Conversation with a 2021 AAAL Plenary Speaker
Featuring: Dr. Lynda Yates
Getting the balance right: Language learning in and for the contemporary workplace
November 8, 2021
5:00pm CST (UTC-6) / 10:00am AEDT (UTC+11)
AAAL and the Committee for Online Education and Outreach are pleased to announce an opportunity for AAAL members to engage with plenary speakers from the 2021 AAAL conference. For this webinar, please join us for a chat with Dr. Lynda Yates, who will provide a brief overview of the plenary talk before open discussion. You are encouraged to (re-)watch Dr. Yates’ talk before the webinar and also to prepare any questions you may have in advance. Dr. Yates’ talk is now available to view as open-access content on the AAAL website. Registration is free for AAAL members.
Dr. Yates’ AAAL 2021 Plenary Abstract
The nature of the workplace is changing fast, not only with recent technological development and increased globalisation, but also in response to the pressure of world events such as the hugely disruptive current pandemic. At the heart of these macro trends lie the very concrete day-to-day struggles of individuals learning to work in unpredictable environments, and these challenges are particularly acute for immigrants (re)constructing their working lives in a language they have learned later in life. While transnationals vary considerably in their backgrounds, motivations for migration and the roles and organisations in which they find employment, what they share is the need to understand how and why people communicate the way they do in a workplace, and to be able to communicate effectively there themselves.
How best to support this learning is literally a billion-dollar question for many governments and organisations. So, what advice can we, as applied linguists, offer to policy-makers, companies, teachers and the immigrants themselves? In this talk I will address this question by first briefly addressing the nature of language use in the contemporary workplace, how it is changing and some of the characteristics that might distinguish it from everyday discourse. I then explore the knowledge and skills that can assist newcomers to transition to - and keep pace with - their new working environments, focussing in particular on two areas that teachers and learners find particularly challenging: pragmatics and pronunciation. I will then explore the relative roles of on-the-job language socialisation and explicit language programs in preparing immigrants in and for the contemporary workplace, drawing on recent research and examples of professional practice to illustrate some of the challenges, benefits and hidden traps of different approaches. I conclude by identifying some areas where research is urgently needed if we are to address efficiently and effectively the language learning and employment needs of this group to the benefit of all stakeholders.