30 July 2021
MAAL Symposium on Child Language Disorders and Multilingualism
30 July 2021 (4.00 pm – 6.00 pm)

On 30 July 2021, the MAAL Symposium on Child Language Disorders and Multilingualism was held via ZOOM, organised by the Malaysian Association of Applied Linguistics (MAAL), in collaboration with the Faculty of Education, Languages and Psychology, SEGi University, the Centre for Modern Languages and Literature (CMLL) and Universiti Tuanku Abd Rahman (UTAR). This event was also live-streamed on MAAL’s Facebook page.

The Keynote Speaker was Professor Dr. Lixian Jin from the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, who spoke on “Assessing Chinese-speaking children with Speech and Language Therapy Needs – Challenges faced by SLTs in China”. In her address, she presented the findings from a project funded by the British Academy of Medical Sciences exploring the circumstances and provisions for assessing Mandarin-speaking clients. Drawing upon feedback from 145 respondents from Chinese speech and language therapists (SLTs) who worked specifically with clients with SL problems to help identify key difficulties in assessing their clients, she highlighted three fundamental problems that emerged from the data: a severe shortage of reliable and valid speech and language assessment tools in Chinese; a lack of specific training to use those available tools; and the adaptation of assessment tools from other languages that may not fit the Chinese contexts culturally, linguistically and possibly clinically. She concluded her presentation by highlighting the need to develop and make accessible to SLTs appropriate standardised speech and language assessment tools, in order to establish systematic and affordable pre- and in-service SLT training programmes in China.

Following the Keynote Address was the Plenary session, with Associate Professor Dr. Maria Garraffa from the Department of Speech & Language Therapy, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom as the first Plenary Speaker, who spoke on “Learning of grammar in typical and atypical language development: language specific vulnerabilities and clinical perspectives”.

In her presentation, she spoke of how implicit learning mechanisms associated with detecting structural regularities have been proposed to underlie both the long-term acquisition of linguistic structure and a short-term tendency to repeat linguistic structure across sentences (structural priming) in typically developing children.

She further explained how recent research suggested that a deficit in such mechanisms may explain the inconsistent trajectory of language learning displayed by children with Developmental Learning Disorder (DLD), and that they may learn less from each linguistic experience than typically developing children, and so require more input to achieve the same learning outcome with respect to syntax.

Studies on both typical and atypical grammatical development were presented, with her research findings supporting the idea that structural priming is an effective technique for manipulating both input quality and quantity to determine precisely how DLD is related to language input. She concluded by sharing how input tailored to take into account the cognitive profile of this population can be optimised in designing interventions.

The second Plenary Speaker was Associate Professor Dr. Rogayah A Razak from the Department of Postgraduate Studies, SEGi University, Malaysia, with her presentation titled ‘Sentence Repetition Task & Assessment of Language Abilities of Multilingual Children in Malaysia’. She spoke of how there are over 130 languages spoken in Malaysia, and thus the challenges in assessing and diagnosing language disorders in children from multilingual backgrounds and the lack of locally produced assessment tools have been well documented. However, this presents linguistic and cultural biases that hinder adequate assessment of language difficulties in multilingual children.

The highlight of her presentation was the introduction of a sentence repetition (SR) tool which can be used to measure grammatical abilities (morphology and syntax) among monolingual/multilingual typical and atypical children. SR has been extensively described as a useful tool in identifying language processing abilities and weaknesses and has been widely used clinically in identifying children with language difficulties, in particular children with developmental language disorder (DLD). Data presented was drawn from 3 studies: SR on monolingual Malay children, SR on bilingual Malay children and SR on multilingual Chinese children. She concluded that although there is a need to start the research from the perspective of monolingual children, the ultimate destination is the description of multilingual abilities and multilingual language assessment tools.

The symposium was moderated by Associate Professor Dr Yap Ngee Thai from the Faculty of Modern Languages & Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia. Overall, a total of 139 participants attended the event, out of which 14 were UTAR academics and 33 UTAR students.
25 August 2021
Talk on Best Strategies for Writing and Successfully Publishing a Journal Article 25 August 2021, 3.00 pm – 5.00 pm

On 25 August 2021, the Centre for Modern Languages & Literature (CMLL) organised a talk on ‘Best Strategies for Writing and Successfully Publishing a Journal Article’ by Associate Professor Dr Shanthini Pillai Faculty from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia using the ZOOM platform. In her talk, she presented the best strategies for writing and successfully publishing a journal article, drawing on a 25-year journey of active publication.

She elucidated on the ways in which to manage changing cartographies of research trajectories in order to contribute to an everchanging course of scholarly conversations in one’s own field. Areas covered included how to screen target journals, ensuring that the submission is aligned with their scope and focus. She advised scrutinising the journals’ recent publications patterns first in order to establish the right fit.

With regards to the best practices in preparing manuscripts, the scope of discussion encompassed structuring a clear concise title, to preparing abstracts and ensuring that the writing was aligned to the focus of the journal, and provided some new angles to established arguments which contribute to existing conversations on the subject matter. She reminded participants that literature reviews should be an attempt to engage with and enrich preexisting conversations on the subject, and not be mere replicas of existing conversations. Research design and methodology should be appropriate to the study and show awareness of, and engage with, current developments in the field. Conclusions should engage with the discussion and be clearly supported by the analysis/content, address the original problem investigated, highlight the implications of the findings and ultimately reiterate its significance and contribution to the field. Post-review revisions are to done carefully, preferably with a Table of Corrections, highlighting in the main text where amendments were made. Any counter-argument to reviewers’ comments are to be made objectively and professionally.

The talk concluded with a review of a sample article, followed by a Q &A session moderated by Assistant Professor Dr Angeline Wong Wei Wei. A total of 51 participants attended this event, comprising 30 UTAR academic staff and 21 students.
8 - 10 September 2021
2nd Malaysian Association of Applied Linguistics International Conference (MAALIC 2021)

UTAR collaborates with MAAL to organise MAALIC 2021

The 2nd Malaysian Association of Applied Linguistics International Conference (MAALIC 2021) was held from 8 September 2021 to 10 September 2021 via Zoom. The three-day virtual conference was organised by the Malaysian Association of Applied Linguistics (MAAL), in collaboration with Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR). The virtual conference was supported by Emerald Publishing, Universiti Malaya, SEGi University, Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP), Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Malacca Campus, City University Malaysia and MAAL Young Researchers Outreach.

Bearing the theme ‘Applied Linguistics Research and Practices in a VUCA World: Embracing Digitalisation, Challenges and New Norms’, the virtual conference aimed to showcase how applied linguistics and its sub-fields interpret the events that unravel in our VUCA world, as well as to share insights on how applied linguistics can be used as a tool to provide solutions for a more sustainable world. Moreover, it also aimed at providing a platform for academics, researchers, teachers, educational representatives and industry practitioners to share their knowledge, ideas, creativity and innovation within the field of applied linguistics and other fields. The three-day conference featured keynote presentations, parallel sessions, symposiums, plenary sessions, panel discussions, e-poster presentations and competition, and post-conference workshops. The conference tracks included “Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching and Learning”, “Applied Linguistics, Discourse Studies and Professional Communication”, “Bilingualism and Multilingualism”, “Applied Linguistics, Technology and Digital Literacy”, “Language Assessment & Evaluation”, “Language Planning, Policy and Preservation”, “Language and Translation”, “Sociolinguistics and Pragmatics” and “Other Areas of Applied Linguistics”.

The 2nd MAALIC 2021 commenced with welcome remarks by MAALIC 2021 Conference Chair-cum-President of MAAL Prof Dr Shameem Rafik-Galea, followed by an opening speech from Founder and Advisor of MAAL-cum-President of International Association of Applied Linguistics (AILA) Prof Dr Azirah Hashim.

Prof Shameem welcoming the participants

Prof Shameem said as she welcomed the participants, “On behalf of MAALIC 2021 committee, I am pleased to welcome all of you to the 2nd Malaysian Association of Applied Linguistics International Conference. The theme of this virtual conference is “Applied Linguistics Research and Practices in a VUCA World: Embracing Digitalisation, Challenges and New Norms’ which aptly addresses the uncertainties that we presently live in and hence proposes to explore new routes in applied linguistics research now and in the future. Therefore, it is a good start towards the rumination and exposition of how applied linguists can think better, with originality and enthusiasm, and hence assist in the creation of a solid and progressive research agenda that supports UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - SDG 4: Quality Education.”

She added, “A big thank you to my co-chairs Assoc Prof Dr Cordelia Mason, deputy president of MAAL, Dr Nadya Supian of UTAR, the MAAL and MAALIC executive committee and the entire organising committee from both MAAL and UTAR for your hard work and dedication in organising this conference together amidst trying and challenging times. MAALIC takes this opportunity to also thank our sponsors for their generous contribution and supporting bodies such as Emerald Publishing for their support. We also extend our thanks to all the paper presenters and participants for their support of MAALIC 2021. Without all of your support, this conference would not have been possible.”

Prof Azirah giving her opening speech

In her opening speech, Prof Azirah said, “The theme ‘Applied Linguistics Research and Practices in a VUCA World: Embracing Digitalisation, Challenges and New Norms’, is both current and relevant. It raises awareness of the language-related challenges that have been brought about by the pandemic, as well as critical language issues that are related to the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and agenda that AILA had endorsed.”

She added, “The keynotes, plenary and featured talks, together with symposia themes highlight the broad range of areas of language study in applied linguistics relevant to an equally broad spread of domains of practice. They are united by a common focus on real-world problems. Presentations highlight the importance of pragmatic approaches and interactions among academics and practitioners. They also demonstrate how applied linguists can engage with new audiences in new ways, how they relate to policymakers, influence debate, and ensure that our understandings gain purchase in the public sphere. I would like to congratulate all the committee members for preparing a highly interesting programme, catering to a wide range of applied linguists, practitioners, policymakers and industry players dealing with or interested in languages and language issues in Malaysia and the region. Last but not least, I wish all participants an enjoyable and fruitful experience. I hereby now declare the MAALIC 2021 Conference officially open.”

Prof Vijay presented on “Demystifying Contesting Narratives in Multidisciplinary & Multiperspective Covid-19 Discourse”

Prof Dr Andrew (left) presented on “Why Multilingual Ecologies Matter: Language Policy within Macau’s Historically Diverse Ecology”

Prof Lorna spoke about “Researching Multilingual Cities for Inclusion and Participation”

Dr Susanto spoke about “Language and Crime in Cyber World”

Four keynote speakers were invited to enlighten the participants. The speaker for the first day was Adjunct Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Visiting Professor at the Hellenic American University in Athens (Greece) Prof Vijay Bhatia with his topic “Demystifying Contesting Narratives in Multidisciplinary & Multiperspective Covid-19 Discourse”. The second day saw two keynote presentations by two speakers, namely Prof Dr Andrew Moody from the University of Macau, China and Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin Head of the School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Sciences Prof Lorna Carson on their respective topics titled “Why Multilingual Ecologies Matter: Language Policy within Macau’s Historically Diverse Ecology” and “Researching Multilingual Cities for Inclusion and Participation”. The speaker for the third day was Universitas Bandar Lampung (UBL), Indonesia Head of the Centre for Studies in Linguistics Dr Susanto Saman with his topic titled “Language and Crime in Cyber World”.

UTAR academics presented their research during the parallel sessions

The parallel sessions saw presenters from UTAR presenting their respective topics. Faculty of Creative Industries (FCI) Department of Modern Languages lecturer Dr Hooi Chee Mei presented on “Importance of Metadiscourse Forms in Malaysian Business News”; FCI Department of Modern Languages lecturer Dr Kayatri Vasu presented on “Rethinking Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education for a PostPandemic World: Practices and Challenges”; FCI Department of Modern Languages lecturer Dr Swagata Sinha Roy presented on “Digital Literacy Among English Language Educators” and “The Usage of the Mother Tongue Among the Nepali Diaspora in Malaysia”; Centre for Foundation Studies (Sungai Long Campus) Department of Arts and Social Science lecturer Parveenpal Kaur Najar Singh presented on “Sadi Maa Boli: Challenges of Preserving Panjabi Language” and UTAR PhD candidate Evon Wong Yee Wan presented on “Not Just Crafts Making: Visual Arts Activities and Early Second Language Learning.”

Dr Sumathi Renganathan presented on “Language, Literacy and Education: Access, Quality and Concerns for the Indigenous Orang Asli in Malaysia”

e-Poster Presentation by Wilson Tan, who presented on “ESP Students’ Vocabulary Acquisition through Game-based Learning and Detection of Metacognitive Awareness”

Day one featured four panellists from various industries who spoke about “Leading in A VUCA World—The Role of Language and Communication”

Day two featured five panellists from various industries who spoke about “Communication Strategies to Un-VUCA our Pandemic-Hit World: Perspectives from Industry Leaders”

Day one of the MAAL Featured Panel saw four panellists, namely Blueleaf Energy Singapore Engineering Director Viktor Dancza; Freelance Communications Specialist, CEO & Founder of AfrAsia and Co-Founder of Djembe Consultants Sangeetha Umakanthan; University of Wollongong School of Education lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Michelle Eady and National University of Singapore Director of the Centre for English Language Communication and Deputy Master of Tembusu College Assoc Prof Dr Lee Kooi Cheng. The topic of discussion was “Leading in A VUCA World-The Role of Language and Communication”. The session was moderated by Singapore Institute of Technology lecturer Assistant Prof Dr Radhika Jaidev.

Day two of the MAAL Featured Panel saw five different panellists from the industries, namely Partner at Zain & Co and Advisory Panel of Charity Right Salwah Abdul Shukor; Brique Engineering Solutions CEO, Founder of Demilaut and a Social Enterprise Haaziq Ibrahim; Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Cardiologist Dr Yong Junina Fadzil; CEO, Founder and Impact Consultant at Ideascape Consulting Group Sdn Bhd Rumaizon Abdul Malik and Pearl Ambassador, Country Director (Philippines & Thailand) of AVITA Alvin Yong. The topic of discussion was “Communication Strategies to Un-VUCA our Pandemic-Hit World: Perspectives from Industry Leaders”. The session was moderated by Universiti Kuala Lumpur lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Cordelia Mason.

Clockwise from top right: Dr Rachanee, Dr Ariane, Prof Stefanie, Prof Amrin and Dr Willy during the AILA ASEAN Symposium

The AILA ASEAN Symposium, themed ‘Applied Linguistics Research and Practices in a Changing World: Perspectives from Southeast Asia’ took place on the third day of the conference. It was moderated by Prof Azirah Hashim. The symposium saw five presenters from Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. Dr Willy Ardian Renandya from the National Institute of Education, National Technological University Singapore (representing Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics (SAAL)) presented on “How Good Readers can Become Good Writers”; Dr Rachanee Dersingh from King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand (representing Thailand Association for Applied Linguistics (TAAL)) presented on “Multilingualism at a Crossroads: Linguistic Landscape of the Thai Lao Border”; Assoc Prof Dr Ariane Macalinga Borlongan from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (representing the Linguistic Society of the Philippines (LSP)) presented on “Multilingualism and Migration in Southeast Asia: Prospects for Migration Linguistics”; Prof Dr Amrin Saragih from the State University of Medan, Indonesia (representing Indonesian Association of Applied Linguistics (IAAL)) presented on “Critical Literacies Integrated in Language Learning as a Means of Enhancing National Unity” and Prof Dr Stefanie Pillai from Universiti Malaya, Malaysia (representing Malaysian Association of Applied Linguistics (MAAL)) presented on “Changing Dynamics in Linguistic Research on Endangered Languages”.

The launch of MAAL Pillars (left) and MAAL Journal (right) during the closing ceremony

Dr Cordelia (left) and Dr Nadya (right) delivering their closing speech

MAALIC 2021 Conference Deputy Co-Chairs Assoc Prof Dr Cordelia Mason said during the closing ceremony, “When we click “leave” later, each of us will leave with different feelings and memory from MAALIC 2021. For me, this conference will remain in my mind as a testimony of the enabling power of information and communication technology. Despite the pandemic, we were able to gather esteem and aspiring scholars and practitioners as well as seasoned and aspiring researchers by levering on the facilitative features of the internet and the own mind platform. MAALIC 2021 has planted the seed of interest to further collaborate in various domains of Applied Linguistics, with much commitment and dedication. I am confident that MAAL will be able to leverage the field of Applied Linguistics to contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) especially SDG 4 – providing quality education. Let us continue to Un-VUCA the world (our world) in the respective roles we play. All the best!”

 “We have come to the end of the 2nd Malaysian Association of Applied Linguistics International Conference. Well, what a whirlwind-three days it has been! From the impactful keynote presentations, plenary sessions, featured speakers and workshops, symposia, a wide range of topics relating to Applied Linguistics, MAAL featured panel and MAAL forums, AILA ASEAN Symposium, parallel presentation to e-posters, this conference truly had everything in one channel! I would like to take this opportunity to thank MAAL Founder and Advisor, Prof Azirah and MAAL President Prof Shameem, who guided us every step of the way, and the MAAL Organising Committee for their generosity in collaborating with us in organising an event of this scale. We are certainly honoured to be part of this contribution towards the development of knowledge in the field. A big thank you to all the speakers, presenters and performers for your efforts and dedication in contributing to make this conference even more meaningful for everyone. My next biggest thank you will of course, go to the Dream Team from the Centre for Modern Languages & Literature for their commitment and dedication, and special thanks to the UTAR Software Development and Multimedia Services Centre for helping make this event possible,” said MAALIC 2021 Conference Deputy Co-Chair Prof Dr Nadya Supian.

This e-conference was the first collaboration of an international scale for CMLL and was attended by a total of over 200 speakers, presenters and participants from all over the world.
420 October 2021 Talk on ‘Innovating English Teaching: Specificity and English for Academic Purposes (EAP)' (20 October 2021, 4.00 pm – 6.00 pm)    

On 20 October, Professor Ken Hyland from University of East Anglia presented a talk via ZOOM titled ‘Innovating English Teaching: Specificity and English for Academic Purposes (EAP)'. Professor Ken Hyland is a well-published researcher in the field of academic discourse, writing and language education. He has taught English and applied linguistics in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Hong Kong, and has been a professor at the University of Hong Kong and UCL Institute of Education in London.

In the talk, Prof Hyland spoke of the EAP at the University of Hong Kong, mentioning it as a central concept and key idea in modern university teaching. In 2012 the universities in Hong Kong reduced the school years and added a year to university studies in keeping with the colonial British style; this was to give students a broader academic experience. This major leap in the tertiary education resulted in 2 different systems and 2 different curricula leading to the idea to take the ‘discipline’ seriously. Credits of ‘English in the discipline’ came about, with the term ‘specificity’ recognizing that conventions differ according to the academic disciplines. Prof Hyland went on to say that ‘discipline; is a hard concept to pin down, a ‘troubled’ one, giving instances of communicative competence in Applied Linguistics differing from social constructivism in social systems.

He informed the participants that writing in university is different from writing in school and the educators want the students to take responsibility in the clarity with which Academic English spells out arguments. This could be done through the CUE or Core University English where English was not course focused but discipline focused. This meant that these factors had to be considered – lexis, genre, assignments and expectations of tutors or evaluators.

Prof Hyland explained that certain words held different degrees of ‘content’ and ‘understanding’ in different disciplines and went on to explain hard and soft fields in the context of comprehending English vocabulary. Genre features included the occurrence of self-mention in various disciplines which could be understood in the context of objectivity and subjectivity; as an example, scientists ‘generalize; more, downplaying their personal roles as compared to a researcher from the social sciences. This extended to citations in various disciplines.

The talk covered the use of hedges and boosters which were more common in soft fields than in the sciences, as well as the use of directives which engage readers despite carrying a high degree of risk.

Tutor expectations were found to be very fascinating especially since Prof Hyland directly quoted tutors of various disciplines, namely History, Business, Engineering, Chemistry and Biology. He had spoken to 20 academics, five each from 4 faculties and 8 different disciplines. The expectations varied greatly from the emphasis on clarity of language in the assignments to feedback given, Feedback was not considered important in some fields.

Assignment tasks varied from case studies, reflective essays to portfolios and article reviews which Prof Hyland explained depended on the need and structure of the core discipline. A quote from Wells (1992) summed up the context: “Each subject discipline constitutes a way of making sense of human experience that has evolved over generations and each is dependent on its won particular practices: its instrumental procedures, its criteria for judging relevance and validity, and its conventions of acceptable forms of argument. In a word each has developed its own modes of discourse.”

Prof Hyland went on to talk about the flipped classroom in and out of the class. He contends that specificity is a moveable feast depending on the willingness of faculties to collaborate with the language departments.

He also mentioned the conduct of English for Clinical Pharmacy which was a highly specific third year cause developed in close collaboration with the medical faculty. He concluded his talk saying that the ways language is used is situated in domains of knowledge and ways of talking about knowledge differ across disciplines.

The talk was moderated by Assistant Professor Dr Hooi Chee Mei and attended by 14 UTAR academic staff members.