Promoting Fluidity at JALT in Shizuoka
After returning from my sabbatical, things have been kind of slow on the research front. I actually made my first trip in over half a year to someplace outside Tokyo. But even then, I only went as far as Shizuoka, an adjoining prefecture. I went to attend the annual conference of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT). Although it has Japan in its name, it is rightfully thought of as an international conference as it's large enough to attract many presenters from abroad, as well as a slate of invited speakers from all over the world.
The opening keynote address was given by Diane Larsen-Freeman, who must be one of the most well-known names in applied linguistics, especially second-language pedagogy. Anyone who has a degree in second/foreign language teaching will have read something by DLF. She focused on talking about her work with complex dynamic systems theory (CDST), which is a topic I've wanted to hear talked about in more detail since I first read of it in Norman Segalowitz' well-known work on fluency which also uses CDST as a framework to analyze speech fluency. DLF's talk was indeed interesting and ranged through a variety of applications of CDST to second language acquisition and pedagogy. However, to my regret, the talk didn't really discuss the details of CDST itself, so although I had a very good impression that CDST addresses many issues in language teaching and learning, I could not explain why afterward, let alone be able to apply the theory to any question or problem of my own interest. Perhaps it is such a complex theory that the practical details of it can really only be dealt with in an ongoing seminar. So, I'll have to follow up on it on my own.
While at JALT, my colleague and good friend, Laurence Anthony gave a talk together with Paul Thompson about an application Laurence created that makes it very easy to construct a specialized corpus of academic writing automatically, literally in seconds. The application is called AntCorGen and is designed to draw texts in selected fields from the PLOS One archive into form that can then be analyzed by a concordancing application (such as Laurence's own AntConc!). His presentation went very well, as usual, and the demo went flawlessly (which is always a worry at conferences!). In fact, he also publicly gave me credit for the idea to create AntCorGen. That is, in fact correct. The idea was one that I suggested to him in some detail when we were talking about one of our school's data-driven learning (DDL) courses in which we asked students to spend literally several weeks constructing their individualized corpora by hand. I realized it could be done much faster using the PLOS API and suggested it to him. A few weeks later, he had a prototype. Yes, he works fast.
Another interesting presentation was a poster presentation by Josh MacPherson. It's not fluency-related, but it is highly relevant to my own work on academic reading, and specifically, vocabulary learning and testing. There are are large number of word lists for study as well as area-specific lists like Averil Coxhead's Academic Word List (AWL). Most of these are organized by finding the highest-frequency words. Well, Josh decided to organize a list of the highest frequency academic word parts: prefixes, roots, and suffixes. This is a great idea and I plan to make use of the list in my teaching of academic reading skills. (Here's a link to his "Essential Words Parts List".)
As for me, my presentation was another chance to talk about Fluidity. This was actually my first chance to give a public presentation about it in Japan since the creation of the newest version with "Fludie" the interlocutor. The talk was well-attended and I got several good questions during and afterward. I'm convinced I need to release Fluidity publicly as soon as possible. There is a need for it and there doesn't seem to be anything like it on the market.
[Note: This post was written in September, 2020. However, in order to preserve the chronology of the blog, it has been dated to reflect when the described events actually took place.]