History of Language Learning and Teaching (HoLLTnet)

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History of Language Learning and Teaching (HoLLTnet)  



The AILA Research Network on History of Language Learning and Teaching ('HoLLTnet' for short) was approved as a new research network of AILA in January 2015 and renewed twice, in January 2018 and January 2022. Details of HoLLTnet activities are on the HoLLTnet website: http://hollt.net

Scope of the ReN

The aim of this AILA Research Network is to stimulate research into the history of language learning and teaching within applied linguistics internationally. Such research can furnish necessary historical perspectives for professional reflection on how language education is or should be carried out today, including in the areas of appropriate development of language education policies, curricular and textbook reform initiatives and teaching methodologies for different contexts, which can thereby be historically as well as sociologically and culturally defined and assessed.

There are still major gaps in historical knowledge within applied linguistics: it is now almost 40 years since H.H. Stern, in his Fundamental Concepts of Language Teaching (OUP, 1983), identified historical research as one of the necessary foundations for language teaching theorization, alongside linguistics, psychology, educational studies, and so on. However, the ‘paucity of studies’ that he identified still continues, and his call for further research has gone largely unheeded, even though over the last six years our network has contributed to an increase of interest in this field.

Nevertheless, there are signs that historical research is on the increase within applied linguistics, or at least that the – so far – few researchers in this field are linking up better with one another. Networking was facilitated in particular by a 2012–2014 series of two workshops and a conference organized at the Universities of Nottingham (2012, 2014) and Warwick (2013) in the UK, funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council network grant relating to the ‘History of Modern Foreign Language Education in Europe’. This established new channels of communication and collaboration among scholars in Europe, with some individual researchers from Asia (China and India) and Australasia.

By the time the funding period for this AHRC network ended in July 2014, it had become clear that there was a strong desire among participants both for a continuation of its focus on exploring commonalities and differences across different language teaching traditions and for further expansion of networking beyond Europe. Our proposal to form a ‘global’ network within AILA was therefore encouraged and welcomed by representatives of existing country- or language-based associations in this field who had been brought together by the AHRC seed-funding, namely:

  • SIHFLES (Société internationale pour l'histoire du français langue étrangère ou seconde)
  • APHELLE (Associação Portuguesa para a História do Ensino das Línguas e Literaturas Extranjeras)
  • CIRSIL (Centro Interuniversitario di Ricerca sulla Storia degli Insegnamenti Linguistici)
  • Peeter Heynsgenootschap
  • SEHEL (Sociedad Española para la Historia de las Enseñanzas Lingüísticas)

In accordance with the above rationale, since 2015 our ReN has dedicated itself to promoting and disseminating historical research into the following domains:

  • how languages have been taught and learned;
  • which languages have been taught and learned, and why;
  • the sociology of language learning and teaching: who taught and learned in the past;
  • what has been taught and learned;
  • the history of how language learning and teaching have been theorized.

In 2018–21, we attempted to achieve these aims by means of the following activities:

  • development of our existing website;
  • establishment of a committee with international representation;
  • building up our electronic distribution list (already, we had around 300 members in 2017 and by 2021 we had 352 members)
  • developing our Facebook page (specifically targeted at and encouraging sharing of concerns and networking among PhD students and early career researchers. This already had 203 members in 2017 and by 2021 had 311 members;
  • hold an annual meeting (see http://hollt.net/events for a full list of our own events and events supported by us. There were 2 HoLLtnet events and 4 HoLLTnet-supported academic events in 2018–19. In 2020, we had no events due to the Covid-19 pandemic but held two online events of our own and supported two further events in 2021).

The ReN will continue to encourage comparisons across language teaching and learning traditions and across nations and regions. Our geographical remit is deliberately global, since – while networking within Europe has recently been enhanced (and our Network has been building on and contributing to this recent dynamism) –  we have become aware that there is little awareness between continents of the historical research that may have been carried out – or is being carried out – internationally.

Our principal aims are, then, to:

  • identify research which has already been done worldwide and disseminate information about this;
  • disseminate findings of new historical research as it is carried out;
  • promote research in the area of History of Language Learning and Teaching – particularly by supporting new scholars in this field;
  • investigate potential for new kinds of cross-disciplinary applied linguistic research, for example via links with cultural studies, history of ideas, social and economic history, as well as the better-established, contiguous fields of History of Linguistics and History of Education;
  • create opportunities for research on similar aspects or periods across geographical regions;
  • seek research funding opportunities for development of the network and for international research collaborations;
  • promote discussion and development of appropriate research methodologies in this area of applied linguistics.

During 2022–24, we are attempting to achieve these aims by means of the following activities in particular:

  • construction of a freely accessible online bibliography of pertinent publications;
  • building up our electronic distribution list
  • improve opportunities for networking via development of a wiki containing affiliations, email addresses and main historical interests
  • hold an annual meeting
  • editing and publication of papers from the ReN symposium at the AILA 2021 Congress and from other events
  • start a webinar series to showcase recent historical research