New plurilingual pathways for integration: Immigrants and language learning in the 21st Century” – Heriot-Watt University, 26th & 27th May 2016

Congratulations to Nicola Bermingham (Heriot-Watt University, Dept. LINCS) and Gwennan Higham (Cardiff University) for their success in the BAAL/Cambridge University Press 2015-2016 seminar competition.

The seminar, entitled “New plurilingual pathways for integration: Immigrants and language learning in the 21st Century”, will be held in Heriot-Watt University on 26th and 27th May 2016. This event will be co-hosted by COST Action IS1306 New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe: Opportunities and Challenges and the British Association for Applied Linguistics and Cambridge University Press. The event will also be supported by the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies and the Intercultural Research Centre at Heriot-Watt University.

Professor Máiréad Nic Craith, Chair in European Culture and Heritage, Director of Research and Director of the Intercultural Centre at Heriot-Watt University will deliver a key note speech entitled “Migrants, Languages and Community Cohesion”, which will consider the implications of immigrant learners of minority languages looking in particular at the following questions: (1) how do such language practices impact on perceptions of migrants in host communities (2) what are the implications for community cohesion and (3) how do such choices impact on traditional speakers of minority languages in the host community.

Professor Alison Phipps, Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies and Co-Convener of Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNET) at the University of Glasgow will give a keynote presentation entitled “Language Labour and Language Resistance: On the demands of hosts on their guests”, which will consider the arts of integration through language learning and language policies in the host country and alongside this the arts of resistance and strategies for language and heritage language maintenance employed by migrant communities.

A round table discussion will also be held, addressing the ways in which immigration in the 21st century has lead us to challenge the way in which we think about minority language learning, integration and the notion of citizenship. Invited speakers to the round table discussion include Professor Bernadette O’Rourke, Chair of COST Action New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe: Opportunities and Challenges who will discuss the research that is being carried out by the COST network, focusing specifically on issues of language, identity and social cohesion and Professor Diarmait Mac Giolla Chríost, member of the Research Unit on Language, Policy and Planning at the School of Welsh at Cardiff University who will contribute to the debate, drawing on his expertise on linguistic minorities and language planning.

While the two-day seminar will encourage interdisciplinary dialogue with a variety of papers from different migration and language contexts and cross-sector round table discussions, the proceedings will be directed by key themes and objectives as follows;

  • What are the opportunities and challenges for immigrants who learn new languages?
  • To what extent do immigrant speakers challenge current conceptions of integration, cohesion and citizenship?
  • Which steps or initiatives could facilitate a more comprehensive view of integration, cohesion and citizenship in national and minority language contexts?

A call for papers will be issued in the coming weeks. For more information or expressions of interest please see the event page (http://www.nspk.org.uk/our-events/upcoming-events/new-plurilingual-pathways-for-integration.html) or contact the organisers, Nicola Bermingham (nb199@hw.ac.uk) and Gwennan Higham (HighamGE@cardiff.ac.uk).

 

Research Report on New Irish Speakers launched

by Bernie O’Rourke

Irish Speakers Research Cover_Layout 1

On Friday 30th October, the Irish Language Commissioner, Rónán Ó Domhnaill, launched a Research Report on New Speakers of Irish.  The report was prepared by Heriot-Watt LINCS Professor Bernadette O’Rourke and colleagues Dr. John Walsh and Dr. Hugh Rowland of the University of Ireland, Galway.

This joint venture between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Ireland, Galway presents the results of research on the background, practice and ideologies of ‘new speakers’ of Irish. ‘New speakers’ are defined as people who regularly use a language but who are not traditional native speakers of that language. The report is based on research conducted in recent years by a network of European researchers titled New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe: Opportunities and Challenges under the auspices of COST (European Co-operation in Science and Technology). Prof O’Rourke is the Chair of the network which consists of some 400 researchers from 27 European countries.

What the research demonstrates is that anyone can become a new speaker of Irish or any other minority language, regardless of their language background. However, people need more support to become new speakers and the report makes specific policy recommendations which will help people make that transition if implemented.

‘The findings of our research on Irish have many parallels with other languages in Europe including Basque, Catalan, Breton, Galician, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic, and this report will provide invaluable insights into the broader opportunities and challenges that new speakers bring to a multilingual Europe. The recommendations we have made in relation to new speakers of Irish will feed into a broader set of recommendations at EU level and help identify a common framework of understanding and policy implications at European level’, said Prof O’Rourke. This report builds on other research conducted in Scotland on new speakers of Gaelic by O’Rourke, Professor Wilson McLeod and Dr Stuart Dunmore of the University of Edinburgh.

Ferdie Mac an Fhailigh, Chief Executive of Foras na Gaeilge (the body responsible for the promotion of the Irish language) welcomed the report and the importance of new speakers. The research will feed into recommendations on how best to support new speakers of the language in the future.

A copy of the report is available on the Foras na Gaeilge website.

Nuachainteoir15-0428

“I can write it, I can understand it, but I’ve never spoken it”

by Nicola Bermingham

Last Wednesday, 11th March, Nicola Bermingham held a seminar at the School of Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. The seminar, entitled “I can write it, I can understand it, but I’ve never spoken it”: challenges faced by immigrant “new speakers” in Galicia, formed part of the Soillse seminar series which focuses on minority language policy and sociolinguistics.

The seminar explored issues around ‘new speakerness’ in the context of migration, taking Galicia as the primary research site. Traditionally, Galicia has experienced lower levels of immigration than the rest of Spain. However, the first decade of the 21st century saw an increase in the arrival of immigrants. This was due in part to increased work opportunities in the primary sector as well as the ‘saturation’ of other autonomous communities such as Catalonia. Hence, Galicia, which was once a region synonymous with emigration, has now become host to a diverse migrant population.

The seminar focused specifically on Nicola’s ongoing PhD research, which examines the role of language in the integration of a community of Cape Verdean immigrants living in a small fishing town in northern Galicia. Interestingly, the hierarchical relationship between Portuguese and Creole in Cape Verde shares many similarities with that of Spanish and Galician in Galicia.

Drawing on excerpts from life history interviews carried out with various members of the community, the seminar provided a platform to tease out discourse on language ownership and language as a means of integration into a host community. Following the presentation, thought-provoking discussions took place surrounding the challenges and opportunities faced by Cape Verdean migrants in becoming a “new speaker” of Galician and Spanish.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Nicola Bermingham is a PhD student in the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University. Her research interests include sociolinguistics, migration studies, and minority languages. Looking specifically at the Galician context, her work examines the role language has to play in the integration of immigrants.

NEW SPEAKERS IN A MULTILINGUAL EUROPE: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

CALL FOR PAPERS

 

2nd International Symposium

NEW SPEAKERS IN A MULTILINGUAL EUROPE: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

 

ISCH EU COST Action IS1306
Bernadette O’Rourke, Network Chair, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
Joan Pujolar, Network Vice-Chair, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
20‒22 November 2014 Barcelona

 

Global social changes are transforming the linguistic ecologies of contemporary societies. They change our linguistic landscapes, our linguistic repertoires and the ways we use languages in everyday life. In fact, what we used to understand by “languages” is also changing, along with the concepts and theories traditionally employed to analyse language use. The “New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe” network invites linguists, social scientists, language activists and language planners to take part in the analysis and debate of these sociolinguistic transformations.

 

The concept of “new speakers” provides one angle from which to investigate the new multilingual realities of contemporary Europe; we propose to explore multilingualism from the perspective of the social actors and their experience of using different languages in their daily lives. We focus especially on the experience of people as they socialize in languages that are not their “native” or “first” language, both synchronically and diachronically (e.g. in different periods of their lives). The concept shifts our focus away from the “native speaker”, a notion which has traditionally dominated linguistic analysis and institutional language policies. In this first phase of this EU COST project, we examine three new speaker profiles:

 

New speakers of regional minority languages
New speakers in the context of immigration
New speakers who adopt new languages for specific work purposes
Deadline for submission of abstracts 30 June 2014
More information at

Irish in a multilingual world

In my previous post, I mentioned that new speakers of Irish are bringing the language into new contexts. While some speakers still try to model their Irish on what was traditionally spoken in the Gaeltacht, many others deliberately move away from this model. They break the rules of grammar and adopt hybridized forms of language. Although language purists may be critical of these non-conventional forms, as we all know the nature of language use is that it changes. The language is also been used in new and creative ways by the many new speakers of Irish amongst Ireland’s New Irish. These New Irish originate from places like Poland, Romania, Nigeria, the Philippines and China, to name but a few. I recently met a woman from Poland who was learning Irish and sending her children to an Irish-medium school. Many of the parents of immigrant background I met were very enthusiastic about learning Irish and ensuring their children would become speakers of the language. In a way, becoming a new speaker of Irish is not such a big deal for them. They are already multilingual individuals anyway. So they’re open to the idea of learning and trying out new languages. Of course new speakers of Irish are not restricted to Ireland itself. Irish is also spoken outside of Ireland. You can study Irish in Germany, Spain and Russia and there are dozens of universities in North America where Irish is taught. In fact, with the help of technology and the Internet, it is possible to learn Irish from anywhere in world without ever even coming to Ireland. To end, here is a fun video which tells the story of Yu Ming who learned Irish in China. As you will see, however, when he reaches Ireland he is a bit frustrated to find that in Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, he finds it difficult to find Irish speakers. For new speakers of minority languages, this is often a challenge and the active seeking out of speakers is a big part of the process. Bernie O’Rourke Email – B.M.A.O’Rourke@hw.ac.uk Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke Twitter – @BernORourke

An Irish of the future

A few weeks back I uploaded some information on the upcoming round of WorkGroup Meetings as part of the COST EU Action on “New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe“. The meetings which will be held at Heriot-Watt between 6-7 March 2014.

The project involves researchers from some 17 European countries. In the project we are interested in finding out more about what it means to become a ‘new speaker’ of language in the context of a multilingual Europe.

One of the multilingual strands we are exploring is indigenous minority languages and what it means to become a new speaker of languages such as Irish, Gaelic, Welsh, Galician, Catalan etc.

As a new speaker of Irish, I have been intrigued by this growing phenomenon in the case of the Irish language. I am also a new speaker or neofalante of Galician, a language spoken in northern Spain. I have also begun to pick up a smattering of Scottish Gaelic since my move over to Edinburgh.

I’ll leave my observations on Galician and Scottish Gaelic for another blog post and focus on new speakers of Irish for now and a project on which I am now working on jointly with Dr John Walsh at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Becoming a new speaker of a minority language requires commitment and dedication. The new speakers I interviewed during my field trips back to Ireland had clearly invested a lot of time in learning the intricacies of the language.

In the early years after political independence in Ireland, there was a strong link between national identity and the Irish language.

But new speakers of Irish in 21st century Ireland are no longer speaking Irish for patriotism.

Speaking Irish is more about establishing an individualized identity as opposed to a collective national identity (O’Rourke  2011: 339)

In the globalized world in which we now live, becoming a speaker of a minority language such as Irish is about standing out and being different.

As one of the new speakers I spoke to way back Dublin in 2003 told me “I think that I am very proud that I can speak Irish .. .I like that side of it you know like when other people think about you or ‘she has Irish’…. so like I stand out because of Irish and I like that…” (O’Rourke 2005: 294).

So in the Irish context where English has become the language of the majority of the population, the minority language would seem to be used by new speakers to symbolise an authentic individuality, allowing them to ‘stand out’ and as an expression of difference, reflecting a heightened concern about self-realisation and identity (O’Rourke 2005: 295)

While the Irish language was for a time tainted by the association of nationalism with political violence in Northern Ireland, for a lot of young people now, being a new speaker of Irish is more about tolerance and recognition of diversity.

New speakers bring with them new ways of speaking the language – they often mix Irish with English, they make up new words, use the language in creative ways and often speak with an urban accent.

The term ‘Dublin Irish’ was used by some of the new speakers I spoke to refer to their own way of speaking. These new speakers are bringing Irish into new contexts, ranging from hip-hop music to playful use of the language in internet chat rooms.

So instead of drawing on an Irish of the past, they are inventing and re-inventing an Irish of the future.

Bernie O’Rourke

Email – B.M.A.O’Rourke@hw.ac.uk

Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke

Twitter – @BernORourke

New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe

The recent resignation of the Irish-language commissioner in Ireland, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, featured strongly in the Irish media just before Christmas.

Irish is the official language of the Republic of Ireland. It is one of the only minority languages in Europe and perhaps in the world to have this level of official status.

However, despite this apparent protection at institutional level, there has been a very laissez-faire attitude to the language.

It is little wonder that the Irish-language commissioner accused the Irish Government of hypocrisy, and said Irish speakers in traditional heartland areas of the Gaeltacht (meaning Irish-speaking) were being neglected.

But the Irish language, like many of Europe’s other minority languages, including Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Galician, Occitan, Sami, Romani, Yiddish etc., is being embraced by new speakers.

New speakers are individuals who were not brought up speaking the language in the home as “native” speakers but who learned it as a second language outside of the home, either at school, through adult classes or some other formal means.

Followers of the blog will remember a post on the concept a few years back inviting people to our symposium New Speakers of Minority Languages: A Dialogue.

This is an exciting moment for Irish and others minority languages which are now being used in modern and new contexts.

I am currently coordinating an EU-funded COST project on the theme, ‘New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe involving researchers from some 17 European countries.

As part of the project, some of my European colleagues and I are interested in finding out more about what it means to become a new speaker of a minority language such as Irish, Gaelic or Welsh.

In particular:

▪   Why do people decide to invest time and effort in learning a minority language?

▪   What are their experiences of speaking these languages?

▪   Who are these people?

Bernie O’Rourke

Email – B.M.A.O’Rourke@hw.ac.uk

Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke

Twitter – @BernORourke

Events: BAAL Conference 2013

This year, the 46th Annual conference of the British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) will take place at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh from 5 – 7 September. The event is organised by the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies (LINCS) with Dr Bernadette O’Rourke as principal organiser. The local organising committee includes Ms. Rita McDade, Professor Máiréad Nic Craith, Professor Graham Turner, Professor Isabelle Perez, Ms. Elizabeth Thoday, Mr John Cleary, Ms Emma Guion Akdag, Dr Michelle Liao, Mr Ashvin Devasundaram, and Mr Anik Nandi.

BAAL dates back to 1965, and since then it has received encouragement from the leading linguistics scholars in Great Britain including: James Britton, Michael Halliday, Glyn Lewis, Donald Riddy, Frank Palmer, George Perren, David Stern, Peter Strevens, John Trim, and Jean Ure among others.

Over the last few decades, research in the area of applied linguistics has been transformed by an increasing focus on socio-cultural and linguistic change. This adjustment has accompanied increasing globalisation, mobility and human migration alongside new technologies and a shifting political and economic landscape. This year, the conference theme: ‘Opening New Lines of Communication in Applied Linguistics’ addresses the challenges and opportunities these developments present.

To understand the complexity of this new (socio)linguistic reality, the conference explores new lines of communication between sub disciplines within and beyond  applied linguistics. Apart from the central theme, the conference includes a diverse variety of papers spanning the spectrum of applied linguistics, ranging from Language teaching/learning to sociolinguistics. We are expecting more that 300 delegates during the three days of the conference. The plenary or keynote speakers include pioneers of modern day applied linguistics research:

Kathryn Woolard, University of California, San Diego
Jannis Androutsopoulos, Universität Hamburg
Svenja Adolphs, University of Nottingham

Bernie O’Rourke

Email – B.M.A.O’Rourke@hw.ac.uk

Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke

Twitter – @BernORourke