Multilingual Education with a minoritized language: challenges and opportunities

One of the themes of the Forum will discuss Plurilingual Education with a minoritized language. Without any doubt, Education is one of the most important strategies for the revitalization of languages in situation of vulnerability and, although experts and linguistic communities are convinced of this, the presence and development of many non-hegemonic European languages in the education system of their communities is far from being guaranteed. At the same time, we note that European discourses and practices in favour of multilingualism are not taking into account regional and minority languages, and thus, multilingual educational programmes that include and develop the minority language are the exception rather than the rule. In this theme we propose to expose the invisibility of minority languages in the debates on bi-/multilingual education, and the fact that these discourses and practices end up consolidating the hegemony of already hegemonic languages, and thus not contributing to the promotion of European linguistic diversity. We also mean to propose that a view of multilingualism and multilingual education from the perspective of true and inclusive language diversity can do a lot to help the sustainable development of all European languages, and safeguard the linguistic rights of their speakers.

1) Opening discussion

The opening session will be carried forward by two experts, who will discuss issues such as the ones described above.

  • Participants: Joaquim Dolz (University of Geneva) and Miquel Strubell (Linguapax)

2) First round table: Good practices in multilingual education with minority languages

Despise the difficulties, we know that plurilingual education with a minority language works and there are numerous experiences that show that multilingual programmes are possible and that it is possible for the minority language to be learned and developed at school to a high level of competence, even in adverse sociolinguistic contexts (for instance, where the language has been reduced to limited social presence). This round table will gather three experiences that can be considered good practices of multilingual programmes with minority language. After a short presentation of the programme/experience, the key factors that contributed to their success will be discussed with the view of identifying conditions and resources that can be replicated in other contexts.

The following experiences are being invited:

  • Trilingual school Swedish, Finnish and English in Finland. Siv Björklund (University of Vaasa)
  • Four-language education system in the Aran Valley of Catalonia. Jordi Suïll Subirà (University of Lleida)
  • An experience from the Basque Country. Itziar Elorza (University of the Basque Country)

3) Second round table: New speakers, young speakers of minority languages (90’)

Minority language revitalization projects across Europe have shown that the school is crucial for the development of the minority language, in this way being instrumental for the increase of number of speakers. However, the experience gathered in the last 20 years has also shown that “education is not enough” and that the learning of the language in the academic context must be reinforced by socialization activities that are meaningful for the new speakers. How can we “activate” new speakers who learn the language at school? What strategies could help a young person who has learned the language so that s/he becomes an active speaker of that language?

  • Joan Pujolar (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)
  • Enlli Thomas (Bangor University, Wales)
  • Esti Amorrortu (University of Deusto)
This round table on young new speakers of minority languages have been organized with European COST Action IS1306 "New speakers in a Multilingual Europe: Opportunities and Challenges". Participant Esti Amorrortu is a member of this network, and Joan Pujolar is its vice-president.
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Legacy of this theme:

Bearing in mind how important teachers are in the challenges discussed in this theme, we are creating a network of educational institutions and practitioners located where there is one or more minority languages. We believe that the extent of the task requires that minority languages join forces and work together and thus, the aim of this network is to exchange experiences, share good practices, and even foster joined research projects.

Contacts made so far have already unveiled a number of topics that can be considered common challenges:

  • Models and strategies for early immersion depending on the sociolinguistic context and family language profile
  • Early literacy in the minority language
  • Strategies for the integration of children and youngsters of immigrant origin in minority-language medium schools
  • Planification of the different curricular languages of the school. Integrated language curricula
  • Classroom methodology
  • Support of the minority language through extracurricular activities