Elite multilingualism: A critical dialogue from a theoretical and empirical standpoint

Multilingualism picElisabeth Barakos (Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at Aston University, member of the Language Education subgroup of CLaRA) and Charlotte Selleck (Lecturer of English Language, University of Worcester) co-organised a panel on “Elite Multilingualism” as part of the Sociolinguistics Symposium 2016 in Murcia, Spain. The panel, which brought together international scholars working in the fields of applied and sociolinguistics, specifically focused on the notion of ‘elite’, i.e. the conceptualisation and evaluation of multilingualism as something that adds social (or material) capital, prestige, privilege and access to resources, within the complexities of a globalised economy. Given the current celebratory discourses about linguistic diversity (emanating, for example from organisations such as the EU) and the multilingual turn in education and applied linguistics (McLaughlin 2016, May 2013), it is timely and necessary to critically engage with what multilingualism has come to mean in different social settings and for different social actors.

Traditionally, research has dealt with often minoritised, underprivileged multilingual speakers vs. the dominant, monolingual speaker, ideologies of native speakerness and standardness, the role of global English as well as monolingualism as a language ideology. There is, however, only scarce engagement with multilingualism as an ideology of and for the elite, and its link to the creation of hierarchies and social inequities (De Mejia 2002).

This panel therefore aimed to introduce the concept of ‘elite multilingualism’ to disentangle the paradoxical situation of valuing some types of languages more than others. In a European context, Jaspers (2009: 19), for example, speaks of the ‘prestige’ or ‘pure’ multilingual – referring to the upwardly mobile, highly educated, higher socioeconomic status learners of two or more internationally useful languages. On the other hand, there is ‘plebeian’ or ‘impure’ multilingual – a term referring to the use of various (regional or minority) language varieties by a mostly urban, largely multi-ethnic, very often poorly educated working class across Europe. As Sonntag (2003: 8) argues, elite is not something monolithic or static; rather, she claims that “different elites draw on different capitals to acquire and retain their elite status”.

From a critical sociolinguistic perspective, this panel aimed to de-naturalise mundane understandings of ‘elite’ multilingualism, both from a theoretical and empirical standpoint, through the following set of questions:

  • What counts as ‘elite multilingualism’? How is multilingualism as a kind of power regime taken up in these different spaces? Which type of multilingualism counts?
  • Are certain languages favoured by ‘elite’ learners? How are other, less frequently learnt languages and their speakers positioned?
  • Does multilingualism bring about new forms of inequalities, hierarchies and stratification? Who benefits from multilingualism and who is marginalised by it?

Such questions should help understand the mobilisation of multilingualism as sources of investment, means of instrumentalisation for specific social actors and social groups and as an ideology that brings about issues of inequality. The questions also pay attention to multilingualism as some kind of existing language order or language regime that is based on processes of selection, hierarchisation, inclusion and exclusion.

The introduction to this panel, which charts some conceptual premises of eliteness and multilingualism as well as outlines the panel participants’ papers, can be found here (includes audio):

Barakos_Selleck_Elite Multilingualism_Panel_Intro

If you would like to know more about elite multilingualism, Elisabeth can be contacted on e.barakos@aston.ac.uk. See also her Aston staff profile for Elisabeth’s other research interests, talks and publications.

10th BAAL Language Learning and Teaching SIG at Leeds

BAAL logo

The 10th international conference of the BAAL Language Learning and Teaching SIG is taking place on 3rd & 4th July 2014, hosted by the University of Leeds. This year’s theme is “Recognizing complexity in language learning and teaching”.

The conference programme is now online on the conference website.

Registration is open until 18th June and accommodation is available on campus for the nights of 2nd, 3rd and 4th July.


Call for papers: EUROSLA 24, September 2014

The Centre for Language Learning Research in the Department of Education, University of York, is pleased to announce that it will host EUROSLA 24, the 24th Annual Conference of the European Second Language Association. You are kindly invited to submit abstracts for papers, posters, thematic colloquia and doctoral workshops on any domain and subdomain of second language research.

The Conference will start in the morning of 4 September 2014 and close at lunchtime on 6 September 2014. Preceding the Conference, there will be a doctoral workshop and a Language Learning roundtable, both on 3 September. The theme of this year’s roundtable is ’Language learning theory and practice: Bridging the gap’.

Plenary speakers
François Grosjean, University of Neuchâtel
Leah Roberts, University of York
Natasha Tokowicz, University of Pittsburgh
Sharon Unsworth, Radboud University Nijmegen

Key dates
28 February 2014: abstract submission deadline
25 April 2014: notification of acceptance
28 April 2014: early bird registration starts
15 June 2014: registration closes for presenters
25 June 2014: early bird registration closes
26 June 2014: full fee registration starts
3 September 2014: doctoral workshop and roundtable
4-6 September 2014: conference

Student stipends
As in previous years, several student stipends will be available for doctoral students.
If you wish to apply, please send the following information to eurosla24@york.ac.uk before 28 February 2014:
1. Name, institution, and address of institution; 2. Curriculum vitae (attached); 3. Official confirmation of a PhD student status; 4. Statement (email) from supervisor or head of Department that the applicant’s institution cannot (fully) cover the conference-related expenses.

Publication of papers
A selection of papers presented at EUROSLA 2014 will be published in the EUROSLA 24 Yearbook following a peer-review process. There is an annual prize for the best EUROSLA Yearbook article. This includes a framed certificate presented at the EUROSLA General Assembly, a fee waiver for the following EUROSLA conference and conference dinner, and free EUROSLA membership for a year.

Abstract submission policy
Each author may submit no more than one single-authored and one co-authored (i.e. not first-authored) abstract to be considered for oral presentations, including colloquia and doctoral workshops. More than one abstract can be submitted for poster presentations. Paper and poster proposals should not have been previously published. All submissions will be reviewed anonymously by the scientific committee and evaluated in terms of rigour, clarity and significance of the contribution, as well as its relevance to second language research. Abstracts should not exceed 450 words (excluding the title, but including optional references).

To submit an abstract please visit http://www.york.ac.uk/eurosla24

No Island Is An Island: European Perspectives on Language Learning in Britain

“Only 30% of English native speakers in the UK can have a conversation in a foreign language, compared to an EU average of 54%.”
European Survey on Language Competences 2012

No Island conferenceAlongside this year’s Language Show Live 2013 (18-20 October) in London, the European Commission’s conference ‘No Island Is An Island: European Perspectives on Language Learning in Britain’ will take place on Friday 18 October. The event will focus on the social, economic and political significance of languages in Britain.

The list of speakers includes

  • Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner responsible for Education, Youth, Sport, and Multilingualism
  • Baroness Garden Government Spokesperson: Higher Education and Skills, Government Whip and Spokesperson: Education and Defence
  • Kristina Cunningham, Head of Sector, Multilingualism policy, European Commission
  • Lid King The Languages Company
  • Marco Benedetti, Director General DG Interpretation, European Commission

More information about the conference is available on the conference website (click Register to access the full programme.)

CfP: International conference on MFL textbooks, Portugal

AlgarveA Call for Papers has been opened for the international conference “Le livre pédagogique en langue(s) étrangère(s) du XIXe siècle au XXIe siècle” which will take place at the Université d’Algarve, Portugal, on 12-13 December, 2013.

The deadline for submission of abstracts (350-500 words, plus short CV) is 15 October.

For more information, please visit the conference website.

This was ICLHE 2013: Integrating Content and Language in Higher Education, at Maastricht University


The international conference “Integrating Content and Language in Higher Education” took place at the University of Maastricht, Netherlands, on 11-13 April, 2013.

This was the third conference of its kind (after previous events held in 2003 and 2006) and, like its predecessors, it focused on how the integration of specialist content learning and language learning affect universities and other institutes of higher education worldwide.

In the years since the Bologna Declaration of June 1999, there has been a surge in undergraduate and graduate degrees offered in other languages – most notably English but also, if to a lesser degree, other languages. The findings presented at this conference are a reflection of the growing research interest in how the integration of discipline-specific content and (second or foreign) language learning is achieved in practice and what the implementation of ICLHE means in terms of education policy (on the international, national, regional, local and institutional level), theoretical and research frameworks, discipline and language pedagogy, teacher training, and student experience.

The conference brought together researchers and practitioners from around the world whose presentations addressed key themes such as:

  • policy: how local, regional, national and supra-national policies shape the design and implementation of the integration of content and language in higher education.
  • linguistic strains: the impact of the rise of English-medium instruction on the role of other languages and cultures in the higher education landscape
  • content: ICL and the access to content knowledge
  • language: the evolution of language competencies in ICLHE programmes
  • theory: theoretical frameworks for underpinning the integration of content and language

Two fascinating keynote speeches set the tone of the conference:

Cecilia JacobsOn Thursday, Prof Cecilia Jacobs (Stellenbosch University, South Africa) talked about “Mapping the terrains of ICLHE: a view from the south”: After setting the scene by discussing frameworks, key concepts and contextual agendas of ICLHE, she called for the abolishment of what she called ‘the dichotomy of language and culture’; instead, she proposed to put knowledge – and the knower – at the centre of ICL pedagogy.

Francois GrinOn Friday, economist Prof Franҫois Grin (University of Geneva, Switzerland) spoke about “Foreign language skills, ‘linguistic work’ and the economic theorie of value”. First, he discussed the personal, social and national value added by multilingualism based on the example of Switzerland before turning to issues of internationalisation in HE. Specifically, he expressed concern about the unquestioned dominance of certain languages (often English, but not always) as medium of instruction, the possibility of ‘deliberate linguistic imperialism’, and some of the ‘negative value of internationalisation’. In his view, world language governance is needed, and he called for a ‘Linguistic Kyoto’ to be established.

??????????At the conference dinner on Friday, April 12, Prof em. Geerd Hofstede (right), who has a long affiliation with the ICLHE conference series, gave a talk about the “Seven Deadly Sins in a Multicultural World”.

A long list of speakers from Europe and beyond – early-career researchers, practicioners, and leading experts in the field – presented insightful papers about a wide range of issues relating to the integration of content and language at tertiary level. For a full list of abstracts, click here.

CLERA member and postgraduate researcher at Aston, Elisabeth Wielander, presented a paper titled ‘CLIL in UK Higher Education: Converging with and diverging from European models’ (abstract).

And finally, on April 11, 2013, the ICLHE Association was officially founded and its constitutive board elected.

Call for Papers: “Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Language Learning“

University of Jyväskylä logo31st Summer School of Applied Language Studies: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Language Learning

June 03-05, 2013
Location: University of Jyväskylä, L303 (Liikunta building), Jyväskylä, Finland

The 2013 Summer School of Applied Language Studies will focus on second and foreign language learning and on problems in learning languages, in particular. The event will offer an opportunity for researchers, language teachers and special education teachers to get together and to share the most recent research findings. It brings together Finnish and international expertise in applied linguistics, mother tongue and foreign language education, special education, and psychology.

Invited speakers:
Docent Åsa Wengelin, Gothenburg University: “Writing processes in writers with and without language difficulties”
Professor Mikko Aro, University of Jyväskylä: “The role of linguistic skills in learning disabilities”
Professor Charles Alderson, Lancaster University: “Diagnosing reading in a second or foreign language”

More information on the conference website.
For further queries, please contact applied-summerschool@jyu.fi

Call for posters and demonstrations

The organisers invite the submission of proposals for poster presentations or demonstrations at the 31st Summer School of Applied Language Studies (Multidisciplinary perspectives to language learning). Submissions should focus on problems in reading or writing in a second / foreign language (SLF), orconcern problems in SFL oral skills or problems in first language skills that may have implications for SFL learning.
The focus of the presentation can be theoretical or practical or their combination. The presentation can concern any relevant aspect of or approach to the phenomenon of interest (e.g., research, intervention, teaching, materials, exercises, software).
Posters will be peer-reviewed by Summer School organisers based on relevance to the theme of the conference, originality, significance, quality, and clarity.
Language of conference is English, but posters and demonstrations can also be presented in Finnish.

Important dates:
February 28th, 2013 Poster / demonstration submission deadline
March 15th, 2013 Acceptance notifications
March 31st, 2013 Deadline for early bird registration

More information on the Summer School website.


This was “Regional varieties, language shift and linguistic identities”

On 12-14 September, over fifty delegates from across the world came together at this international conference at Aston University to discuss the situation of smaller regional languages and varieties in the age of globalization. Globalization – the flow of people, products and ideas across the world – is not a new phenomenon. Mass migration, the development of air travel and electronic communication devices, however, have caused it to increase in speed and impact on the individuals’ lives. In the context of regional varieties we look at an accelerating increase in dialect levelling and language shift. In the light of this, sociolinguists have started to see the need to revisit many well established concepts of theory and analysis: Is there such a thing as a language, such as “English” or “Welsh”? Is a “native speaker” an ideological construction? Can we still apply the concept of a clearly defined “speech community” in a globalized world? Is “superdiversity” a more appropriate term to describe the present linguistic situation than “multilingualism”? The most urgent question for speakers of smaller languages is whether there is still a role to play for lesser used varieties under these changed circumstances.

Regional varieties, so the conference showed, have become an important contributor to identity construction processes, an increasingly important issue for the individual and the community in late Modernity: the individual is under constant and increasing pressure to define who s/he is and has to choose from an ever growing pool of possibilities to construct social identity in an increasingly globalized world, which is perceived as overwhelming and complex. By referring to what is seen as traditional regional language, dialect and culture, localizing oneself seems to be a viable way out of this dilemma. This should have stabilizing effects on lesser used varieties, which have been facing a gradual process of language shift and divergence towards dominant contact languages over the last hundred years. Unfortunately, at the same time, modern life does not so much require knowledge of regional varieties as of standard languages and a good command of English as the global lingua franca. How can an upwardly mobile individual combine the requirements of modern life with identity construction on a regional scale if they so choose? What are the linguistic consequences for lesser used varieties and their respective contact languages?

The discussions were led by three keynote lectures:

Professor Yaron Matras (University of Manchester) The afterlife of a language: The journey of English Romani from community language to a discourse register.

Professor Joan Beal (University of Sheffield) Dialect Inc: the commodification of languages in the ‘new economy’.

Professor Barbara Johnstone (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) The History of Yinz: from areal distribution to regional identity.

“Regional varieties, language shift and linguistic identities” – international conference at Aston

This week (12-15 September, 2012) Aston University will host the international linguistics conference “Regional varieties, language shift and linguistic identities”.

The conference organising committee is headed by Dr Urszula Clark (Reader in English, Co-Director of InterLanD) and Prof Gertrud Reershemius (Professor in German Linguistics, Associate Dean for Research LSS) on behalf of Aston Centre for Interdisciplinary Research into Language and Diversity (InterLanD) and Institute for the Study of Language and Society (ISLS), two research centres located within the School of Languages and Social Sciences alongside CLERA.

The keynote speakers are Prof. Joan Beal, University of Sheffield, Prof. Barbara Johnstone, Carnegie Mellon University (USA), and Prof. Yaron Matras, University of Manchester.

Focussing on the individual speaker and the speech community which is created by the use of language(s) as social practice, the conference includes papers and posters on the following fields of research:

• Language contact between a lesser used regional variety and a dominant standard language.
• Identity and regional varieties;
• Indexicality and enregisterment;
• Variation and style;
• Postvernacular linguistic and cultural practices;
• Emblematic language use and language mixing;
• Lesser used regional varieties and the Internet;
• Regional varieties and linguistic landscapes;
• New approaches to dialectology.

To learn more about this event, go to the conference website, where you will find a full programme.