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Science, technology, and values in applied linguistics. Guy Cook. Applied Linguistics is a technology. Applied Linguistics is a technology which makes abstract ideas and research findings accessible and relevant to the real world; it mediates between theory and practice.

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Applied Linguistics is a technology which makes abstract ideas and research findings accessible and relevant to the real world; it mediates between theory and practice.

Kaplan and Widdowson 1992.

structure of this talk
Structure of this talk
  • technology in general.
  • development and scope of applied linguistics
  • an example from applied linguistics and language teaching


the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes



the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes especially for industry

  • Economic Performance and Sustainable Growth
  • Influencing Behaviour and Informing Interventions
  • Vibrant and Fair Society

The application of linguistic knowledge to some object – or applied linguistics, as its name implies – is an activity. It is not a theoretical study. It makes use of the findings of theoretical studies. The applied linguist is a consumer, or user, not a producer, of theories.

Corder 1973:10


Of all the areas of applied linguistics, none has shown the effects of linguistic findings, principles and techniques more than foreign-language teaching – so much so that the term ‘applied linguistics’ is often taken as being synonymous with that task.

Corder 1973: cover notes, emphasis added


linguistics applied


applied linguistics

(Widdowson 1984)


The theoretical and empirical investigation of real-world problems in which language is

a central issue.

(Brumfit 1995:27)


It is hard to think of any ‘real-world’ problems – from global warming, to refugees to genetic counselling to outsourced call centres to AIDS/HIV to military intelligence – that do not have a crucial component of language use

Myers 2005


Applied Linguistics

AIMS (current 2014)

the study of language related problems in specific situations in which people use and learn languages....

..... within this framework the journal welcomes contributions from .....


bilingualism and multilingualism

  • computer mediated communication
  • conversation analysis
  • corpus linguistics
  • critical discourse analysis
  • deaf linguistics
  • discourse analysis and pragmatics
  • first and additional language learning, teaching and use
  • forensic linguistics
  • language assessment and testing
  • language planning and policy
  • language for specific purposes
  • lexicography
  • literacies
  • multimodal communication
  • rhetoric and stylistics
  • translation and interpreting.

applied linguistics is a technology

  • decisions about technologies involve evaluation
  • contemporary applied linguistics technology is both dynamic and broad in scope.

An example

The monolingual assumption

The best way to teach and learn

a language is through the medium

of that language itself.

criteria for teaching and learning
Criteria for teaching and learning
  • Historical
  • ‘Scientific’
  • Pedagogic
  • Educational

“I will say that I have taken a strong stand against any use of the L1 in an L2 classroom, and all my TESL students know that if they ever utter a word of Bahasa Malaysia in the classroom I will burst into their classroom and strangle them in front of their students.”

(Interview data, Marcia Fisk-Ong 2003)

grammar translation
Grammar Translation
  • dry
  • dull
  • all writing, no speaking
  • all accuracy, no fluency
  • all form, no communication
  • easily mocked

The cat of my aunt is more treacherous than the dog of your uncle

  • My sons have bought the mirrors of the duke.
  • Horses are taller than tigers.
  • The philosopher pulled the lower jaw of the hen.
an alternative to extremism
An alternative to extremism
  • ‘judicious’ or ‘optimal’ own-language use Macaro (1997)
  • ‘appropriate’ combination Stern (1992).
  • a structured and principled deployment of the own language, Butzkamm & Caldwell (2009: 150)
  • overuse, or even major use
  • unplanned incidental occurrence
  • resorting to own-language use when tired
  • or short of time.

The businessman

Henry Sweet


The academic


Expediency, commerce and politics

  • immigration/ travel/ business
  • multilingual classes
  • monolingual teachers
  • single print runs
  • national interests

We have room for but one language in this country, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.

(President T Roosevelt 1926: 554)

justifications of a technology1
Justifications of a technology
  • Historical
  • ‘Scientific’
english language teaching
English Language Teaching


Cross lingual Teaching

(translation, L1 explanations)

Intralingual Teaching

(aka The Direct Method)


Form Focus

(L2 explanation

synthetic syllabus)

Meaning focus

(analytic syllabuses

natural approach,,CLT

task based teaching)




How well do these analyses succeed in generating precise predictions for patterns in language learning? Can we use these predictions to improve language learning?”

(MacWhinney 2006: 734)

problem one what is success
Problem One: What is ‘success’?
  • Native-like form
  • Native-like use
  • Subconscious automated knowledge
  • Monolingual use
  • Cultural conformity
authentic contemporary code switching
Authentic contemporary code switching
  • mixed language partnerships
  • migrant families
  • schools
  • workforces
  • international businesses
  • multilingual notices and announcements
  • internet multiple language use
  • films, news

“SLA researchers seem to have neglected the fact that the goal of SLA is bilingualism”

Sridhar and Sridhar (1986:5)


Problem Two: no research!!

“Unfortunately, empirical work on the effect of translation exercises on L2 learners morphosyntax is scant.”

Källkvist (2008)

“To our knowledge, no research has examined the value of contrastive FFI [Form Focused Instruction] of vocabulary, such as interlingual comparisons with learner’s L1, or translation.” Laufer and Girsai (2008)


“You are right - translation is given little attention by SLA researchers. The only exception is that translation is sometimes used as an elicitation tool to obtain L2 data. As such it is viewed sceptically because it is likely to encourage L1 transfer and thus to overstate the role this plays in L2 acquisition..”Rod Ellis (personal communication))

criteria for teaching and learning1
Criteria for teaching and learning
  • Historical
  • ‘Scientific’
  • Pedagogic

“Psychology and linguistics have caused a good deal of harm by pretending to have answers to those questions and telling teachers (...) how they should behave. Often the ideas presented by the scientists are totally crazy and they may cause trouble. (...) The truth of the matter is that about 99 percent of teaching is making the students feel interested in the material”.

(Chomsky 1988:180-182)

“I haven't heard of any data-based L2 motivation studies that used L1 use in the classroom as a motivational variable.”

(Zoltan Dornyei, personal communication)



“while in the classroom the teachers try to keep the two languages separate, the learners in their own minds keep the two in contact.”

(Widdowson 2003:150)



“….putting students at ease, conveying teacher's empathy and, in general, creating a less threatening atmosphere.” (Canagarajah 1999 : 132).



“At this point I was truly concerned about his feelings and unconsciously switched to English, the language that, quite frankly, was the most ‘real’ for all of us (.....) The point is that my concern about my students as individuals, as human beings, at times transcends my concern for with L2 acquisition process.”

Edstrom (2006)



“The research evolved from the personal experience of my return to the foreign language classroom as an adult. (….) This began the very first day of class when the teacher spoke only Spanish. I felt I had walked into the second act of a three act play, or that I had gotten into the wrong classroom. I had enrolled in a beginning class because I wanted to learn the language, so of course I could not understand anything the teacher was saying, and wondering why she acted as if I should was worrisome, making an already stressful situation even more so. (....)

(Brooks-Lewis 2009)



  • confidence and organization
  • explicit knowledge
  • avoidance avoidance
  • not falling for faux amis
  • acknowledging student expertise
  • linking new to existing knowledge

Claimed disadvantages

  • Interference/ transfer
  • Lack of automaticity
  • Word-for-wordism
justifications of a technology2
Justifications of a technology
  • Historical
  • ‘Scientific’
  • Pedagogic
  • Educational
educational criteria
Educational criteria
  • Personal fulfilment and development
  • Social change
  • Social usefulness
a different world
A different world
  • globalisation
  • complex identity
  • mobile migrant populations
  • multiple language use
  • digital communication
  • English as a lingua franca

“However, speaking English enables parents to converse with their children in English, as well as in their historic mother tongue, at home and to participate in wider modern culture. It helps overcome the schizophrenia which bedevils generational relationships. In as many as 30% of Asian British households, according to the recent citizenship survey, English is not spoken at home. But let us be clear that lack of English fluency did not cause the riots.”

(David Blunkett What does citizenship mean today? The Observer September 15, 2002)


“confound their language, that

they may not understand one another's speech”

“the whole earth was of

one language, and of

one speech”


“One nation,

one people,

one language”


“One classroom,

one learner,

one language”

you re in britain
You’re in Britain

1) You’re visiting the house of a British friend. It’s very beautiful. Do you:

  • a) tell him how beautiful it is?
  • b) ask how much it cost?
  • c) ask if he’ll take you round every room? (....)

Morrow and Johnson 1979

you re in britain1
You’re in Britain

2) You meet a British friend in the street. You last saw him two days ago. Do you

  • a) just say hello?
  • b) say hello and shake his hand?
  • c) put your arm around his shoulder and slap him on the back?

Morrow and Johnson 1979

you re in britain2
You’re in Britain

3) You’re at a party and have just been introduced to someone. While you are talking he mentions that his wife is not at the party. Do you:

  • a) ask where his wife is?
  • b) change the subject?
  • c) ask if he gets on well with his wife?

Morrow and Johnson 1979

the monolingual assumption
The monolingual assumption
  • dissociates new from existing knowledge
  • develops only monolingual skills
  • hinders confidence and explicit knowledge
  • denies the inevitable
  • hinders teacher student rapport
  • fails to redress language imbalance
promoted monolingual native speaker rather than bilingual international models of English
  • demoted non native speaker teachers to second class status
  • saw language learning as unrelated to the learner's own language and identity: a substitution rather than an addition.
own language use
Own language use
  • has no sound scientific evidence against it
  • makes pedagogic sense
  • is relevant and useful
  • maintains diversity and identity
  • builds upon student knowledge
  • promotes awareness
  • acknowledges that languages have an untranslatable spirit
aspects of expertise
Aspects of expertise
  • Ability to move, mediate, and translate between languages
  • Metalinguistic knowledge
  • International comprehensibility
  • Individual and cultural identity
  • Literacy, computer multimodal literacy,
  • Transactional, social and creative functions
english language teaching1
English Language Teaching


Cross lingual Teaching

(translation, L1 explanations)

Intralingual Teaching

(aka The Direct Method)


Form Focus

(L2 explanation

synthetic syllabus)

Meaning focus

(analytic syllabuses

natural approach,,CLT

task based teaching)



Own Language Movement


Butzkamm, W. and J. A. W. Caldwell. 2009. The Bilingual Reform: A Paradigm Shift in Foreign Language Teaching. Narr Studienbücher.

Cook, Guy. 2010. Translation in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press

Forman, R. 2010. 'Ten principles of bilingual pedagogy in EFL' in A. Mahboob (ed.): The NNEST lens: Non-native English speakers in TESOL. Cambridge Scholars Press.

Hall, Graham and Guy Cook. 2012 Own-language use in language teaching and learning: the state of the art. Language Teaching. 45/3: 271-308

Stern, H.H. 1992. Issues and Options in Language Teaching. Chapter 10. Oxford University Press.

Widdowson, H. G. 2003. Chapter on 'Bilingualization' in Defining Issues in English Language Teaching. Oxford University Press.


Deller, S. and Rinvolucri, M. 2002. Using the Mother Tongue. London: English Teaching Professional/ Delta

Duff, Alan 1989. Translation. (Resource Books for Teachers) Oxford: Oxford University Press.

González Davies, M. 2004. Multiple Voices in the Translation Classroom: Activities, tasks and projects. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Kerr, Philip 2013 Translation and Own-language Activities (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers) Cambridge University Press


yes applied linguistics is a technology and one which is broadening in scope

  • in practice it is driven by history and, expediency,
  • it is only informed by research
  • but ultimately driven by values

Other references.

Block, D., John Gray and M. Holborow 2012Neoliberalism and Applied Linguistics. Routledge.

Birch, Barbara 2009. The English Language Teacher in Global Civil Society. Routledge

Brooks-Lewis, K. A. 2009. ‘Adult Learners’ Perceptions of the Incorporation of their L1 in Foreign Language Teaching and Learning.’ Applied Linguistics 30.2: 216-235.

Brumfit, C. J. 1995. Teacher professionalism and research. In Guy Cook and Barbara Seidlhofer (eds.). Principle and practice in applied linguistics. Oxford University Press: 27-42.

Canagarajah, A. Suresh. 1999. Resisting Linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching. New York: Oxford University Press.

Chomsky, Noam 1988. Language and the Problems of Knowledge: The Managua Lectures. Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Cook, Guy 2003. Applied Linguistics. Oxford University Press.

Cook, Guy 2004. Genetically Modified Language. Routledge.

Corder, S. Pit. 1973. Introducing applied linguistics. Harmondsworth, Penguin.

Edstrom, A. 2006. ‘L1 use in the L2 classroom: One teacher’s self-evaluation.’ The Canadian Modern Language Review 63(2): 275-292.

Fisk Ong, Marcia 2002 Unpublished conference paper, APAC Barcelona

Hall, Graham and Guy Cook (2012) ‘Own-language use in ELT: exploring global practices and attitudes’ British Council ELT Research Papers. London, British Council.

Howatt, A.P.R. , with H.G.Widdowson. 2002. A History of English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Källkvist, M. 2008. ‘L1-L2 translation versus no translation: A longitudinal study of focus-on-formS within a meaning-focused curriculum’ in L. Ortega and H.Byrnes (eds.). The Longitudinal Study of Advanced L2 Capacities.London: Routledge.

Kramsch, Claire. 2010.The Multilingual Subject. Oxford University Press.

Laufer, B. and Girsai, N. 2008. Form-focused Instruction in Second Language Vocabulary Learning: A Case for Contrastive Analysis and Translation.Applied Linguistics. 29(4): 694-716 

Macaro, E. 1997. Target language, collaborative learning and autonomy. Multilingual Matters.

Macaro, E. 2009. 'Teacher Use of Codeswitching in the Second Language Classroom: Exploring ‘Optimal’ Use' in M. Turnbull and J. Dailey-O’Cain (eds.): First language use in second and foreign language learning. Multilingual Matters, 35–49.

MacWhinney, Brian 2006 ‘Emergentism - use often and with care’ discussion paper Applied Linguistics Special Issue: language Emergence 27/4 729-740

Morrow, Keith and Johnson, Keith. 1979. Communicate. Cambridge University Press.

Myers, Greg 2005. Applied Linguistics and Institutions of Opinion. Applied Linguistics 26/4: 527-544

Seidlhofer, Barbara 2011. Understanding English as a lingua franca. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Stern, H.H. 1992. Issues and options in language teaching. Oxford University Press.

Turnbull, M. and J. Dailey-O’Cain (eds.) 2009. First language use in second and foreign language learning. Multilingual Matters.

Widdowson, H. G. 2003 The Theory of Practice in Defining Issues in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press.