Substantial, diverse experience in multilingualism and 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. Acquiring and reflecting upon such experience is a crucial supplement to the scholarly knowledge obtained through a PhD in SLS.
Accordingly, we require doctoral students to document and reflect on their substantial, diverse experience with at least three languages, including their native/first language(s). 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 experience in multilingualism and language learning involving (at least) three languages or dialects and discuss this experience as informed by relevant academic constructs and theory. Fulfillment of the language learning experience requirement must be approved by the student’s advisor.
We define substantial, diverse experience of multilingualism and language learning as the simultaneous or sequential learning of second, heritage, and/or foreign languages under any context and with a range of outcomes and degrees of success. Examples include:
- 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)
- 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 natural 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 or dialects (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 extensive analysis of data in another language (by choice for any SLS course; or to fulfill the requirements of a language typology course, such as LING 750G)
- 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)
The outcomes and success for each language 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).