“Speak in English!”: Inventing ‘everyday’ language policies

by Karen Forbes

When we think about language policies we tend to think big. We might think of national mandates which determine the official language(s) of a country, or policies for education which specify the medium of instruction in state schools. While such policies will undoubtedly influence our experience of living, working or studying in a particular country, the language practices that each individual chooses to follow (or perhaps more controversially, chooses to impose on others) reflect much deeper ideologies. Recently I have come across several examples that have made me reflect on these ‘everyday language policies’ and particularly on what they might represent. Here are a few examples…

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Benefits or connections? Are we communicating the right message?

by Yongcan Liu

A few weeks ago, I was involved in writing a case study which forms part of a booklet for the MEITS project addressing some big issues in language learning. The theme that I was responsible for was ‘why do people learn languages?’. This is a question often asked by the general public and in policy making; it is also a very difficult one as the motivations for language learning are many, and very complex. I was hoping to find some straightforward answers in our research, but was struggling to distil a common message across the project, as our strands do not seem to directly address the question of motivation but tend to focus on a related issue on ‘the benefits of language learning’. As the title of the MEITS project indicates, the key message is that Multilingualism can Empower Individuals and Transform Societies and there are multiple benefits of language learning, be they social, cultural, cognitive, educational, economic or even health-related.

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Radio connects Irish speakers

by Robbie Hannan

Due to Covid-19 lockdown, I have been working from home for some time along with our youngest son and daughter. So far, the arrangement is going well, although things can get a bit tetchy as cocktail hour approaches on Fridays!

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What’s Coronavirus doing to our languages?

by Hui (Annette) Zhao

As I write this blog on 23rd April, most of the UK, apart from our keyworkers (thank you!), will have been stuck at home for a whole month since 23rd March. As we adjust to the physical challenges brought about by coronavirus, it will come as no surprise to most readers when I say that our language is also being affected by the current situation.

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Old words, new conversations

by Harper Staples

The Oxford English Dictionary’s website posted an announcement earlier this month that there would be an "unusual departure” from their normal quarterly lexicon update, with certain words and abbreviations showing unprecedented levels of current use to be identified and updated in the records. These are, of course, terms related to the current coronavirus pandemic, but what I found surprising is that, in fact, only one of the words referenced is a neologism, Covid-19 (I will assume no definition necessary!).

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Language difficult?

by Henriette Hendriks

Yesterday I was listening in on a toddler trying to get to grips with prepositions, the short words we use in our languages to describe where an object is: in, out, on, under. You would think it is quite straightforward to learn those words. They have only a few letters and are very frequently used in the language. But is it really that easy?

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Multilingualism and multiple ways of thinking about the world?

by Alim Tusun

There is a popular understanding that people speaking different languages think differently about the world. But is this indeed the case? What happens with people speaking two or more languages? Does learning a new language entail developing a new way of thinking about the world? Researchers have been trying to answer these questions by looking at how speakers of different languages talk about basic experiential domains like time, space and colour and we will explore the spatial domain here.

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Multilingualism as the norm in education!

by Dieuwerke (Dee) Rutgers

Highlighting the central role of language in education and learning seems like stating the obvious. After all, language provides the key tool through which we humans are able to share knowledge across generations. Yet, the full implications of language for teaching and learning are often insufficiently acknowledged and incorporated in educational practice.

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