Losing a Voice and Finding Another: A research-based workshop with hands-on activities on the psychological experience of learning a second language as an adult

Rebecca Oxford (University of Maryland, USA),
Cooper Thompson (VISIONS, Inc., Germany),
Peter MacIntyre (University of Cape Breton, Canada)
Tammy Gregersen (University of Northern Iowa, USA)

In Part 1, an adult language learner, Cooper Thompson, a well-known professional consultant on multiculturalism, and three researchers, Tammy Gregersen, Peter MacIntyre, and Rebecca Oxford, will explore the psychology of adult second language learning. They will have a lively conversation (with workshop participants’ questions and comments encouraged) based on Cooper’s experience developing German language competence as an adult immigrant and the researchers’ experience studying and supporting learners of multiple ages. With Cooper as an example of an intelligent, talented, but sometimes struggling adult learner, Part 1 will emphasize his motivation, willingness to communicate, identity, emotions, autonomy, acculturation, and learning strategies.

In Part 2, workshop participants will engage in hands-on activities allowing them to feel what it is like to be an adult language learner, identify useful adult language learning strategies; discuss adult learners’ emotions, autonomy, and motivation; and identify best practices in teaching adult learners.

Participants will leave this workshop with personal, interpersonal, and research-based knowledge and with global contacts regarding language learner psychology, adult language learning, learning strategies, and other topics. Though the workshop focuses on adult learning, implications will be drawn for multiple ages. Therefore, everyone is welcome.

The four presenters bring exceptional experience to this event. Cooper, whose learning experience is highlighted in Part 1, has conducted workshops and consultations on multiculturalism in several countries and is now working to advocate for immigrants to Germany. He authored a book, Losing My Voice and Finding Another, a language learner narrative that describes his experience of moving to Germany and learning German at the age of 53. When he began learning German, he became captivated with published language learner memoirs, which helped him realize that he was not alone in feeling confusion and conflicting emotions as an adult language learner. The memoirs he found at the time were his salvation in many ways. In discussing his story in this workshop, he hopes to help teachers, researchers, and adult learners. He is now publishing his story in German with a German publisher.

Tammy and Peter are prolific authors who have written or edited books on positive psychology in SLA, characteristics of individual language learners, nonverbal communication, and innovations in language teacher education. Tammy, who is bilingual, learned Spanish as an adult. She has taught second language acquisition, language teaching methodology, and other topics and has enchanted audiences at language learning conferences around the world. Peter is an expert in psychology and communication who has published over 50 research papers on second language acquisition.

Rebecca is a teacher educator and learning strategy specialist with interests in autonomy, emotions, motivation, and learner narratives. She currently conducts research on adult learners and has worked with learners of many ages. She authored or edited fourteen books on strategies, motivation, and other topics and edited an EFL/ESL textbook series and two other book series. All three researchers are award-winning teachers and researchers, popular workshop leaders, and plenary speakers.

The workshop leaders are excited to share research-based and personal wisdom about language learning and hear workshop participants’ important ideas.