EuroSLA 2019 in Lund, Sweden

This year the annual EuroSLA conference took place in the beautiful university city of Lund, in southern Sweden. With temperatures unseasonably high and the sun shining, around 300 delegates descended on the city for a busy few days at the conference.

Lourdes Orteaga;s keynote
Lourdes Ortega’s keynote

The opening keynote was given in sign language, with a spoken recording, by Krister Schönström. He discussed why sign language research may be interesting to SLA researchers and vice versa and questioned if learning a second language in the visual modality, such as a sign language, is the same as learning a spoken second language. The ensuing keynotes, by Rob Schoonen, who spoke about language learners’ ability and measurement, and Lourdes Ortega, who gave us an overview of important research to-date, before stressing the need for a reatunement from traditional contexts to embrace equitable multilingualism in diverse contexts, also provoked much conversation and discussion among delegates during the coffee breaks and social activities. The conference was finally drawn to a close by Minna Lehtonen who spoke about the effect of learning and experience on the neurocognitive systems of bilinguals and balanced bilinguals.

Outside the conference 9-5, delegates were treated to a drinks reception at the university’s main hall, which is locally nicknamed ‘The White House’ due to its prominent stature and, of course, white walls. The conference dinner on the Friday night was in an equally impressive building, the Skissernas Museum, in which we enjoyed a tasty Smörgåsbord while seated among the colourful artwork and under a brightly lit mirrored ceiling.

Next year’s EuroSLA conference is the 30th anniversary meeting and will take place in Barcelona in early July. We are looking forward to it already!

Laura

An Interview with Liss Kerstin Sylvén on her Research on CLIL

This month we published Investigating Content and Language Integrated Learning edited by Liss Kerstin Sylvén. In this post we ask her about her research on Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) and the process of putting together an edited volume.

How did you first become interested in studying CLIL?

The first time I ever encountered CLIL (which was at a time when I had never even heard of the concept) was when I substituted as an English teacher at a Swedish upper secondary school, and one of the teachers there told me that they were planning to start using English as the medium of instruction in some non-language subjects. I remember my reaction being a big Why? Why should Swedish teachers, at a Swedish school, with Swedish students use English as the medium of instruction? That was the starting point for my interest in studying effects of CLIL, and very soon after this first encounter with CLIL, I wrote my bachelor thesis on the topic.

Why did you feel this was an important book to write?

There are so many uninformed views on CLIL, and often it is seen as only good or only bad. In other words, many people see it as black or white. What is important with this book is that it describes a unique, longitudinal project which has resulted in a huge number of interesting findings. The most important of them are found in this collection, and together they show that CLIL is far from black or white, but rather represents a number of nuances that need to be taken into account in order to fully understand what CLIL is, can be, and can do, in a certain context.

Why is the Swedish context a particularly interesting one to research? What can policymakers in other countries learn from this example?

Every country is interesting in its own right from the perspective of effects of CLIL. Sweden is interesting not least due to the fact that English is so widespread in society and the level of English proficiency is generally high. An interesting question, then, has been what role CLIL can play in our society. The brief answer is that CLIL can play an important role, but it has to be done in the right circumstances. For instance, teachers need to be sufficiently prepared and trained for CLIL teaching, and focus should be on academic language, rather than the everyday language which students encounter in abundance outside of school. Sweden is also interesting as we have seen a significant increase in the number of students with a non-Swedish background in our schools during the last decades. A pertinent question is if CLIL can help bridge barriers between this group of students and those with a Swedish background.

Policymakers in other countries can tailor decisions based on our findings in the Swedish context that may be relevant for their own context. By reading the volume, they will hopefully become aware of the very important role the local context plays, and that decisions need to be based on them, not on results from contexts different from their own.

As you compiled your book, did anything in the research particularly surprise or intrigue you?

What has surprised me throughout the work with the project, on which the book is based, is how positive everybody involved in CLIL seems to be about using English as the medium of instruction part of the time in school. Students, teachers, administrators – all have a very confident view of CLIL, and this, of course, is highly interesting from an educational viewpoint. With a positive mindset, teaching and learning is definitely facilitated.

Putting together any edited volume is a major undertaking. How did you find the process?

I would lie if I were to say that it was an easy process. It was not! Primarily I think the fact that we are as many as fourteen contributors to this volume, played a role in making it quite complicated at times – who had done what? Who needed a reminder? Who was waiting for feedback? Etc. However, the multitude of viewpoints presented by each and every one of us is, of course, also one of the strengths of this book. And, the support given to me as the editor of the book by Multilingual Matters throughout this entire process has been invaluable. I have learnt so much by working with this volume, knowledge that I do not want to be without!

What advice would you offer to an academic writing or editing their first book?

Make sure that the topic is one that you really, really care about! Find a good publisher who is enthusiastic about the idea! Once there is such a topic and such a publisher, just go for it. Yes, it entails a lot of work, but in the end, it is definitely worth it.

You painted the image on your book cover yourself. Have you been painting for long? What was the inspiration behind this piece?

To answer your first question, I have always painted! Some periods more, some less, but it’s always there as my favorite escape from stress and problems of any kind. When I paint, I think good thoughts, and I often unconsciously come up with new ways of looking at things. The motif for the cover of the book came to me very early on in the process. When I realized we were going to get the book published, I started seeing it as it would look on the bookshelf, and I saw it pretty much as it now looks. I have tried to illustrate the move from seeing CLIL as something that is either black or white, to something full of shades of various colors. I couldn’t have been happier than when you all agreed to actually use it for the cover of the book!

What books – either for work or for pleasure – are you reading at the moment?

For pleasure, I’m reading Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker (absolutely fascinating!), and Michelle Obama’s biography Becoming. For work, I am re-reading Identity and Language Learning by Bonny Norton (Multilingual Matters, 2013), and Miho Inaba’s very recent and interesting book on extramural Japanese, Second Language Literacy Practices and Language Learning Outside the Classroom (Multilingual Matters, 2019) – pure coincidence with two books from Multilingual Matters 🙂

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Conceptualising Integration in CLIL and Multilingual Education edited by Tarja Nikula, Emma Dafouz, Pat Moore and Ute Smit.

Translanguaging: from a little acorn a mighty oak grows

This month we published New Perspectives on Translanguaging and Education edited by BethAnne Paulsrud, Jenny Rosén, Boglárka Straszer and Åsa Wedin. In this post the editors explain how the book came about and introduce us to the metaphor of the “translanguaging tree”.

Research on translanguaging has often been centred in superdiverse cities and urban spaces. Thus, Dalarna University in Falun, Sweden, may not have come to mind first when exploring new research in the dynamic field of translanguaging as theory and pedagogy ‒ until now! Dalarna University has proven to be the springboard for a collection of innovative international research on translanguaging. How did this happen?

Let us back up a bit! The four of us editors have all been teaching and researching language in education in the Swedish context for many years, focusing on both policy and practice. With approximately 20% of Sweden’s population comprised of immigrants and at least 140 languages spoken by pupils in the compulsory school system, language use in and out of educational contexts is a stimulating field. Our research led us naturally to the concept of translanguaging.

The Translanguaging conference at Dalarna University

Translanguaging offered a new way to explore language ideologies, policies, and processes. After a study visit by Åsa to Canada, where she spent time with Jim Cummins and Thornwood Primary School in Mississauga, the idea of a small workshop on translanguaging grew. While we first imagined that perhaps a dozen or so Swedish researchers would join us in Falun, we soon realized that the thirst for discussing translanguaging as a theoretical and pedagogical concept was great. That informal workshop developed into an international conference, “Translanguaging – practices, skills and pedagogy”, with more than 150 researchers from around 20 countries as well as numerous in-service teachers. Bryn Jones, in his presentation at the conference, aptly described the spread of translanguaging as a useful concept in education research with the metaphor “from a little acorn a mighty oak grows”.

The editors at a writing workshop

The metaphor of the acorn even describes the momentum which followed the conference in Falun. Inspired by the amazing research taking place in different contexts, we knew that a volume was needed to share this surge in the field. With a fantastic group of scholars from seven countries, the volume took shape in record time. For us editors, the period of time from April, 2015, to the present will always be remembered as a blur of texts to read, long editor meetings, contact with fantastic authors spread across the world, and appreciation of the great efforts made by everyone involved in the book. A highlight was a two-day writing workshop in the wintry countryside outside of Stockholm, where all the authors gathered for two days of peer-reviewing and mingling.

Many branches of the ever-growing ‘translanguaging tree’ are represented in our volume. Here are just a few:

  • agency
  • language ideology
  • language policy
  • social justice
  • translanguaging space
  • transliteracy
  • critical views on translanguaging
  • young learners to young adults
  • sign languages
  • national minority languages

Organizing a conference on translanguaging in the small town of Falun in Sweden highlights the fact that linguistic and cultural diversity is part of everyday lives in most places in the world. With the publication of this timely collection, we have made one contribution to tending the flourishing ‘translanguaging tree.’ We hope that the field will continue to thrive, and that future research will benefit from this first volume dedicated to new perspectives of translanguaging in education.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Translanguaging in Higher Education edited by Catherine M. Mazak and Kevin S. Carroll.

Multi-sited Language Policies in Finland, Sweden and Everywhere Else

Earlier this month we published Language Policies in Finland and Sweden edited by Mia Halonen, Pasi Ihalainen and Taina Saarinen. Here, the editors of the book explain how the book came about.

“Calls for Latinization of Ukrainian alphabet on ‘civilizational grounds’ anger Russians”
“Are drugs the answer to language learning?”
“MPs divided on compulsory Swedish language education”

Recent news headlines from around the world show how we are constantly surrounded by language politics and policies. Often the news items in question have historical and spatial links to policy issues and discourses elsewhere or in another time – or to both.

Language Policies in Finland and SwedenOur observations on multi-sitedly linked language policies led us to work on the book Language policies in Finland and Sweden: Interdisciplinary and Multi-sited Comparisons. While our empirical cases are located in Finland and Sweden, similar debates are going on everywhere in the world. We saw examples of (potentially nationalistic) policy discourses in which concepts like “minority”, “official”, “main”, “domestic” and “foreign” were used to construct the political field and became sources for ideological constructions. “Language” turned out to be an even heavier political argument than we initially thought.

The comparisons between Finland and Sweden show for example that in spite of the shared long history of the two countries, the language political climate has developed in very different ways. In Finland, the present policy discourses still highlight a historically strong consensual ideal of state bilingualism, visible in the equal legislative status of Finnish and Swedish. At the same time, looking at educational settings, the Swedish language gets “defamiliarised”, i.e. constructed as a foreign, not a domestic, language.

In Sweden, in turn, the arguments advocating Swedish as the “main” language of the country are based on the ideal of the Swedish language enabling democratic participation in society. However, the support for Swedish has often also entailed losing possibilities to sustain heritage languages.

These kinds of frictions in language policies directed our focus to the apparent clashes between language “policies” and “practices” at different levels. These are often studied separately by either researchers interested in macro level politics and policy making, or researchers studying micro level use of language in interaction. We soon realised that observing the levels separately would not help us to understand their intertwined nature. Instead, we wanted not just to combine micro and macro analysis of the historical and the contemporary, but to see them as dialogical, feeding and construing each other.

This theoretical idea comes alive in the analyses of parliamentary discourses as a nexus of interrelated discourses, constructions of standard language ideals, embodied immigrant experiences of a lack of language, ethnic activism, and media discourses, among others. For us, the chapters opened a whole new world of a constantly changing sociolinguistic space, where just a minor change in a description of a status of a language or change in the amount (and status!) of a migrant group affects the whole field and the related political discourses. The separate cases emerged as stills of a film or details of a painting where everything has a crucial part in the entirety.

We hope the book helps you, too, in understanding language policies as historically and contemporarily intertwined, in other words, as multi-sited. We also strongly believe that the same strategy is applicable to any field of political discourse.

For further information about the book please see our website or contact the authors:
Mia Halonen, Researcher (language ideologies) mia.halonen@jyu.fi
Pasi Ihalainen, Professor of Comparative European History pasi.t.ihalainen@jyu.fi
Taina Saarinen, Senior Researcher (language education policies) taina.m.saarinen@jyu.fi

Update from the Language Cafés Project

The Christmas Language Cafe
The Christmas Language Café

Although we’ve just announced the winner of our 2013 Multilingualism in the Community Award we haven’t forgotten our previous winners. We’ve just had an update from Mandy Bengts the organiser of the Language Cafés project (2012 winners) and she’s filled us in on what they’ve achieved this past year.

I have continued as organizer of the university’s cafés since our winning of the prize, for which I once again thank Multilingual Matters. Just last week, we held an event at the local library where we brought together international students, Swedish people and new arrivals to Sweden from countries as far apart as Nigeria and China, Iran and the USA. It was a Christmas café, where traditions and languages were shared, as well as some Swedish glögg (mulled wine) and saffransbullar (saffron buns), typical to a Swedish “jul” or Christmas, all financed by the prize money.

We have decided to add a “new” language to our language café menu each term, financed once again by the winning money. Last term and the one prior, we had cafés in Persian, hosted by a lady from Iran and attended by mainly Swedish people, which was very much our aim. Next term, I hope to add Thai as there are many people from Thailand in the local community, and what is more, Thailand as a holiday destination is extremely popular among Swedes. We have also added a few more items to our stock of café paraphernalia, such as flags and games.

So the idea is to use the money slowly and wisely and allow the café concept to grow alongside the concept of Multiculturalism in the Community.

For more information on the Language Cafés please see their website.

Winner of the 2012 Multilingualism in the Community Award

We are delighted to announce that the winner of our 2012 Multilingualism in the Community Award is the Language Cafés project based in Dalarna, Sweden. Here, Mandy Bengts, coordinator of the Language Cafés, tells us a bit more about the project and how the prize money will help them to develop their scheme further.

Language Cafés in Action

Located in the heart of Sweden, Dalarna University (Högskolan Dalarna) may be quite small, but it also happens to be home to one of Sweden’s largest language faculties with 11 bustling and busy language departments, and an online Language Centre to its name.

With so much diversity, it is only natural that the university’s Language Cafés have come to be as popular as they are today. Every second Monday, anybody who wishes can come to these free cafés, where “How are yous?” and “Who are yous?” and “How do you say thats?” are shared in a number of languages, with a native-speaker host there to assist when conversation gets stuck and grammar bars the way.

Language Café outdoors

What we, the delighted winners of this year’s Multilingualism in the Community Award, noticed, however, is that although our cafés draw people from diverse backgrounds (and certainly not always just students),  there were still members of the community that were conspicuous by their absence: where were our Thai, our Somalian, our Turkish, our Iranian (among others) community members? These are cultural groups that are integral to contemporary Swedish society and that are as welcome to our language cafés as our current (predominantly Swedish) participants are. Our mission has now become to find a means of involving them too!

Our ideas didn’t stop there either…

We also wondered about Sign Language: it too should have a place at our language cafés… and what about pupils with special needs who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn a second language?

Now that we have won the wonderful amount of some 20 000 SEK, the doors of possibility have swung generously open.

Swedish Table

We want to use the money to be even more inclusive. All those kronor will allow us to organise more cafés at times and places that suit more people. We will visit organisations that work with newcomers to Sweden to learn about how we can provide them with this opportunity to share “Coffee with a Multicultural Flavour”. We want to give them the chance to get to know their Swedish neighbours in informal but planned language café get-togethers – a chance that will allow the “Swedish neighbours” to get to know them too. We would like to enrol student ambassadors (Education Students), who can spread the ethos of our language cafés to pupils with special needs. And of course multicultural events can only enrich these ideas, so why not organize events that are as meaningful to these many groups as “The Crayfish Party” is to Swedes?!

So yes, lots of ideas and lots of planning and lots of worthwhile work ahead. We at Dalarna University’s Language Centre would like to thank Multilingual Matters for providing us with this opportunity to develop and grow: tack så hemskt mycket!

Mandy Bengts, Coordinator of the Language Cafés at Dalarna University
Language Centre: http://du.se/languagecentre
Dalarna University: http://du.se