Author of the Month: Kimberly L. Geeslin

October's Author of the Month is none other than the wonderful Kimberly L. Geeslin, Professor at Indiana University! In a new exclusive interview, Professor Geeslin reveals details about her publication Sociolinguistics and Second Language Acquisition, co-authored with Avizia Yim Long. Find out how she intends bring together people of different backgrounds to understand and recognize the social influences on language acquisition. Kimberly Geeslin is also editor of The Handbook of Spanish Second Language Acquisition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) and has published research articles in Studies in Second Language Acquisition and Language Learning.


Why did you decide to write this book?

This is a book I have wanted to write for a long time. As a researcher who focuses on the intersection of second language acquisition and sociolinguistics, I noticed that it was often difficult to bring people with different backgrounds into a discussion of a particular project effectively. As a language teacher of many years, it was also apparent that the typical language classroom was not as effective as it might be for developing sociolinguistic competence. I thought of this book as a way to bring researchers and language teachers alike to the discussion with a common understanding of the basic assumptions in sociolinguistics and second language acquisition. What happened between the time I originally thought of the idea and when I actually wrote the book was an explosion of research on the topic, allowing this book to be both an introduction to the field and a synthesis of exciting new research. In addition, the implications of this body of research to classroom teaching are addressed, demonstrating the relevance of these investigations to our own pedagogical practices.

What’s the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

I hope that readers with multiple backgrounds and multiple theoretical approaches can take away an idea about how to integrate both social and linguistic factors into their own work. For those working nearly exclusively on one or the other aspect of language, this may begin simply as a recognition of the multi-faceted nature of language acquisition and use. For those already working in the intersection of second language acquisition and sociolinguistics, it may serve as a call to improve the breadth and depth of this inquiry and to connect empirical findings to theoretical development.

Is there anything you’d like to highlight about this topic or your book in particular?

Although there are often calls for researchers and language teachers to bring social aspects of language learning into the forefront of inquiry, the literature is full of polarizing approaches to this issue. One of the primary goals of this book was to demonstrate the range of approaches, spanning from those that are very socially-oriented to those accounting for very few social influences, and to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of each. In this way, our hope was to provide a common ground for moving forward and for achieving more sophisticated theoretical accounts of the abounding empirical evidence for the variability in language.

What’s a common misconception about this topic that you’d like to clear up?

For some, the incorporation of social dimensions of language acquisition and use implies the loss of theoretical grounding or a reduced focus on the linguistic aspects of second languages. In fact, the goal of this book is to demonstrate how both the linguistic aspects of the grammar and the manner in which social factors influence that grammar are essential for an accurate account of language development. In other words, incorporating the characteristics of the speaker and the context of interaction into an account of language acquisition should improve theoretical adequacy, rather than reduce it. The same is true for those working in the second language classroom, where the inclusion of socially-variable input in the classroom and increased opportunities to develop sociolinguistic competence should not replace what we know about developing grammatical competence, but rather enhance it.

More information about her book can be found here.

  • Sociolinguistics and Second Language Acquisition

    Learning to Use Language in Context

    By Kimberly L. Geeslin, Avizia Yim Long

    Sociolinguistics and Second Language Acquisition is a comprehensive textbook that bridges the gap between the fields of sociolinguistics and second language acquisition, exploring the variety of ways in which social context influences the acquisition of a second language. It reviews basic…

    Paperback – 2014-05-14
    Routledge