Cristina Sanz

Mind and Context in Multilingualism Across the Lifespan

Friday, March 13th 9:00 – 10:00

Cristina Sanz

Recently, a growing number of SLA researchers has been looking into how external conditions associated with instructed second language acquisition as well as immersion abroad affect language development in different populations.  In their research, they have made a concerted effort to go beyond the monolingual college classroom student to include learners who may differ in important ways, including age and prior language learning experience.  Studying multilingualism across the lifespan is important for obvious practical reasons. It also motivates the investigation of the role of bundles of individual differences, especially socio-cognitive factors, and their interaction with the frequency and quality of interaction in immersive contexts and characteristic classroom elements such as feedback to explain language development. Importantly, it is precisely the complex interactions between mind and context that move front and center in this research. For example, there is evidence that the emphasis on grammatical explanations characteristic of traditional language classrooms put older adults at a disadvantage compared to young adults. However, it is possible that by changing the type and timing of grammatical information we may see a reduction in the negative effects related to aging. Likewise, gender and age seem to play a role in the development of social networks leading to different linguistic outcomes in immersive contexts. The talk will report on some of the complex patterns that are beginning to emerge from recent cross-sectional and longitudinal studies conducted in the lab, in the classroom, and in immersive contexts.


Cristina Sanz (Universitat de Barcelona, University of Illinois) is Professor of Spanish & Linguistics at Georgetown University. An expert on multilingualism, her volume Mind and Context in Adult SLA received the 2006 MLA’s Mildenberger Award. She has published over eighty articles and book chapters in venues including the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, ARAL, PLoS ONE, Bilingualism Language and Cognition, Language Learning, Applied Psycholinguistics, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Modern Language Journal, Applied Linguistics, Language Learning and Technology, System, Hispania, and Neuropsychologia, as well as entries in several encyclopedias and edited volumes. Dr. Sanz has taught graduate courses in Spain and the Philippines and has educated generations of teachers for over 25 years. She is the recipient of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and was nominated in consecutive years to the Mara Graduate Mentor Award. Dr. Sanz has been a consultant for private and public institutions including the United Nations, the Instituto Cervantes, and the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). She has recently co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Study Abroad Research and Practice (2018). Sanz directs the Barcelona Summer Program and the Catalan Lectureship and is now chair of the Department of Spanish & Portuguese