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AILA President’s Vision 2021

Greetings everyone.

I would like to thank Daniel Perrin for his invaluable contributions to AILA during his term as President from 2017 to 2021. Several initiatives were implemented and achievements seen during his term. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Claire Kramsch, Christina Gitsaki, Antje Wilton, Susan Hunston, and Gianni De Nardi for serving in the roles of Past President, Secretary General, Publications Coordinator, Member-at-large and Webmaster. I am happy to welcome the new board members: Vice-President, Kyria Rebeca Finardi; Secretary General, Laura Gurzynski-Weiss; Treasurer, Marlies Whitehouse; Past President, Daniel Perrin; Research Networks Coordinator, Glenda El Gamal; Publications Coordinators, Low Ee Ling and Limin Jin; Members-at-large - Tarja Nikula, Susanna Nocchi, Markus Bieswanger and María Luisa Carrió-Pastor; as well as AILA Congress Coordinator, Christina Gitsaki and Webmaster, Zahadin Omar (see AILA Executive Board) with whom I look forward to working closely for the next three years.

I am immensely honoured to take on the presidency of AILA, an organisation that emphasises that Applied Linguistics is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary field of research and practice, dealing with practical problems of language and communication. I am especially proud to be the first President from Southeast Asia. Asia is a vast and very diverse region in terms of linguistic, cultural, historical and political traditions, demography, and stages of economic development, all of which provide a very compelling environment for applied linguistics research. As President, I will focus on a number of priorities which I consider highly pertinent for AILA to pursue and expand on. Like all of us, I am conscious and deeply concerned at the accelerating challenges facing the global community at this time. These are both short term and long term, including as regards the pandemic, the dangers posed by climate change, and the renewed threats of extremism and intolerance affecting the human rights of all and, perhaps most immediately, as recent tragic events have shown, the rights of women and girls to education and equality. As academic practitioners, we have all had to deal at some time or other with the unfounded charge that we are dwellers of ivory towers. Today, such is the scale of challenges facing the world that I believe it is not enough for us simply to dismiss this charge. Rather, we must now consciously seek out our role, put our shoulders to the wheel, and apply our craft to meeting the challenges I have mentioned. This is the context in which I put forward my vision for AILA during my term as President.

  • First, AILA, as one of the partner organisations of UNESCO, has endorsed the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This should heighten an awareness of social issues among applied linguists - such as those outlined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - which include the elimination of poverty, provision of quality education, reduction in inequality and action on climate change. It is, therefore, important for us to highlight that language and communication are critical enabling factors for societies to collaborate and to become more inclusive, and that applied linguistics research contributes to the SDGs. There has never been a more crucial time for ensuring that the work of experts in a variety of technical fields is communicated to and discussed by the many people it effects. Linguists play a vital role in bridging gaps between experts and non-experts and also between members of different disciplines in order that the world can cooperate more effectively on global issues. More effort must be made to strengthen these relationships in order to produce tangible outcomes in the next three years.
  • Secondly, and more specifically, if ever we needed convincing of the potential of an organisation like AILA, then it is the current global pandemic, which has affected everyone, but has done so in different ways and to different extents depending on the political conditions, economic levels, educational opportunities and environmental circumstances surrounding us. While not a vehicle in itself for solving current problems directly, AILA can nonetheless make an important contribution through its focus on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research to solve practical problems related to language and communication.
  • Thirdly, AILA’s regionalisation efforts have led to regional networks within AILA. We must leverage these networks, and the technologically interconnected world hastened by the pandemic, and encourage opportunities for applied linguists to network with others with similar interests from different parts of the world. Many of the problems around the world are common and solutions are best pursued through regional and interregional collaborations to produce sustainable solutions. I hope to encourage more joint engagements and exchanges, diversifying the ways that knowledge in our discipline flows across the globe; and enriching the dialogue.

The shift of the Presidency to Asia is an affirmation of AILA’s capacity to adapt and expand, not just in terms of the academic discipline of applied linguistics, but in terms also of accomodating new voices and new perspectives from emerging regions. I look forward to working with all of you in the effort to ensure that applied linguistics remains relevant and thriving in the rapidly transforming and increasingly digital global landscape of today. I wish to assure you that, in my role as President, a position that I assume with both humility and some trepidation - and I am deeply grateful for the honour of serving AILA in this capacity – I will proceed at all times in a spirit of collegial cooperation and listen carefully to all points of view. And, equally, I am counting on your cooperation and support over our next three years together. As we say in Malay: Bertepuk sebelah tangan, tidak akan berbunyi (DT: Clapping with one hand only will not produce a noise). Thank you.

Azirah Hashim
August 2021