The first conference on Informal Second Language Learning took place at the Oxford University Department of Education on August 23 and 24, 2018. It brought together participants from 11 countries to engage in collaborative dialogue about the emergent, innovative field of ISLL. The central topic for discussion was whether, and how, insights from ISLL research could be applied to formal language learning and teaching.
The conference was attended by 45 graduate students, researchers, e-learning professionals, teachers, and teacher educators from institutions around the world. The seminar featured four presentations, given by invited keynote speakers who are experts in the field of ISLL. In addition, the programme was comprised of an interactive workshop, poster presentations, a panel discussion, and breakout discussion groups.
The objective of this two-day conference was to promote as much collaborative dialogue as possible about informal second language learning practices outside the classroom, whether and how such practices can be integrated into formal learning settings, as well as the challenges associated with such an endeavour. The objective was achieved, as researchers and practitioners from various backgrounds were brought together for the first time to clearly define the emerging field of informal second language learning, discuss appropriate theoretical frameworks, situate their individual work in the wider field and help create an agenda for future research.
One of the main conclusions of the seminar was that engaging with an L2 outside the classroom is the reality for many language users, nowadays more than ever before. Questions were raised, however, as to the role of intentionality in informal second language learning and to define more explicitly what does and does not constitute ‘informal’ practices. It was acknowledged that there is high intercultural and individual variation in these practices, and that, for this reason, definitions need to be highly specific and contextualised. Discussions were also held around the need for a unifying theoretical framework for ISLL and how it links to other research areas within applied linguistics, such as L2 acquisition, learner autonomy, and computer-assisted language learning. Further areas for research in the field were identified, among which were:
- further work on mapping informal second language practices, particularly in non-European contexts and target languages other than English
- further studies on the relationship of informal practices with variables beyond lexicogrammatical proficiency, such as language learning motivation, self-efficacy, language learning enjoyment, and anxiety
- explorations of ways to encourage students’ engagement in informal language practices beyond formal learning contexts