November Updates: Daycare, Book, Article, Award!

November is traditionally the crunch month in the academic calendar, marking the almost end of a long semester (Weeks 11-15 of 17 at my institution).  Everyone is tired, stressful assignments are coming up, we’re behind and there’s less time to catch up, it’s getting cold.  This year, of course, we also have pandemic anxiety and fatigue, and with case counts rising sharply, New Mexico entered a full lockdown on November 16.  Not to mention the weeks of election anxiety and transition stalling*. At the same time, November also brought several bright points in my academic career, so I thought I’d share those here!

This book specifically confronts the impact of monolingual language ideologies on language learning in study abroad, and argues for taking a multilingual approach in research and practice.  It features a variety of geographic contexts (Tanzania, Brazil, Germany, Jordan, Oman, China, South Korea, and Spain), and chapters by Jamie A. Thomas, Uju Anya, Janice McGregor, Wenhao Diao, Lucien Brown, Tracy Quan, Brandon Tullock, Lourdes Ortega, and myself).  If you are interested in anything I write on this blog about language ideologies, multilingual approaches, or study abroad, I highly recommend checking it out!

Our article, a work in progress since 2013 (really!) focuses on one of the most often raised questions in teaching Arabic, which is what to do about all of the dialects?  This is a topic about which there are a lot of opinions, but very little concrete evidence.  We devised a listening test composed of intermediate level texts in four dialects (North African, Egyptian, Levantine, Gulf) and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and administered it to native (NS) and non-native speakers (NNS) of Arabic.  We looked at what predicted the ability to understand unfamiliar dialects for these speakers, including their MSA score, familiar dialect score, and dialect identification abilities as predictors.  We found that for the most part, NS scored highly on all varieties, and none of the predictors were significant, possibly due to ceiling effects on the scores themselves.  NNS also scored fairly highly across dialects, though not as high as NS.  For NNS, the ability to correctly identify their familiar variety was a predictor of understanding unfamiliar varieties, leading us to posit a role for metalinguistic awareness that should be further studied in the future.  We also compared NS and NNS beliefs about learning Arabic dialects, and found that while both favored learning MSA and dialect rather than one or the other, NS were more likely to favor learning one dialect (usually Egyptian or Levantine), while NNS were more likely to favor learning multiple dialects (Egyptian and Levantine, or other dialects as well).  


*As an aside on this, there’s something about listening to Trump’s refusal to concede in the Arabic news media that makes this even more appalling than listening to English news media, as I’m so used to hearing the exact same phrases used for decades-long dictators I suppose.


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