LESLLA intends to bring together linguists, psycho-linguists, psychologists and educational scientists to establish a multi-country and multi-target-language research group to study effective methods of language acquisition and literacy. No other group exists that meets regularly to consider interdisciplinary research on adult immigrants learning to speak and write a language other than their native language.
Background Information on Low-educated/Illiterate Second Language Learners
There exists a substantial body of work on adult second language acquisition (SLA) and second/foreign language learning, yet most studies deal with adults with native-language schooling through at least secondary school. Unlike for children, there has been little investigation into the linguistic competence and the metalinguistic processes connected with reading development of immigrant L2 adults with little or no native language schooling. This gap is not only remarkable, it is unfortunate. In many countries the majority of immigrants are low educated. For some decades now western countries have been dealing with these immigrants who are gaining literacy for the first time in their life in order to start their educational ‘career’ and to apply for citizenship. The response of educational policy makers has been inconsistent. Without a solid evidence base, this is to be expected.
Lack of Research on Low-educated/Illiterate Second Language Learners
Only a small fraction of current research concerns the most vulnerable second language (L2) learners: low or non-literate adults with at the most primary schooling in their native language. Since initial interest in the 1980s there has been silence on this research domain apart from a few studies in European countries, in the Netherlands (Kurvers & Van der Zouw, 1990; Kurvers, 2002), in the USA (Young-Scholten & Strom 2004; Condelli and Wrigley, 2003) and in Sweden (Skeppstedt, 2003). Studies of adults have either focused on educational practices or have involved adults who failed to learn to read and write in their native language despite schooling. Previous studies of immigrants, such as the European Science Foundation’s 1980s study of adults from six different language backgrounds in five European countries, have left unaddressed a range of issues whose resolution has the potential to directly impact educational policy. These include variation in input from different sources (extra-classroom, the classroom and written text) and variation in cognitive ability relating to language aptitude and working memory.
LESLLA: A New Forum on a New Research Topic
Research on language acquisition and literacy is interdisciplinary and international. LESLLA brings together researchers and practitioners from many countries with backgrounds in linguistics, psycho-linguistics, psychology and education to establish an international and multi-target-language research agenda. During annual symposia and information sharing throughout the year, LESLLA participants will increase the body of knowledge and outline the areas of research that require investigation for low-educated second language learners. The group’s ultimate aim is to use research to improve practice and inform second language education policy in all those countries in which the immigrants most needing educational supports settle.