Regional organizations in applied linguistics: The power of multilingual perspectives (Joint Session AILA@AAAL)


Multilingualism has the ability to expand one’s view of the world (Murakami), decolonize beliefs (Figueiredo y Martinez), and connect people, hearts, and mindsets (Mandela). A monolingual alternative at best limits the imagination of our collective advancement; at its worst, well, just look at the news. Now, more than ever, encouraging multilingualism in all areas of scienceincluding, and perhaps especially in, applied linguisticsis critical to ensuring that research reflects the rich diversity of this world, and that our work informs and serves all languages and all communities. 

In this colloquium, we discuss the power of multilingual perspectives in applied linguistics collaborative research, focusing on a case study of AILA regional organizations. Specifically, we discuss the diverse motivations behind the formation and function of AILA Europe (15 countries), AILA ASEAN (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand, Philippines, and Laos), AILA East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea), AILA Middle East (starting from the United Arab Emirates), and introduce the in-progress AILA Ibero-American Association of Applied Linguistics (AIALA), a collaboration between AAAL (North America), ALAB (Brazil), AMLA (Mexico), and AESLA (Spain), [1] conceptualizing regional organization in terms of Spanish, Portuguese, and affiliated minority language(s) spoken and researched by applied linguists around the world, regardless of current physical residence/geographical location.

Throughout the colloquium, we will highlight the unique motivations and efforts in each of these five AILA regional organizations as well as the singular foci that unite them all: a drive to demonstrate that multilingual perspectives in applied linguistics research will always offer a more complete view of and service to all languages and speakers, and the conviction that the increasing viewpoints with which one can engage, the more inclusive and progressive the world will be.

Fostering affordable internationalization for junior researchers: 15 years of AILA Europe

Dr. Daniel Perrin, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland

The need for more regional cooperation among applied linguists has long been obvious in Europe in particular, where there always has been a vast amount and a wide variety of work in applied linguistics, but where cross-border cooperation took place only on a smaller scale. At a meeting hosted by the Free University of Bolzano, Italy, September 2006, to increase intra-European cooperation, a group of European AILA affiliates agreed with the then AILA Secretary General, Karlfried Knapp, to set up a Network of European Applied Linguists (AILA Europe).

AILA Europe has as its objectives to improve communication and cooperation among European applied linguists, including efforts to: (a) collaboratively edit a European Journal of Applied Linguistics, focusing on European topics and research done by European scholars in particular, and publishing contributions in several European languages; and to (b) promote early-career scholars via the organization of an annual conference exclusively for junior researchers of applied linguistics from all over Europe where they can present their research findings.

Additional objectives of AILA Europe have included: (c) conducting an annual meeting of representatives from European AILA affiliates where new issues of European concern, in particular with respect to multilingualism, will be identified and where priorities for future cooperation will be set; (d) initiating and carrying out joint projects with respect to the aforementioned Europe-related topics; and (e) achieving consultative status with the European Union and the Council of Europe, given the amount of competence on language policy related issues in Europe available among the European associations of applied linguistics.

In this presentation, I focus on characteristics and outcomes – on the famous spirit – of the AILA Europe Junior Researchers Meetings (JMR) and explain why and how these meetings enable researchers to get and give more for less. 

Transdisciplinarity, Multilingualism and Beyond: 10 Years of AILA East Asia

Dr. Masaki Oda, Tamagawa University, Japan / AILA East Asia

Formed in 2013, AILA East Asia consists of three AILA national affiliates: CELEA (China), ALAK (Korea),  and JAAL-in-JACET (Japan). Each national affiliate has taken turns to host special thematic symposia every year at their annual conferences since 2014. In 2021, JAAL-in-JACET will host its third AILA East Asia Symposium at the 60th Anniversary of JACET in Hiroshima.

Applied linguistics has long been defined as an academic discipline in which the results of linguistic studies are applied to the solution of problems in daily life. As this academic discipline was originally brought to the region primarily through English Language Teaching (ELT), its potential has been explored exclusively in connection with ELT. As a result, there is a prevailing belief as though applied linguistics were a synonym of ELT. Therefore, the language which has been dealt with in the past symposia was mostly English, despite the fact that the needs for applied linguistics is far beyond English and/or language teaching.

This presentation reflects on the developments of the discipline in East Asia and discusses the importance of making necessary adjustments to maximize the potential of applied linguistics to contribute to the solution of problems in language/communication in the region. 

This talk discusses the developments of applied linguistics as an academic discipline in the region with a special attention to their relationship with ELT, in order to clarify the position of ELT within applied linguistics in East Asia, in the past, present, and future. The presentation also identifies areas within applied linguistics in which we need further explorations in order to optimize the discipline to the demands of society in the future.

Transdisciplinarity, multilingualism and global challenges: 3 years of AILA ASEAN

Dr. Azirah Hashim, University of Malaya, Malaysia 

AILA ASEAN was launched in 2018 during a conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with five of the ten ASEAN countries-Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. The network brings together applied linguists from the region, promoting inclusiveness and a greater sense of community. Given common issues in applied linguistics in the region, AILA ASEAN strives to strengthen collaboration in regional activities, for example, through annual joint symposia and exchange of publications. It provides a platform for applied linguists to discuss regional and global issues through a transdisciplinary approach and aims to take a transnational approach to examining common challenges shared beyond national boundaries and to promote regional cooperation in establishing sustainable solutions. 

Currently, pressure exists in all ASEAN countries to promote national languages and, at the same time, to have a pragmatic foreign language policy with English as the favored second language. This conflicts, however, with prevailing multilingual realities. Language education policies providing for multilingualism and respect for mother tongues in ASEAN countries have been adopted, although implementation has varied greatly. COVID-19 has brought some of these issues to the forefront. For example, much of the information available on the pandemic and on the public health response has been in both English and in the national language of the country, while less used and minority and indigenous languages have been neglected. The availability of accurate information is crucial not only for the public but also for health professionals and decision makers. As the example of the pandemic demonstrates, local languages will continue to lose ground to English in the absence of effective language policies. This has implications for applied linguistics research agendas for the AILA regional network. 

This presentation highlights the active role of AILA ASEAN in fostering pragmatic approaches, interactions among academics and practitioners, as well as regional and international collaboration in supporting multilingualism as an effective response to global challenges. Plans to expand the network by engaging applied linguists from other ASEAN countries such as Laos and Cambodia and initiatives such as an AILA ASEAN webinar series will be discussed.


Planning AILA Middle East: Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching Association 

Dr. Wafa Zoghbor & Dr. Christina Gitsaki, Zayed University

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is home to over 200 nationalities speaking over 100 languages along with the official language, Arabic. Within this multilingual context, English has become the lingua franca and bilingual education is the norm. The importance of language learning and cross-cultural communication in the UAE have given rise to the Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching (ALLT) Association, a platform for language professionals across all sectors of education and curricula to share best practices, research, and pursue professional development. 

ALLT was established in October 2017 by fifteen academics from the federal and private higher education institutions in the UAE in response to the unique linguistic environment of the country and the challenges of the bilingual curricula in the schools and the EMI universities. The purpose of ALLT is to improve the profession of Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching in the UAE and the greater Gulf region through: providing professional development opportunities; establishing connection and networking opportunities among its members; encouraging publications relevant to the UAE and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region about language education and use of language in multilingual contexts like the UAE; and fostering research activities about language education. While ALLT is conducting its activities in English, it also encourages contributions in the Arabic language and supports the minority languages in the UAE such as Spanish, French, and Chinese. 

Since its establishment, ALLT has provided training opportunities for more than 150 Emirati teachers in both Arabic and English, published two volumes of proceedings with papers from its annual conference, and brought together over 500 researchers and practitioners in its annual conference and biannual fora. 

ALLT is in the process of becoming affiliated with AILA having received continuous mentorship and support from the AILA Executive Board since its inception back in 2017.


 Reconceptualizing regional membership: Spanish, Portuguese, and affiliated languages

Laura Gurzynski-Weiss, Indiana University
Kyria Finardi, Federal University of Espirito Santo (UFES), Brazil

The Ibero-American Association of Applied Linguists (AIALA, by its abbreviations in both Spanish and Portuguese) will be formally launched in August of 2020. AIALA’s formation was inspired by the need to reflect the rich linguistic diversity in the world within the global organization of AILA, and current events that have demonstrated the critical importance for global collaboration and multilingual perspectives in all areas of science, including and especially in applied linguistics. In creating AIALA, we reconceptualize “regional” membership in terms of Spanish, Portuguese, and affiliated minority language(s) spoken and researched by applied linguists around the world, regardless of current physical residence/geographical location.

AILA’s Ibero-American Association of Applied Linguistics (AIALA), is a collaboration between AAAL (North America), ALAB (Brazil), AMLA (Mexico), and AESLA (Spain), with additional opportunity for membership by AILA members-at-large where there are (yet) no national affiliates, including but not limited to Portugal, Colombia, and Chile. In this presentation, we discuss the formative process in creating this regional organization, the events planned for the inaugural year, ways to get involved, and our vision for this organization that will support and amplify Spanish, Portuguese, and affiliated minority languages, both in terms of applied linguistics research foci and in terms of supporting applied linguists who speak these languages worldwide.

Finally, our presentation demonstrates how we learned from the existing AILA regional organizations, as well as professional organizations supporting Spanish, Portuguese, and affiliated minority languages, in hopes of maximizing participation and benefit to all involved, and all whom we serve. Our work in AIALA, as with all of the regional organizations is aimed towards the common goal of demonstrating how multilingual perspectives in applied linguistics research will always offer a more complete view of and service to all languages and speakers, and the conviction that the increasing viewpoints with which one can engage, the more inclusive and progressive the world will be.