Edinburgh Multilingual Stories Festival 2019

Thanks to everyone who joined us at the 2nd Edinburgh Multilingual Stories Festival (EMSF) from Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th of November 2019. Around 400 people, including school groups and community groups, came to Summerhall for our annual Edinburgh festival celebrating languages.

This year, we were delighted to partner with the research project Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS) and co-host their UK touring pop-up museum of languages on its Edinburgh stop. The project has created fun, hands-on activities for all ages to explore and learn about languages.

In the run up to EMSF we also had a series of workshops in a local Edinburgh school where pupils learned about bilingualism and language learning research, then created art works based on their own experiences. These fantastic works were on display throughout the Festival and provided a discussion point for visitors, many of whom came to browse for books in our free multilingual book swap.

At ‘Kinetic Reading: Language Learning Through Movement’ children aged 9 to 11 had the opportunity to be led by a professional dancer exploring dance and language learning, in an innovative workshop funded by Creative Multilingualism.

One of the highlights of the festival, funded the ESRC Festival of Social Science, was the talk ‘More than one language: what parents and teachers need to know‘ by Professor Antonella Sorace. Around 50 people attended and there was a valuable questions and answers session after the talk to raise individual concerns.

Photos from EMSF 2019 are available on our Facebook album. The full programme and further details are here.

Keep up to date with plans for next Edinburgh Multlingual Stories Festival by signing up for our quarterly email newsletter, or following us on social media.

Research on Bilingual Listening: Is Bulgarian-accented English easier to understand for Bulgarian-English bilinguals?

By Maria Dokovova

1. Why did I start this?

It is widely perceived that second language listeners are better at understanding second-language accents rather than first-language accents. For example, as a Bulgarian whose second language is English, I am expected to be better at understanding Bulgarian-accented or foreign-accented English, rather than native English accents. Other people have put a name to this belief, calling it the Interspeech Intelligibility Benefit Hypothesis.

[Read more…]

Multilingual Encounters: Sign Language Researcher Helen Koulidobrova

1.  Who are you and where are you based?

I am Helen Koulidobrova, PhD, Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics in the Department of English and Director of CT Bilingualism and English Language Learning Research Lab at Central Connecticut State University. Respectfully acknowledging that l live and work on the ancestral lands of Mahican (including the Potomuc), Minisink (Muncee), Moheg (including the Niantic), Pequot, Nupnuc, and Quiripi (Mattabesic, Pugusett, and Schaghticoke) people.

2.  What languages do you know and use?

Russian, Ukrainian (Heritage), English, Spanish, American Sign Language (ASL)

3. Summarise your area of work in 100 words.

I research what it means to know sign languages and how people acquire them. [Read more…]

The Northern Neighbours: the Catalan language in France

Post by Talia Bagnall

For many years, Catalan was the main language of the region, and French was the official language of the state.  But after the Revolution, the new government tried to unify their country by enforcing French throughout the country.  When education became compulsory, French became the only language taught in schools, and it was the lingua franca for French troops in the First World War.  These days, just over 35% of the population of Northern Catalonia speak Catalan, although 61% understand the language. [Read more…]

Is bilingual education harmful?

Post by Dr Thomas Bak, Bilingualism Matters Programme Director (Bilingualism in later life, healthy ageing & dementia)

The recent article in The Scotsman, in which the Conservative education spokesperson Liz Smith described Gaelic-medium education as a “deeply troubling step” has already generated, as could be expected, a lively and passionate discussion. Much of the ensuing debate has been based on political, ideological and indeed, emotional arguments. So maybe it’s time to bring in some scientific evidence.

Liz Smith’s critique of Gaelic medium education contradicts a huge and growing body of evidence suggesting exactly the opposite of what she was claiming [Read more…]

Prof Antonella Sorace – online & in the news

The founding Director of Bilingualism Matters, Professor Antonella Sorace, gives talks and lectures around the world on bilingualism and language learning. For people interested in attending a talk, but unable to find one in their area, this page links to a few useful articles and informative videos you can find online.

A presentation on the benefits of bilingualism given in Skye, Scotland, in January 2019, particularly for parents who were considering whether to enrol their child in Gaelic medium education, but covering general points from research too.
‘ Why language learning opens the mind: old prejudices, trendy myths, and new research’ – at the 2019 Anna Morpurgo Davies lecture, hosted jointly by the Philological Society and the British Academy.

Online Articles
The joys and benefits of bilingualism – The Guardian
6 Potential Brain Benefits Of Bilingual Education – NPR
Radio interview for the streaming service of the EU Commission – Radio Linguistika – Bilingual matters

Bilingualism Matters Research Symposium 2019

The 2nd Bilingualism Matters Research Symposium (BMRS2019) was held on Saturday 21st September 2019 at the Outreach Centre, University of Edinburgh Holyrood Campus.

Around 80 researchers from around the world attended, giving wide-ranging oral and poster presentations on the latest research into bilingualism and language learning.

Keynote speaker, Prof Ianthi Tsimpli

The keynote speaker was Professor Ianthi Maria Tsimpli, Chair of English and Applied Linguistics at the University of Cambridge who gave a lecture entitled ‘Multilingualism in underprivileged contexts: effects on cognition and school skills‘.

Access the final programme here (pdf) for more details.

View photos from the event on our Facebook album.

See all the highlights on the #BMRS2019 hashtag on Twitter.

New Programme Directors at BM Edinburgh

We are delighted to now have seven Programme Directors from across the University of Edinburgh, who will each work with Bilingualism Matters Edinburgh on public engagement projects in their specific areas. Look out for more details in the coming months.

Dr Thomas Bak, Reader in Human Cognitive Neuroscience
Programme Director for bilingualism in later life, healthy ageing & dementia

Dr Ania Byerly, Senior Teaching Fellow in Language Education, Moray House School of Education and Sport
Programme Director for teacher education

Dr Vicky Chondrogianni, Senior Lecturer in Bilingualism
Programme Director for bilingual development and developmental language disorders

Thomas Chaurin, Head of Languages for All
Programme Director for language teaching and learning

Prof Rob Dunbar, Chair of Celtic Languages, Literature, History and Antiquities
Programme Director for Gaelic

Dr Guy Puzey, Lecturer in Scandinavian Studies
Programme Director for language visibility and Nordic languages

Dr Carlos Soler Montes, Lecturer in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies
Programme Director for Spanish & Portuguese


OASIS database

OASIS is a publicly available database of accessible summaries of research articles in the fields of language learning, language teaching, and multilingualism. OASIS summaries are a single page only and are written in non-technical language. There are currently around 300 summaries online, searchable by topic.

Bilingualism Matters plans to work with OASIS to encourage researchers to contribute to this valuable resource bringing language research results to everyone.

Find out more on their website at: https://oasis-database.org/ and sign up for regular alerts from the OASIS team.

Broadening the Horizons of Applied Linguistics Beyond Language

Elina Karadzhova Languages: Time Dreams Avatars | https://www.elinakaradzhova.com/languages

Post by Dobrochna Futro

On 31st of August 2019 the AILA Creative Inquiry in Applied Linguistics Research Network will convene a colloquium entitled ‘Broadening the Horizons Beyond Language’ as part of the British Association for Applied Linguistics Conference 2019 ‘Broadening the Horizons of Applied Linguistics’. The colloquium will be co-convened by myself, Dobrochna Futro, (Bilingualism Matters Edinburgh and University of Glasgow) and Marta Nitecka Barche (University of Aberdeen).

[Read more…]