Media Literacy in Foreign Language Education


This week I attended an international conference in Munich organised by University of Munich: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, titled “Media Literacy in Foreign Language Education: Digital and Multimodal Perspectives (12-15 March 2017). The conference brought together academics from around the world investigating the implications of media literacy on language education focusing on literature and storytelling, materials and resources, innovations in pop cultural approaches, literacies in film and media studies, as well as CALL/TELL in higher education and teacher education. The conference started with an inspiring plenary by Bill Cope in which he challenged existing online teaching practices and explored how an e-learning platform has the potential to transform instruction and assessment. In another plenary talk, Gunther Kress presented an overview of the principles of social semiotics. There were two other plenaries by Catherine Beavis and Mary Kalantzis. Catherine Beavis explored digital gaming as a venue for multimodal expression, while Mary Kalantzis offered a comprehensive overview of the work carried out by the New London Group since 1994 focusing on the development of a grammar of multimodality and future directions in the field.

My talk was on the first day of the conference and was titled “Learning and teaching languages in technology-mediated contexts: the relevance of social presence, participatory literacy and multimodal competence”. It was very well received with a good number of listeners and a fruitful discussion at the end. Overall, all went well, except the fact that my co-presenter, Mirjam Hauck of the Open University, UK was unable to attend due to a last minute health emergency.

I attended several thought-provoking presentations: Judith Buendgens-Kosten described a plurilingual language learning game being developed as part of an Erasmus+ project; Erhan Aslan (Reading University), presented his findings from a qualitative meta analysis on learner perceptions of the implementations of blogs, wikis and chat tools in EFL/ESL writing practices; Hsin-I Chen explored how Taiwanese EFL learners established multimodal identities in an intercultural exchange via Skype drawing on the many multimodal/semiotic resources present in the platform.

I had many networking opportunities as part of the socials organised by the conference committee. It was wonderful to meet Regina Brautlacht, Maria Martins, Maria Bortoluzzi, Francesca Bianchi and Niki Canham, some of which I had online and/or offline encounters before. It was a great pleasure to be part of the media/digital literacies community for a few days, which certainly left me with great ideas to work on. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the support of ECLS in funding my participation to this conference via the School Conference Fund.

Blog by Dr. H. Müge Satar, Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at the School of Education, Communication and language Sciences.

Corpus Linguistics in the South 14: Corpus Linguistics and Multilingualism

Birkbeck College, University of London, 4th of March 2017

On Saturday, March 4th, I had an exciting opportunity to present my work in progress at Corpus Linguistics in the South event which focused on aspects of multilingual corpus linguistics. Multilingual here meant not only use of corpora in multiple languages but also possible applications of corpus linguistics methods to research multilingualism. The range of papers presented at the event demonstrated the broadness of this field of study.

A number of talks focused on uses of parallel corpora in comparative language studies that successfully implement computer software to exemplify language patterns and demonstrate their significance statistically. There were also interesting studies of representations (ex. of animals) that used multilingual corpora to study cultural differences in representations. Uses of corpora for translation studies focused on such challenging topics as researching idioms across languages and how this research is immensely helpful in translation practice.

Excellent plenary talks were also delivered at the event. Dr Charlotte Taylor focused on comparison across corpora of different languages in researching social phenomena like, for example, ‘community’ and how in different linguistic and cultural contexts such notions acquire different meanings. Research of this kind also involves multiple challenges, for instance, whether the researched term means the same thing when translated from English to other languages. Dr Dawn Knight discussed the ongoing project which aims to create a national corpus of Welsh language and the challenges it poses on the researchers. She also referred to how the corpus can be used by speakers of Welsh in the future. However, even now on the data collection stage the project has motivated people to speak the language with help of mobile applications. This project is particularly exciting and innovative as its experience can be applied for creating corpora for other minoritised languages.

I also had a chance to meet and receive feedback on my work from Dr. Mike Scott, the author of WordSmith Tools software.

As to my own presentation, it was a great pleasure to present to a highly expert audience: there were 48 participants from 28 different institutions! I received some useful questions and comments that gave me food for thought. These included ideas on how I can improve my research and what new directions I might take in further exploring my data. I would like to thank Dr Rachelle Vessey for organising this event and ECLS for making my trip to London possible.

Written by Hanna Sliashynskaya, 1st years PhD candidate in Applied Linguistics in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.