What are your hopes for AAAL?
This is the first year in a while I can remember that I’m not planning to go to AAAL, the conference of the American Association for Applied Linguistics that will take place this coming weekend in Chicago. And in not going, I’m perhaps more acutely aware of what I might be missing than if I knew I would soon be joining fellow students and professors, colleagues and friends, for all the interaction, the ritual, and the stimulation of a conference like this.
The absence has me wondering: What will I–and the rest of us who can’t go–be missing this year? What are some of the pressing topics of the day in applied linguistics? In what new directions is the field turning? I suppose another way to ask this is to ask those who are going: What are your hopes for AAAL? What do you expect to see, hear, say and do this year?
This is a genuine question, and I could easily stop writing this post here, and hope to hear back from anybody who’s going and those who aren’t (AAAL house party this weekend, anyone?)
But it wouldn’t be very blogry to not give it a little spin too; in thinking about absence and perusing the schedule of plenary speeches and the conference program (one of the pleasures of conference-going, virtual or real), I was struck by the title and abstract from Mary Louise Pratt’s plenary scheduled for Saturday evening. In reading (and writing) countless writings on phenomena of globalization, Pratt contends that “language has not been a category of analysis” in these works. From another vantage point, her question and plenary title, “Why Don’t Theories of Globalization Think About Language?”, seem to be mirrored across the internet, where we can regularly find articles like “Learning second language helps students in job market”, “Endangered languages–can we really resist extinction?” (see Berkeley linguistics prof Leanne Hinton’s AAAL plenary too), and “Language shouldn’t be so foreign“–not to mention the occasional parody of America’s proud ignorance of languages, like the Onion News Network‘s recent, um, report, “Patriotic Teen Fails Spanish” (embedded below).
Maybe, in the eyes of language teachers, students, and researchers all around, what’s missing is language. Or, maybe it’s not quite missing, but there’s enough evidence out there of the disappearance, destruction, and lack of stewardship or concern about language in our societies, that we view our work as a type of advocacy at the same time it is “research”? Do we go to conferences like AAAL–or feel something’s missing if we don’t–out of, among other things, a collective sense of fear that what we’ve dedicated our lives and practice to may be no more?