure aspects of this ability that other tasks do not assess. In the group oral discussion, a small group of test takers, typically three or four, are expected to sustain a conversation or discussion on an assigned topic for a given length of time. After the test has begun, the test moderator does not contribute to or direct the conversation in any way. The format has received an increasing amount of attention over the past decade, and is now used in various contexts, including high and low stakes situations. Its increased popularity is most likely due to its potential for eliciting oral ability components that other oral assessments do not, particularly aspects of interactional competence, including turn taking, negotiating meaning, and responding to others.
A growing number of studies and reports suggest that the group oral discussion test does have potential to be an effective test of oral communication. Research findings have also raised questions about the validity of the format, however. The presentation will begin with a discussion of what is meant by oral communication. It will then describe some of the ways in which the group oral has been used and some of the findings of studies that have been reported. The presenter will describe a number of contexts in which the group oral has been used. Emphasis will be placed on the Kanda Assessment of Communicative English (KACE), which has been operational for 25 years, and may be the longest running second language group oral discussion assessment.
Bio: Gary Ockey is a research scientist in the Research and Development division at the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, NJ. He received his Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics with an emphasis in language assessment and quantitative methods from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2006. Prior to working at the Educational Testing Service, he was the Director of Assessment at Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba Japan. He has taught graduate courses in applied statistics and measurement as well as English for specific purposes. His current research focus is on assessing second language speaking and listening with innovative tasks and technology. He has published numerous articles in language assessment and second language acquisition journals.