Guest lecture: How Positive Psychology can counter the deficit perspective in foreign language teaching

Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele (Birkbeck, University of London) will give a guest lecture on Positive Psychology in Foreign Language Teaching. The lecture will be followed by a closed, informal workshop for the MultiLing researchers who will talk about their emotion-related research with Prof. Jean-Marc Dewaele.


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The dichotomy “Native (NS) versus Non Native Speakers (NNS)” is common in applied linguistics and foreign language teaching. It reflects and perpetuates the myth of the linguistic superiority of the so-called “NS” and the banishment of the “NNS” to eternal linguistic and social limbo (Dewaele, 2018; Dewaele, Bak & Ortega, to appear; Dewaele, Mercer, Talbot & von Blanckenburg, 2020). The insistance on learners (and teachers) reaching an unattainablely high level in their foreign language creates stress, causes silence  and resentment and leads to demotivation. Rather than appreciating what is already known, such a deficit view blames learners and users for failing. Positive Psychology can help foreign language teachers focus on what goes right in their students’ learning.  It does not imply that they ignore what not quite right but by integrating the positive and the negative, they will be able to boost enjoyment and help students manage their anxiety (Dewaele et al., 2019a, b), resulting in better performance.  Crucially, teachers need to transmit language skills but also build up learners’ grit and perseverance, strengths, hope, optimism and courage (MacIntyre, Gregersen & Mercer, 2019) while regulating their own emotions (Gkonou, Dewaele & King, 2020).



Dewaele, J.-M. (2018). Why the dichotomy ‘L1 Versus LX User’ is better than ‘Native Versus Non-native Speaker’. Applied Linguistics 39, 236-240.

Dewaele, J.-M., Bak, T. & Ortega, L. (to appear). The native speaker has mud on its face. In N. Slavkov, S. Melo Pfeifer & N. Kerschhofer ‎ (Eds.), Changing Face of the "Native Speaker": Perspectives from Multilingualism and Globalization. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.

Dewaele, J.-M., Chen, X., Padilla, A.M. & Lake, J. (2019). The flowering of positive psychology in foreign language teaching and acquisition research. Frontiers in Psychology. Language Sciences 10, 2128. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02128

Dewaele, J.-M., Mercer, S., Talbot, K.R. & von Blanckenburg, M. (2020). Are EFL pre-service teachers’ judgment of teaching competence swayed by the belief that the EFL teacher is a L1 or LX user of English? European Journal of Applied Linguistics, 8(2), 1-24.

MacIntyre, P.D., Gregersen, T. & Mercer, S. (2019). Setting an Agenda for Positive Psychology in SLA: Theory, Practice, and Research. The Modern Language Journal DOI: 10.1111/modl.12544

About the lecturer

Jean-Marc Dewaele is Professor of Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism at Birkbeck, University of London. He has published several books and more than 300 papers and chapters on individual differences in Second Language Acquisition and Multilingualism. He is former president of the International Association of Multilingualism and the European Second Language Association and he is General Editor of Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. He won the Equality and Diversity Research Award from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013) and the Robert Gardner Award for Excellence in Second Language and Bilingualism Research (2016) from the International Association of Language and Social Psychology.


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Yesim Sevinc
Published Oct. 21, 2020 12:24 PM - Last modified Dec. 7, 2020 11:56 AM