Saturday, 12 March 2016

Mapping Applied Linguistics: A Guide for Students and Practitioners

by Christopher J. Hall, Patrick H. Smith and Rachel Wicaksono

Finally, I finished this book. Not the easiest reading, especially if you have it on Kindle and try to go through it on the beach, as I did. But gratifying. I did not expect to go much past the introduction — yes I do read introductions. And this is what caught my attention (together with a 3-D representation of human forkhead-box protein 2 shown above):

All communities and cultures have deeply held beliefs about the nature of language and languages, which applied linguists ignore at their peril. But research in linguistics and allied fields allows us to bring new perspectives on the practical problems facing language users, which we must also be aware of if we are not to be led astray by tempting, but misleading, courses of belief and practice. Sometimes the most level path or the straightest-looking route doesn’t lead to new territory, but ultimately sends us round in circles or soon dries up altogether. <...> We’ll also continually bear in mind that most language users (the clients of applied linguistics), hold them to be self-evident; and, furthermore, that the beliefs of users can have profound effects on language uses. Finally, we’ll remember that all those who work professionally with language, including linguists, will succumb to the lure of these attractive avenues of belief . . . even if they do lead nowhere except to fewer spirited discussions at family holidays, the dinner table, the pub or the coffee house.
And here is the author’s top ten ‘dead ends’:
  1. People think in language
  2. Children are taught their first language(s)
  3. Written language is superior to spoken language
  4. Some groups of people don’t use their language properly
  5. Some people speak their language without an accent
  6. The way groups use their language reflects their intelligence
  7. People with two languages are confused
  8. Languages get contaminated by influence from other languages
  9. A nation has, or should have, one language
  10. Languages exist independently of users and uses
The fact that many of my colleagues (teachers!) indeed hold many of these beliefs is enough to convince me that I should go on, if only for the sake of being able to destroy their arguments in the pub or the coffee house. Moreover, this book made me realise that I am an applied linguist too. Beginner level, but still.

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