Language Education Speaker Series

The Language Education Speaker Series at BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development brings well-known scholars in the field of applied linguistics to campus to discuss their work. These talks are open to all members of the BU community, as well as scholars and students of applied linguistics throughout the Greater Boston area.

Upcoming Events

Navigating language learning as a non-binary student: Insights into diverse experiences from participatory research with non-binary youth
Julia Donnelly Spiegelman, Ph.D. Candidate in Applied Linguistics at University of Massachusetts Boston

Monday, April 3
5-6:30 pm (ET)

595 Commonwealth Ave
Room 406
Boston, MA 02215

Register here

Gender identities beyond the biologically assigned categories of “male” and “female” have been documented across time, space, and culture, yet these identities are relegated to the margins by dominant paradigms spread through colonization (Keenan, 2022). Due to transphobia and gender binarism, non-binary individuals are subject to frequent miscategorization and misgendering, language-based forms of identity invalidation that cause psychological and emotional harm (Johnson et al., 2020). Given the stakes of language in the affirmation of trans* identities (Zimman, 2019), language teachers must take deliberate action to avoid inflicting harm in their classrooms.

This talk draws from a participatory action research project with 10 non-binary students in U.S. high schools in which students engaged in surveys, interviews, focus groups, journaling, and group activities in an online community related to learning French and Spanish at school. By exploring the participants’ situated experiences, this study investigates the affordances and constraints in each student’s language classroom, how the student was able to exercise agency, and the factors impacting their investment in language learning. Cross-case analysis points to the central power of the teacher, the personally-felt impact of language ideologies, and the attritional effects of student labor. I will conclude by offering recommendations for teachers on building language classrooms where all can learn and thrive.

About Julia Donnelly Spiegelman

Julia Donnelly Spiegelman is a critical applied linguist, French teacher, and anti-bias teacher educator. Her research and activism focus on the intersection of power, identity, and ideology in K-16 world language classrooms, seeking to document, understand, and oppose the workings of racism and transphobia within these contexts. Julia is a Ph.D. Candidate in Applied Linguistics at University of Massachusetts Boston, with an M.A. in French from Middlebury College, where she was awarded the Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace. Julia’s work has been published in Applied Linguistics, The French Review, and L2 Journal. She is a faculty member at the Multicultural Teaching Institute, where she works with K-12 teachers to develop awareness of their own identities and engage anti-racist pedagogies in their classrooms.

Researching Language Learning and Multilingualism: From Social Justice to a Decolonial Lens?
Lourdes Ortega, Georgetown University

Tuesday, April 11
5–6:30 pm (ET)

Photonics Center
8 St Mary’s St
Room 210
Boston, MA 02215

Register here

Many multilinguals engage in language learning by force and circumstance, rather than choice, and in contexts that are greatly complicated by deterioration of solidarity for human diversity, widening economic inequalities, and intensified racial and religious conflict. Yet, disaffection for ethics, power, and ideologies has traditionally predominated the field of second language acquisition (SLA), which focuses on language learning by adults—people who learn a new language (formally or informally) during young, middle, or older adulthood, and therefore well outside primary socialization in the family. For quite a while now, I have argued for a social justice lens in SLA as a response to multilinguals’ urgent needs. But is this sufficient? Particularly since the global pandemic crisis, decolonial theories and Southern epistemologies have garnered high visibility in the wider field of applied linguistics. In this talk, I will examine the potential of a decolonial lens to further sharpen social justice orientations towards the study of language learning. I will also reflect on the barriers and possibilities that await SLA scholars who wish to consider social justice and decoloniality as tools to increase the relevance of their research for both elite and marginalized multilinguals.

About Dr. Lourdes Ortega

Lourdes Ortega (she/ella) is a Professor in the Department of Linguistics at Georgetown University. Her main area of research is in second language acquisition. She is best known for her award-winning meta-analysis of second-language instruction in 2000, her best-seller textbook Understanding Second Language Acquisition (2009, translated into Mandarin in 2016), and for championing a bilingual turn in SLA. She co-edited, with Annick De Houwer, The Cambridge Handbook of Bilingualism (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Lourdes is the General Editor of Language Learning, and President Elect of the American Association for Applied Linguistics.

Previous Events in the Series

November 2, 2022
What Effect Do Heritage Languages Have on Majority English in Adolescent and Adult Heritage Speaker Bilinguals?
Shanley Allen, University of Kaiserslautern

September 26, 2022
Biliteracy as Property: The Promise and Perils of Seal of Biliteracy and Dual Language Programming through an Equity Lens
Chris Chang-Bacon, University of Virginia

March 28, 2022
Language Learning Apps: Do They Really Work?
Shawn Loewen, Michigan State University

February 22, 2022
Enacting a Critical Translingual Approach in Teacher Development
Kate Seltzer, Rowan University

November 16, 2021
Measuring L2 Grit Not Once, But Twice, and Exploring How Much Learners Need it to Succeed
Paula Winke, Michigan State University

October 26, 2021
Complex Dynamic Systems Theory—Learning-Centered Teaching
Diane Larsen-Freeman, University of Michigan

February 8, 2021
Shifting the Discourse from Deficit to Difference: Understanding the Cognitive Neuroscience of Learning in Bilingual Learners
Gigi Luk, McGill University