EmMeth 2012 – A Quick Look Back

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany

I have just returned from a small, ‘intimate’ two-day conference for PhD-students and Post-Docs held at the University of Jena in Germany (February 24-25, 2012). The focus of the conference, which was extraordinarily well organized by the Jena team around my esteemed colleague, Prof. Hermann Funk, was on discussing and choosing appropriate (not only empirical) research methods in the field of German as a second or foreign language (broadly conceived).

The event was framed by two keynotes. I was generously invited to deliver the first one. In my talk, I problematized textbook use in school contexts (and how little we actually know about all this), as well as the future of the textbook and textbook research in second or foreign language school education. I argued that marketing slogans such as ‘dead-tree textbooks are a thing of the past’  (Apple computers) are premature,  but that we are definitely faced with new opportunities and challenges in all areas of FL/SL textbook research (i.e. in researching textbook use, in evaluating existing textbooks, and in devoloping new language learning media and materials for the classroom of the future). New challenges for textbook research are, for instance,  transmediality,  media hybridity, and integrative diversification (of underlying methodology, print and digital materials, etc.), to name just a few.

The second keynote speech, delivered by Michael H. Long (University of Maryland) on the final day of the conference, was clearly a highlight. Based on his own research on classroom interaction and error correction, on implicit as well as explicit learning, Mike argued convincingly for ‘matched studies’ (i.e. studies on one particular issue conducted both in laboratory and in naturalistic environments). I agree that combined studies such as these can potentially enhance the (external/ecological) validity of research findings, making it easier for practitioners to translate these findings into actual day-by-day classroom practice.

In between the keynotes, there was plenty of time to discuss all aspects of relevance to FL/SL research and methodology, in workshops and seminars, during the poster sessions and in hallway exchanges. Personally, I learned a lot about MaxQDA (a very interesting software package for text analytical research, both quantitative and qualitative), and I was also able to update my knowledge about transcription systems, language archiving and text analysis, and related software like ELAN (MPI Nijmegen), EXMARaLDA (Hamburg University), FOLKER (IDS Mannheim), and Praat  (University of Amsterdam).

So, all in all, the EmMeth 2012 was well worth a visit. The next conference will be held in Vienna, Austria in 2013.


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