Routledge Linguistics Author of the Month: Jeanette Sakel

Routledge Language and Linguistics is delighted to announce that Jeanette Sakel, author of  Study Skills for Linguistics, is our February 2016 Author of the Month!

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Jeanette Sakel is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and Programme Leader of English Language and Linguistics at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

Her main research interests are in the areas of language contact, bilingualism, linguistic typology, fieldwork, native South American languages, bilingual education and supplementary schools. She has written numerous research articles and book chapters, and she is the author of the books A grammar of Mosetén (2004), Linguistic fieldwork – a student guide (2012, with Daniel Everett) and Study skills for linguistics (2015). Jeanette has also edited various books and special issues, including Grammatical borrowing in cross-linguistics perspective (2007 with Yaron Matras), Variation in clause combining: Views from the New World (2012 with Marianne Mithun and Pier Marco Bertinetto), New perspectives on language transfer (2012, with Jeanine Treffers-Daller) and Indigene Sprachen Amerikas (2012 with Thomas Stolz).

Jeanette, who is originally from Germany, became fascinated by languages as a teenager. She taught herself Swedish, Finnish and Greenlandic, and later studied these and other languages at university in Denmark, alongside general linguistics. She gained her BA and MA from Aarhus University (Denmark), and then moved on to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany), to complete her PhD on the South American indigenous language Mosetén under the guidance of Bernard Comrie and Pieter Muysken.

Finding that there was considerable influence from Spanish in Mosetén, Jeanette became interested in language contact and started to work in this area of research, first at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen (The Netherlands) and later with Yaron Matras at the University of Manchester (UK). Jeanette also collaborated with Daniel Everett, conducting fieldwork on the Amazonian language Pirahã to establish the degree of monolingualism/bilingualism in the community and analyse the Portuguese language use of Pirahã speakers.

Since 2007 Jeanette has been Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of the West of England, where she is also leading the Linguistics and English Language Programmes. She continues to conduct fieldwork on language contact situations, in particular Somali and German as heritage languages in the UK. In relation to the latter, Jeanette is the chair for the German Saturday School Bristol and has started to work with issues of bilingualism and proficiency of young German language speakers in the UK.

Jeanette has always loved teaching, and she is keen for students to become independent learners with a passion for the subject they are studying. This has led Jeanette to produce a number of materials for students, based on her own teaching and research expertise. Jeanette has written a number of textbooks for students, and has also started to experiment with filming short video summaries on concepts her students found difficult. Her work in this area secured her a highly prestigious National Teaching Fellowship by the UK Higher Education Academy in 2015. She is currently using the award funding that came with the fellowship to fund a production facility for educational videos.

What made you decide to write this book?

My book ‘Study Skills for Linguistics' is aimed at students starting out at university. Teaching first-year students, I realized that I was dealing with similar basic questions year after year. Sometimes these questions were asked in individual personal tutor sessions by those who ‘dared’, while other students would be shy about engaging with their lecturer. I started to put together materials to help students in their first year of study, sharing my answers to some of the questions on the departmental blog run in collaboration with students (https://uwelingo.wordpress.com/), as well as through short videos shared on our online learning environment. I also started to develop sessions in the first year of the course to teach study skills, as well as basic grammatical terminology.

The book then came together when I talked to Greville Corbett , one of the editors of the series, about another idea for a textbook. We ended up discussing the issue of first-year students ‘finding their feet’ and the potential for a textbook. This is when I started working on ‘Study Skills for Linguistics.'

What is the one thing you hope readers take away from this book?

There are a lot of things for students to consider when starting university, and it can be overwhelming to juggle new terminology with generic study-skills such as how to find out more about a topic and how to do well in the assessment. Lecturers often take it for granted that their students are able to negotiate these different skills. They may also expect students to know what nouns and prepositions are. However, depending on when and where the students went to school, they may never have encountered these terms (for example in the UK they were not part of the National Curriculum for many years).

Students come to university with a wide range of background knowledge and very diverse skillsets. My book brings together the different skills expected of prospective students. I want my readers to feel confident that they get off to a good start in their language-related studies, independent of their background. The book will also follow my readers throughout their studies, for example with a detailed self-evaluating skills-questionnaire that the students can come back to throughout their course.

Is there something you think it’s important to highlight about this topic?

I’d like to highlight to lecturers in linguistics that it is important to bring students up to a common level of understanding early on in their studies. This will allow students with different background skills to flourish and feel comfortable in their language studies. The book has a detailed glossary with short definitions of the concepts discussed in the book, as well as references to synonyms that students may have encountered elsewhere.

What is a common misconception about this topic that you would like to clear up?

Lecturers often take for granted that their students are familiar with generic study skills and knowledge about basic grammatical terminology. This is often not the case, however, and has a lot to do with the educational policy during the time the students went to school. It is also an issue of widening participation, in that students with different family- and school-backgrounds may be differently equipped for university study. From my personal experience of teaching at both Russell Group and post-92 universities, many undergraduates have not learnt about categories of grammar and generic study skills. As a lecturer it is sometimes difficult to know what students know. This books aims to be accessible to all students, and help them to a good start at university.

Study Skills for Linguistics is the essential companion for students embarking on a degree in linguistics. Covering all the core skills that students of linguistics will require during the early part of their degree, this book gives the reader a basic understanding of the field, as well as confidence in how to find out more and how to prepare for their future career.

The key features covered include:

  • Subject-specific skills including basic linguistic tools and terminology, such as word classes and grammatical terminology;
  • Essential study skills, such as how to perform well in the degree, how to search for and reference literature and how to write an essay;
  • Guides for a future with a linguistics degree, including how to write a CV and prepare for a range of graduate destinations.

An accessible guide to essential skills in the field of linguistics, Study Skills for Linguistics is a must-read for students contemplating studying this topic, and provides a guide that will take them through their degree and beyond.

  • Study Skills for Linguistics

    By Jeanette Sakel

    Study Skills for Linguistics is the essential companion for students embarking on a degree in linguistics. Covering all the core skills that students of linguistics will require during the early part of their degree, this book gives the reader a basic understanding of the field, as well as…

    Paperback – 2015-04-02
    Routledge
    Understanding Language