Video from 50th anniversary BAAL Annual Meeting, University of Leeds

Note: Subtitles are available for each video if you click on ‘CC’ in the bottom right of the YouTube screen.

Conference overview:

The BAAL 50th Anniversary meeting was held at the University of Leeds from August 31st and September 2nd 2017, with the theme of ‘Diversity in Applied Linguistics: Opportunities, Challenges, Questions’. The conference was attended by approximately 350 international delegates from a range of related fields, comprising a diverse and informed audience for the 143 plenaries, colloquia and presentations scheduled during the three days.


Applied Linguistics from the perspective of sign language and Deaf studies 

Bencie Woll, Chair of Sign Language and Deaf Studies, University College London

In this presentation, Applied Linguistics is explored in relation to sign language – the class of natural human languages which have arisen spontaneously within Deaf communities. These languages are produced and perceived in the visual modality, and are historically unrelated to the spoken languages which surround them. Despite surface differences from spoken language, they share at a deeper level the linguistic structure of all human language, and are found in parallel social and communicative contexts, as unwritten languages that occupy minority positions within societies where other languages are dominant.

The presentation begins with a brief but comprehensive introduction to the linguistic study of sign languages and the status of different sign languages within their surrounding majority spoken language communities. This will be followed by a discussion of current research priorities in the Applied Linguistics of sign language, including lexicography and sign language corpus linguistics. The remainder of the presentation discusses a range of issues pertinent to sign language and deaf studies in relation to Applied Linguistics, grouped around four themes: sign language teaching and learning; language and politics; sign language within the bilingual context; and technological and social change, concluding with a discussion of the role of Applied Linguistics in identifying and solving problems (both linguistic and policy-orientated) – independent of the modality of the language or languages considered.

BAAL Round Table:

The engagement of BAAL – and Applied Linguistics – with policy and practice 
Chair: Tess Fitzpatrick, Swansea University

BAAL 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the inaugural meeting of BAAL. To commemorate this, the BAAL Executive Committee invited five eminent members of BAAL to speak in a special conference Roundtable event. The speakers have all served as Chair of BAAL in the past, and within and beyond that role have shaped and steered our activities and profile, contributing significantly to the development and success of our Association. The speakers were asked to focus on aspects of BAAL’s – and Applied Linguistics’ – engagement with policy and practice. They addressed specific domains of current and past influence, identifying patterns of engagement activity across BAAL’s history, and suggesting and predicting potential areas of focus for BAAL in the future.

The first four presenters each spoke for 15 minutes. The discussant (Guy Cook) then led a 30 minute summary and panel discussion, and the final 20 minutes of the session were open for audience questions. The event was chaired by Tess Fitzpatrick, Professor of Applied Linguistics at Swansea University and currently the Chair of BAAL.

Susan Hunston speaks about the role of Applied Linguistics in understanding the society we live in, and the role of BAAL in understanding and shaping Applied Linguistics as a discipline.

Ros Mitchell speaks about the relationship of BAAL – and Applied Linguistics – with policy and practice relating to language education in schools.

Mike Baynham speaks about the relationship of BAAL – and Applied Linguistics – with policy and practice relating to migration, asylum and citizenship, and discusses multilingualism and ESOL from that sociolinguistic perspective.

Greg Myers has completed a new edition of Ros Mitchell’s History of BAAL document, and speaks about themes and patterns that have emerged from this ‘long view’ of the Association’s activity.

Guy Cook acts as discussant, summarising the papers and leading conversation among the speakers around key themes and questions.

Disciplinarity and disparity in Applied Linguistics

Henry Widdowson, Honorary Professor, Department of English, University of Vienna

The identification and institutional status of Applied Linguistics as a distinct academic activity has always rested on a claim to disciplinarity. Its engagement with issues of language use and learning is said to be informed by the theoretical insights and empirical research of one discipline or another: indeed it now seems to be taken as self evident that Applied Linguistics is of its very nature an interdisciplinary area of enquiry. So what does this disciplinarity involve? Whatever other informing disciplines might be invoked as relevant, linguistics must presumably figure as primary.

How then has Applied Linguistics realized the relationship with the discipline of linguistics that is claimed to inform and lend authority to its practices? This discipline has itself been defined in two radically disparate ways: one focusing on the abstract properties of the linguistic code and the other on how language is realized in contexts of use, and Applied Linguistics, especially as related to language pedagogy, has tended to take its bearings from one or other of these. Both disciplinary variants have their validity as methodological constructs but as such both are necessarily partial and reductive representations of language as it is actually experienced by its users, which is what Applied Linguistics is essentially concerned with. The critical question then arises as to the relative relevance of these two disciplinary perspectives, how far they have been, and can be, drawn upon, and their disparity resolved, in dealing with problematic issues in the practical domains of language use and learning.

Pit Corder Lecture

Language teaching in turbulent times: Curriculum-savvy teachers for curriculum success and sustainability 
Mohamed Daoud, Professor of Applied Linguistics, Institut Supérieur des Langues de Tunis

English has never been in such high demand in Tunisia and all of Arabic/French-speaking North Africa, especially in this post-revolution era. A suitable level of competence in English is valued in all areas (business, academia, civil society action and even politics) in a turbulent national and regional environment marked by socioeconomic problems, high youth unemployment, migration, terrorism and armed conflict. Yet, overall competence in English has remained low to very low in spite of decades of language instruction. This situation requires us as Applied Linguists, yet again, to revisit our assumptions about language, language learning and teaching, curriculum design and language policy and planning. Given the current global status of English, further enhanced by information and communication technologies (ICTs), English teachers, more than any other language or content teachers, find themselves charged with the responsibility of adapting their views and practices to meet the challenges of this brave new world. This presentation calls for attending to the central role of the English language teacher in curriculum implementation in order to promote learner autonomy while striving to humanize the teaching learning process and to ensure curriculum success and sustainability.

Video interviews with plenary speakers and Round Table participants are also available. BAAL is grateful to the British Council for supporting the video-recording of these interviews and the above conference sessions.

British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL)