Messages from the AILA President
At the end of the 2017 AILA World Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Claire Kramsch handed the baton of the AILA presidency over to me. I am happy to take up this baton – and very honored to do so. There are three reasons for me to feel this way: First, it is the baton of AILA, a unique organization in the academic landscape; second, it is a hand-over from a proven team to a promising one; and third, exciting challenges are awaiting us. Please let me briefly elaborate on these three points, as an invitation to the next three years of AILA collaboration.
The first reason why I am honoured to take up the baton is AILA itself: On our website we claim that "Applied Linguistics is an interdisciplinary field of research and practice dealing with practical problems of language and communication that can be identified, analysed or solved […]". Many of the contributions at the AILA World Congress in Rio have shown again how our open-minded, provocative and, at the same time, linguistically precise research helps communities address language-related issues of political relevance. In other words, serving AILA contributes to scrutinizing social patterns and, if we go beyond scrutiny, to making this world a better one, especially for those in need of change.
The second reason is our team: I remember Claire Kramsch commenting on a keynote in Paris that “solving problems is OK but the main question is whose problems we deal with”. Indeed, continually raising this question makes the difference between reiterating the status quo and actually fostering development. Claire, if you did not stay with AILA as our past president, we would badly miss you. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bernd Rüschoff, Marjolijn Verspoor, Shawn Loewen, and Hisako Yamauchi for serving on the AILA board as past president, treasurer, ReN coordinator and member at large, respectively – and to welcome Azirah Hashim, Marlies Whitehouse, Laura Gurzinski-Weiss, and Low Ee Ling, as vice president, treasurer, ReN coordinator, and member at large (https://www.aila.info/en/about/organization/executive-board.html).
The third reason is our set of challenges. There are three dimensions of development I want to focus on as the AILA President from 2017 to 2020: a) exploiting AILA being a UNESCO partner organization in order to influence politics and foster development where we need it most; b) creating societal impact and, at the same time, showing that language and its investigation in the transdisciplinary field of Applied Linguistics matter; and c) collaborating more closely with our more than 8,000 members, our over 35 national organizations, and our existing and emerging regional networks, such as AILA East Asia, AILA Europe, AILA Arabia, and AILA Latin America.
In sum, taking up the baton now means serving a socially indispensable organization and topic, collaborating with highly motivated colleagues and friends, and connecting with a challenged and challenging world. Together we can provide empirical evidence, for example, of the interdependency of media literacy and social participation. Or we can depict and explain the strong ties between financial literacy and the distribution of wealth. And more than that, together we can develop scenarios to solve the problems in the interest of those whose voices have long been ignored, and we can implement sustainable solutions. Applied Linguistics and AILA must therefore be a driving force of development. Let’s go!