Past Seminars

Following are the lecturers and topics of past seminars of the Distinguished Lecturer Series.


Dr. Yuichi Suzuki (Kanagawa University, Japan)

Optimizing Second Language Practice in the Classroom: Applying Insights from Cognitive/Educational Psychology to Second Language Learning

Deliberate and systematic practice is essential to develop knowledge and skills for using a second language (L2) more accurately and fluently. It remains, however, largely unknown as to what constitutes optimal practice activities as well as when and how practice activities should be presented to L2 learners effectively. These complex, yet critical issues on L2 practice have been addressed in a growing body of literature, which aims to apply insights from cognitive and educational psychology research into L2 learning.

In this seminar, the lecturer will focus on the skill acquisition theory and present collection of empirical research to formulating a unified account of L2 practice. Three major areas of research on L2 practice are covered:

  1. cognitive foundations of practice (including skill acquisition theories, explicit-implicit knowledge and automatization, as well as their measurements),
  2. effectiveness of L2 practice (including definitions of practice, task repetition, distribution of practice, form-focused practice, and knowledge and skill transfer), and
  3. individual differences (including cognitive aptitude measurements, stability and trainability of cognitive aptitude, and aptitude-treatment interaction).

In the opening lecture, the lecturer will provide an overview of the major issues on L2 practice and highlight key empirical research findings. In the rest of the lecture, the lecturer will delve into relevant theories and empirical studies and critically evaluate them. Promising directions of future research will be then presented as well as pedagogical implications for L2 classrooms. Group discussions and activities are included in this seminar in order to deepen the understanding of the materials.

Dr. Jonathan Newton (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)

Culture in the Language Classroom: Towards an Intercultural Pedagogy for Teaching English as a Foreign Language/World Language

An often overlooked truth about language teaching is that the language teacher is a teacher of culture whether they know it or not or whether they like it or not. Culture and language are intertwined; language constructs and sustains culture just as culture shapes the language choices available to us and the impact of our language choices on others. In simple terms, "Every time we speak we perform a cultural act" (Kramsch, 1993).

How then can language teachers do justice to culture-in-language? More to the point, how can teachers more effectively exploit the affordances for intercultural learning available through learning another language? How can they do so in ways that enhance rather than distract from core language learning objectives. And how can they manage the many challenges and constraints that often mitigate against doing justice to culture? Such questions are at the forefront of a large body of recent scholarship on intercultural teaching and learning. Drawing on this scholarship, this course critically examines theoretical models and practical proposals for engaging with culture in the language classroom. Core topics include:

  • Culture and language
  • Culture in the EFL classroom: affordances, constraints and challenges
  • The conceptual foundations of intercultural language learning
  • Principles for intercultural communicative language teaching (i CLT)
  • Curricula, textbooks, and intercultural teaching
  • Successful models of intercultural teaching in Asian EFL contexts (including Japan)
  • Intercultural competence in the Common Framework of Reference (CFR)
  • English as an International Language (EIL) – what culture?

Dr. Roy Lyster (McGill University, Canada)

Instructed Second Language Acquisition

The aim of this course is to synthesize the results of various classroom-based studies of second language learning. A range of descriptive and quasi-experimental classroom studies will be examined, all of which explore ways in which teachers and learners integrate a focus on language form while maintaining a central focus on meaning in communicatively oriented classrooms. Studies of interaction between teachers and learners as well as between peers will be examined to explore a range of interactional moves and tasks hypothesized to enhance second language learning (e.g., corrective feedback, prompting, recasting, negotiation, scaffolding, metatalk, learner uptake, collaborative dialogue). Proactive approaches to second language instruction in classroom studies will also be examined to develop awareness of various types of planned pedagogical intervention that include input processing, input enhancement, and form-focused practice activities. Based on classroom studies, the effects of ISLA on a range of linguistic domains will be examined (i.e., grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, pragmatics), while taking into account the mediating roles of instructional context and individual differences. Students will develop an awareness of why certain language features are more difficult than others for classroom learners, and will be expected to critically assess what types of pedagogical intervention appear to be more effective than others.

Students taking this seminar for credit will be required to prepare following book.

Required Textbook:

Dr. David Wood (Carleton University, Canada)

Formulaic Language in Applied Linguistics and TESOL

A considerable amount of research of various types has been conducted around formulaic language (FL)—multiword units with unitary meanings or functions that appear to be prefabricated, mentally stored, and processed as if single words. As the nature of FL and its use and acquisition have been studied for many years, it is remarkable that there have been so few investigations into how to actually teach this essential element of language to second language (L2) learners. We know that only very advanced learners reach a near-native ability to process and produce FL rapidly and appropriately (e.g., Forsberg 2010; Laufer & Waldman, 2011). L2 learners are very challenged by FL and develop facility with it very slowly. This course is an introduction to the phenomenon of FL and its relevance to applied linguistics, specifically language production, language acquisition and teaching, and discourse. We will survey the state of knowledge about FL in L2 acquisition and production, and its role in constructing discourse, with reference to some actual language data. We will explore the ways that FL can be integrated into language teaching methods and materials. By the end of the course participants should have a strong understanding of FL and its importance, and a sense of how to employ this understanding in the language classroom.

Seminar Outline

Day 1 (Saturday)

  • First Session (3 hrs)
    • Introduction to formulaic language (FL) and research on FL
      Reading: Wood, 2015 Ch. 1
    • Identification and Categories of FL
      Reading: Wood, 2015 Ch. 2 and 3
  • Second Session (3 hrs)
    • Mental processing of FL
      Reading: Wood, 2015 Ch. 4
    • Acquisition of FL
    • Wrap-up and reflection
      Reading: Wood, 2015, Ch. 5

Day 2 (Sunday)

  • Third Session (3 hrs)
    • FL and spoken language
      Reading: Wood, 2015, Ch. 6
    • Lexical bundles
      Reading: Wood, 2015, Ch. 8
  • Fourth Session (3 hrs)
    • Teaching FL
      Reading: Wood, 2015, Ch. 9
    • Teaching FL
    • Wrap-up and assignment plans

Required Textbook:

Dr. David Crabbe (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)

Understanding Language Course Design as a Problem-solving Process

Course design at its most basic is specifying learning goals, together with effective learning opportunities to achieve those goals. But it is more exciting than that. Course design in practice and in context is not static. It requires systematic and on-going problem-solving that starts with understanding the people concerned and the resources available. The understanding entails elements such as the potential roles of learners and teachers, their motivation and beliefs, the opportunities available in and out of the classroom for communicative performance, ways of enhancing that performance, ways of describing it for better metacognitive understanding, and any obstacles in taking up the opportunities.

This course will provide a framework for course design as informed problem-solving, drawing on what are seen as universals of human language learning and focussing on how those universals might be activated in context. The framework will raise questions about, for example: the role of the learners in the problem-solving; how their autonomy and motivation as members of a learning community might be fostered; how the impact of examinations could be managed productively; and how a bridge might be built between the classroom and the private domain of learning. Attention will be paid throughout to continually evaluating the impact of actions taken.

Dr. David Singleton (University of Pannonia, Hungary)

Age-related Factors in Second Language Learning

For most people the answer to the question of when it is best to begin learning a second language is self-evident. The cliché “the younger the better” would sum up the opinion delivered by the majority of respondents to such a question! We shall see in this course, however, that the facts of the matter are not so simple.

The maturational perspective or Critical Period Hypothesis has had its original theoretical postulates swept away by more recent research. While it is true that in naturalistic contexts younger second language beginners tend in the long run to do better than older beginners, there are plenty of examples of people who start their second language experience in adolescence or adulthood and who end up native-like in the second language in question. It turns out that the key to success at any age relates to the quality of interaction and the affective dimensions of interaction with the second language and its users.

With regard to the instructional context, the clear and consistent finding of more than forty years of research is that early schooling in a second language confers no lasting linguistic advantage over those whose second language exposure at school begins later. Recent findings suggest that in instructional settings too, quality of interaction, attitude and motivation are more important than starting age. These findings have unfortunately been ignored by governments and ministries of education around the world.

The course will explore all of these issues, and it will maintain a focus throughout on the educational implications of the research findings discussed. In particular, it will deliver the message that:

  • whatever the age of the learners, it is very important to provide a lively and engaging experience of input and interaction in the target language, because;
  • it is vital to maintain interest and motivation in regard to coming to grips with the target language, and;
  • this seems to be more of a challenge with learners who begin L2 learning young and whose language-learning experience lasts longer.