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Walking the Talk

Language acquisition conference unites theory and practice

Not long ago, people studied a language in high school, learned grammar, read some literature and then forgot it all.

In today's rapidly globalizing world, there are more "L2 users " -- people who learn a second language through daily use.

The 28th annual Second Language Research Forum, which drew nearly 400 participants from 13 countries to TC in early October, connected language acquisition research with an understanding of the effects of instruction. Vivian Cook, of the University of Newcastle- upon-Tyne in the U.K., said that L2 users have a "multi-competence" and exhibit differences in their brain structures. TC alumna Patsy Lightbown, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Concordia University in Canada, used the theory of "transfer appropriate processing" to explain why people learn languages better through daily communication: "We are better able to retrieve information when the situation for retrieval is similar to the situation in which the information was learned in the first place."

Cook and Lightbown were joined by Michael Sharwood Smith of Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University as keynote speaker.

TC outbid other schools to host the conference, which was sponsored by TESOL and the Applied Linguistic Programs of the Department of Arts & Humanities. Many other TC centers pitched in.

"Second language acquisition is a growing field, and this event helped put TC on the map," says Eun Sung Park, who co-chaired the event along with fellow TC students Andrea Revesz, Charles Combs and Ji Hyun Kim. (Associate Professor Zhao Hong Han served as faculty advisor.)

In a globalized world, getting on the map is what it's all about.

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