Negotiating the Multilingual Turn in SLA: Response to Stephen May

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


In volume 103 of Modern Language Journal, Stephen May suggested that the multilingual turn has not fully delivered on its promises, pointing out second language acquisition (SLA) researchers’ continued focus on parallel monolingualisms rather than on dynamic bi/multilingualism, the lack of theorization of historicity in sociolinguistic research on the latter, the balkanization of academic knowledge preventing transdisciplinary scholarship, and West-centered methodological nationalism. While I agree with his points, I believe the solution requires more than critical reflexivity, reading beyond our areas of interest, and relinquishing fast-held methodological principles. Scholarly hegemony and disciplinary elitism exist because we are more than minds touting theories and epistemologies. We must acknowledge how we, as researchers, seek cultural prestige and economic well-being by affiliating with the global North and its mechanisms for knowledge production. Given this, I discuss what scholars in both the global North and South can do to reform the discipline to address May's concerns, in terms of 1 action those in the global South must consistently attempt, and 4 responsibilities of those in the global North.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-308
Number of pages5
JournalModern Language Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • bi/multilingualism
  • critical applied linguistics
  • multilingual turn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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