Substantial, diverse experience in language learning (as well as teaching and researching) is a critical element in the intellectual and personal development of SLS specialists pursuing a doctoral degree. Such experience, reflected upon, is a crucial supplement to the scholarly knowledge obtained through a PhD in SLS.
Accordingly, we require doctoral students to document and reflect on substantial, diverse learning experience in two languages other than their native/first language. This requirement is fulfilled by submitting a 3-to-5-page reflective essay to the student’s advisor any time during the first two years of study and before advancement to candidacy. In the 3-to-5-page essay, the SLS doctoral candidates should reflect on their learning of two languages and give an account of it which is informed by relevant academic theory/literature. Supporting documentation can be appended to the essay, if relevant. Fulfillment of the language learning experience requirement must be approved by the student’s advisor.
We define substantial, diverse experience of language learning as the learning of any concurrent, second, heritage, and/or foreign language under any context and with a range of outcomes and degrees of success. Examples of substantial and diverse language learning experience are:
- Attaining L2 competence for functioning successfully in an L2 academic context (as, for example, international students achieving a language proficiency score sufficient for admission to graduate studies in English-speaking institutions)
- Completing a primary, secondary, or higher education degree in a language other than the mother tongue/first language (as, for example, many English Language Learners and 1.5 generation students do in schools in the United States; and as many students do in countries which have more than one official language, such as Canada, or in countries where the medium of instruction can be a language different from the mother tongue, such as India or South Africa)
- Attaining some degree of competence in an L2 through formal instruction (as, for example, many students do when they take a foreign language in school or university)
- Attaining some degree of competence in an L2 through prolonged exposure in naturalistic contexts (for example, as the result of elective or circumstantial life events such as studying, working, or living abroad for extended periods, intercultural marriage, immigration, and so on)
- Growing up with two or more languages (as may be the case of heritage language users who have developed comprehension and/or production grammars in the ancestors’ language; or as is the case in bilingual and multilingual contexts such as Catalonia, Hawai‘i, or Switzerland)
- Teaching a language (or in a language) other than the mother tongue/first language (as is the case for non-native speaking language teachers)
- Engaging in research that involves the analysis of data in another language (by choice for any SLS course; or to fulfill the requirements of a language typology or contrastive language course, such as SLS 642 or LING 750G)
The outcomes and success for each of the two languages learned can vary, and may include learning, forgetting, and/or re-learning a language or fossilizing or attriting in a language (as well as attaining advanced degrees of competence in a language).