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Mobilizing Positive Psychology in SLA 


Sydney, NS, Canada, June 22, 2022


Languages are taught and learned by people—human beings with hopes and fears, strengths and limitations, goals and frustrations. The psychology of both the language learner and the teacher lies at the heart of all second language acquisition (SLA) processes. Psychology has traditionally emphasized the study of problems such as depression, mental illness, traumatic stress, and the like. In parallel, language learning also has emphasized ways in which learners are deficient as compared to native speakers, emphasizing error correction, problems with grammatical structures, accents, and so on.  Since the turn of the millennium, under the rubric of positive psychology, there has been rapidly developing empirical research into topics such as positive emotion, optimism, hope, well-being, meaning, empathy, resilience, and grit. Such topics likely play a central role in language learning, which is a long-term, gradual process necessitating perseverance, optimism, and resilience, among other qualities. In addition to the regular 3-days of conferencing, PLL4 will feature a full day devoted to mobilizing positive psychology in language.


The specific goals of the pre-conference include: 

  1. To increase the connections among researchers around the world interested in the Psychology of Language in general and positive language education in particular.

  2. To understand and advance the myriad ways in which the psychology of language learning is being applied in language classrooms and courses, within both formal and informal learning contexts around the world.

  3. Expand the quality of scholarship in this rapidly developing field.

  4. Mentor and foster connections among new and established scholars.

  5. To develop connections among language researchers and teachers that enhance the pedagogical impact of the research, especially in the mobilization of applications of positive psychology.


Positive psychology has been introduced in language education with the broad goal of improving the experience of both language learners and teachers (Gabrys-Barker & Gałajda, 2016; MacIntyre, Gregersen & Mercer, 2019). The aim of positive psychology in general is to move away from focussing on simply “repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 5).  Mobilizing this work is important if learners are to flourish in the modern multicultural landscape.


Pre-conference Speakers

Anchored by three leaders in the field of Positive Psychology in SLA, speaking in one of the most beautiful locations Canada has to offer, delegates will have an optimally creative experience.

Sarah Mercer - Professor and Head of ELT at the University of Graz, as well as Deputy Head of the Centre for Teaching and Learning (Fachdidaktikzentrum) and Director of the Doctorate Programme for language teaching research.  Joint coordinator of IATEFL’s Research special interest group and a member of Oxford University Press ELT Expert Panel. Joint series editor together with Stephen Ryan for Multilingual Matters' book series, ‘Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching’. Selected publicatinos include Mercer, S., Ryan, S. & Williams, M. (2015). Exploring Psychology in Language Learning and Teaching. Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Winner of the 2015 IH Ben Warren prize]; Mercer, S & Gkonou, C. (2017). Understanding Emotional and Social Intelligence among English language Teachers. London: British Council. [Research report]; Mercer, S. & Kostoulas, A. (Eds.) (2017). Teacher Psychology in SLA. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.


Tammy Gregersen - Professor of TESOL at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, received her MA in Education and PhD in Linguistics in Chile, where she also began her academic career. She is co-author, with Peter MacIntyre, of Capitalizing on Language Learner Individuality and Optimizing Language Learners’ Nonverbal Communication in the Language Classroom.  She is also a co-editor with Peter and Sarah Mercer of Positive Psychology in SLA and Innovations in Language Teacher Education. She has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and contributed several chapters in applied linguistics anthologies on individual differences, teacher education, language teaching methodology, positive psychology and nonverbal communication in language classrooms. She is passionate about exploring other cultures and has enjoyed the opportunities that participation in international conferences around the world and Fulbright scholar grants to Chile and Costa Rica have provided.


Jean-Marc Dewaele - Professor of Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism at Birkbeck, University of London. He does research on individual differences in psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic, pragmatic, psychological and emotional variables in Second Language Acquisition and Multilingualism.  He is particularly interested in the interface between applied linguistics and psychology. He has published widely on multilingual emotions, including a monograph entitled Emotions in Multiple Languages (2013) and a number of studies with Peter MacIntyre (Cap Breton University) on Foreign Language Enjoyment and Foreign Language Anxiety. He is a keen teacher, walker, karate-ka. He is former president of the International Association of Multilingualism and the European Second Language Association. He is currently member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of the Psychology of Language Learning. He was General Editor of the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (2013-2018) and is now General Editor of the Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development (2019-).  He won the Equality and Diversity Research Award from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013) and the Robert Gardner Award for Excellence in Second Language and Bilingualism Research (2016) from the International Association of Language and Social Psychology.



You are invited to submit your individual paper to be considered for the pre-conference program. Space is limited! Please follow the instructions in the Submission Guidelines.


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