I am Professor of English language education at the Dept. of Language Education at Stockholm University. I am also an Adjunct Professor at the School of Educational Studies and Leadership at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and a registered teacher of English and Spanish.
I have been working for many years in the field of language education and have conducted research on English language teaching as well as multilingualism at home, school and preschool. I am co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Home Language Research, and have worked intensively to create research-based information for parents of multilingual children and professionals who meet multilingual families. My best-selling book Growing up with two languages is in its fourth edition with Routledge.
My educational interests also concern technology-supported language learning and teaching. I have worked as an educator and researcher at universities in Sweden, Spain, Poland and New Zealand, where I built a research environment in learning and teaching languages, as well as two master programs in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL).
I teach a range of courses in English language and other pre-service teacher education, including degree projects and school placement courses. I also teach Masters courses in language education.
I am interested in many aspects of the learning and teaching of languages, and I currently enjoy educating language teachers for service in schools.
Other aspects of language learning and teaching, such as the intergenerational transmission of indigenous, minority or heritage languages, and the role of the linguistic landscape, the writing on the wall, as an enactment of formal and informal language policy continue to fascinate me.
The affordances of digital technology for our professional and private communication needs is another area of interest. My research interests lie in
- Digitalisation in schools
- Pre-service language teacher education
- Multilingualism in education
- English as a school subject in Sweden
- Language and migration
- Professional development of teachers
- Flipped education
- Online education
- Intergenerational transmission of minority languages
- English-medium education
- English for recently-arrived students
A selection from Stockholm University publication database
Information, Education and Language Policy in the Linguistic Landscape of an International Airport in New Zealand
2021. Una Cunningham, Jeanette King. Linguistic Landscapes beyondthe Language Classroom, 99-117Chapter
Reimagining Learning in a Language Education Course Thrust Online
2020. Una Cunningham, Anna Bergström. Teaching, technology, and teacher education during the covid-19 pandemic, 449-456Chapter
A campus-based initial teacher education module in nine units was quickly redesigned within the existingsyllabus to run online following the Swedish Government’s recommendation on 17 March 2020 to moveuniversity teaching online. We used a flipped approach: asynchronous preparatory activity (set reading withstudy questions, pre-recorded lectures and other podcasts or videos) was followed up by non-mandatory onlinesynchronous workshops and mandatory written unit tasks to be completed individually or in a group,and handed in individually. The unit tasks were designed as active learning, and entailed the application ofknowledge and understanding gained in the preparatory activities, deepening the learning of each individualwith co-constructed insights. This flipped pedagogy was complemented by collaborative active learning activitiesfor the students who participated in the workshops. The workshop participants were encouraged tocomplete their hand-in work together during the workshop, collaboratively building understanding. Thus, asocial constructivist view of learning was modelled and implemented.
Growing up with two languages
2020. Una Cunningham.Book
Growing Up with Two Languages provides a highly accessible account of the stages of language development, describes and evaluates the various systems and strategies that can be adopted and looks at the problems that can occur when a child is exposed to two languages and cultures.
Combining research-informed advice and the experience of parents raising children as speakers of a wide range of languages in every populated continent in the world, this book and its associated web material will answer questions, offer tried and tested strategies to keep children speaking a minority language, and provide material to enlist the support of the extended family, teachers and others. The perspective of adults who were themselves raised speaking more than one language is included. New to this edition is a chapter focusing on families raising children as speakers of indigenous and threatened languages as well as chapters for teachers and health professionals who want to know more about multilingual child language development and how they can support parents to continue speaking their language with their children. With new and updated first-hand advice, Internet resources and examples throughout, this book also includes a chapter that introduces important recent research into multilingual children and further reading guides for those who want to know more.
This book is for parents who are raising or plan to raise children as speakers of more than one language, and for the teachers and healthcare workers who meet and can support them.
Greening the information desert
2019. Una Cunningham, Jeanette King.Article
Parents and prospective parents who speak a language other than English in New Zealand are in something of an information desert when it comes to how and why they might go about raising their children bilingually. While the official languages, Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language, have special status among the languages of New Zealand, other languages are viewed very much as the responsibility of ethnolinguistic communities. To support the intergenerational transmission of minority languages in New Zealand, research-informed material has been created for dissemination in a website, an associated Facebook page and a series of lecture-workshops for parents and professionals which have been made available in digital form in this website. Workshops continue to be offered to professionals such as speech-language therapists, early childhood educators, midwives, doctors, and nurses who work with families with young children. Questions asked during these workshops help to select the myths about multilingualism we need to address in this outreach to irrigate and green the information desert. Already, a bilingual French class and a Swedish playgroup have been set up as direct results of the parents’ workshop events. Individual parents have reported feeling empowered to persevere in their efforts to raise their children as speakers of their language. Invitations to contribute to education programs for the professionals who work close to young children are beginning to arrive.
Teachability and Learnability of English Pronunciation Features for Vietnamese-Speaking Learners
2013. Una Cunningham. Teaching and Researching English Accents in Native and Non-native Speakers, 3-14Chapter
Anyone who has tried to learn a language with a very different sound system will understand the challenges faced by speakers of a language as different as Vietnamese who are attempting to learn to speak English in a way that is intelligible to non-speakers of Vietnamese. Many learners have very limited opportunity to hear model pronunciations other than their teacher’s, and no opportunity at all to speak in English outside the classroom. Vietnamese-accented English is characterised by a number of features which ride roughshod over English morphosyntax, resulting in speech that is extremely difficult to reconstruct for the non-Vietnamese-speaking listener. Some of these features appear to be more difficult to learn to avoid than others. Phonotactic constraints in L1 appear to be persistent even in L2, and L1 phonological rules will, apparently, often apply in L2 unless they are blocked in some way. Perception of salient (to native listeners) target pronunciations is often lacking, and learners may not be aware that their pronunciation is not intelligible. Despite years of language study, many learners are unable to produce some native speaker targets. Vietnamese learners typically exhibit a set of characteristic pronunciation features in English, and the aim of this study is to see which of these are susceptible to remediation through explicit teaching. This explicit teaching is compared with a less direct, less interactive kind of teaching, involving drawing native and native-like pronunciation of problematic features of English pronunciation to the learners’ attention. The results of this study can then be interpreted in terms of teachability and learnability, which do not always go hand in hand. If we understand what kinds of phonetic features are teachable and how learnability varies for different features, we can target those features where there is a good return for effort spent, resulting in efficient teaching.
Teaching the disembodied
2013. Una Cunningham.Conference
Postgraduate students studying by distance on a course intended primarily as professional development for language educators were invited to participate in real time in scheduled campus classes in the same course for campus students via Skype on iPads. After initial hesitation, some on-line students took up this real-time participation option. Initial technical difficulties were overcome after seeking input from campus and distance students. Comments suggested that the model where distance students were each represented in the physical space of the classroom as a talking head on a tablet device led to a perceived social presence (Kim 2011, Hostetter & Busch 2013). The classroom discourse evolved to refer to the distance participants in a way reminiscent of the way physically challenged campus students might be referred to, i.e. when a student was asked to help another student to turn to see the board, rather than asking them to turn the tablet. However, it also became apparent that the two groups of students, the virtual and the physical, were having partially different classroom experiences (c.f. Westberry & Franken 2013).
Sound problems were experienced by both groups, and this led to some irritation in both groups, so a series of adjustments were made and evaluated, including a move to a model where distance students participated in a group video call via Skype on a laptop rather than on multiple individual Skype calls on iPads. Towards the end of the course, the distance and campus students were asked to evaluate the experience of having physical and virtual participants sharing a physical space and to relate this experience to the asynchronous channels previously available to the participants (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes 2005). There was some othering taking place (Palfreyman 2005), from both groups, and the distance students expressed that they felt excluded from the campus students’ social community. There seemed to be a monitoring of teacher time and attention dedicated to the other group on the part of some participants in both groups. The comments of both groups of participants were interpreted in the light of an application of activity theory (Barab, Evans & Baek 2004; Brine & Franken 2006), looking at aspects of the seminars as activities with subjects and objects and rules for each group. It appears that student beliefs and student expectations lead to hidden benefits and hidden challenges associated with mixing these groups of students (Westberry & Franken 2013).
Barab, S. A., Evans, M. A., & Baek, E. O. (2004). Activity theory as a lens for characterizing the participatory
unit. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communities and technology. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Brine, J. & Franken, M. (2006). Students' perceptions of a selected aspect of a computer mediated academic writing program: An activity theory analysis. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 22 (1) 21–38.
Garrison, D. R., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005). Facilitating cognitive presence in online learning: Interaction
is not enough. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19(3), 133–148.
Hostetter, C. & Busch, M. (2013). Community matters: Social presence and learning outcomes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 13 (1), 77 – 86.
Kim, J. (2011), Developing an instrument to measure social presence in distance higher education. British Journal of Educational Technology 42, 763–777.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Palfreyman, D. (2005). Othering in an English Language Program. TESOL Quarterly 39 (2), 211-233.
Westberry, N. & Franken, M. (2013). Co-construction of knowledge in tertiary online settings: an ecology of resources perspective. Instructional Science 41 (1), pp 147-164.
Twenty quick steps to better English for teachers and other busy people
2013. Una Cunningham.Book
This book is intended to support people who need to improve their basic command of written and spoken English, but who don’t have much time to spend working on it. The book focuses on the most common problems Swedish speakers have in English and offers a quick fix and also a simple explanation, without going too far into grammar terms. This makes it especially useful for teachers who need to be able to teach English, but feel unsure about their use of the language.There is a companion website with an electronic version of the text and sound examples for the pronunciation chapters, as well as a self-diagnosis test you can use to see what you need to work on.
Liminality and Disinhibition in Online Language Learning
2011. Una Cunningham. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 12 (5), 25-37Article
The aim of this paper is to bring theoretical concepts from other areas of scholarly research to bear on synchronous online education in a cross-disciplinary effort to shed light on what is going on by introducing systems of thought from other areas. The liminality and associated communitas which are found in synchronous online learning environments are examined for their possible consequences for learning in general and language learning in particular. Like computer-mediated communication, liminality has been associated with disinhibitory effects. Lack of excessive inhibition has been shown to have positive effects on second language production. The position of the online learner as “neither here nor there” or perhaps simultaneously both here and there is investigated and discussed.
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