keynote speaker: suresh canagarajah
professor suresh canagarahah
Suresh Canagarajah is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Applied Linguistics, English, and Asian Studies at Penn State University. He did his early education and teaching in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. His edited book Routledge Handbook of Migration and Language (2017) won the 2020 Best Book Award from the American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL). Suresh was a former editor of TESOL Quarterly and President of AAAL.
keynote abstract: in praise of incompetence
Language testing has been preoccupied with norms, means, and standards. Language teaching aims to develop a competence that demonstrates mastery of the grammatical system. Neoliberalism has made us strive for improving our abilities relentlessly to cope with market conditions. Under such pressures, parents seek designer babies with perfected abilities. This race for perfection is unsustainable. By its own logic, this drive suggests that we are all always imperfect by some measure. Is it time to consider incompetence as the starting point for understanding human communication and activity? I'll consider the implications of treating languages and people as embodied--i.e., open to contingencies, limitations, diversity, and unpredictability. Such conditions for meaning-making call for distributed practice among diverse human, nonhuman, and material agents. This orientation requires an ethical disposition to ability. The talk will involve crossing into fields such as disability studies, new materialism, and transgender studies to explore intersections with academic communication. I’ll illustrate from video recorded interactions of international science scholars who acknowledge their limitations in English grammar but succeed in their academic interactions. I'll conclude with implications for language testing.