Seminar 4

Multilingualism in practice in the university

Room: G39, School of Education, University of Birmingham

Friday 13th November 2015, 9.30-4.30

In this seminar we ask ‘what is the multilingual university?’ Patterns of globalization and policies of internationalisation have led to changes in the linguistic make-up of universities, across student and staff populations. Especially in universities in cities in England, students and staff have extensive language resources at their disposal in the processes of teaching, learning, and research. However, policy and practice continue to privilege an English-only approach. The multilingual nature of British universities rarely features on official university websites, brochures and open days. Even rarer is an acknowledgment of the multilingual environment which characterises everyday linguistic practice. Language resources are rarely discussed except when cast as a problem in relation to students’ English language proficiency. Seldom do universities in England refer to multilingualism as a resource.

This seminar invites speakers and participants to reflect on the implications of this apparent discontinuity between available linguistic resources and their deployment in the academy. We consider examples of multilingualism in practice in the university, and their affordances and constraints. We also look for opportunities to shape policy so that the multilingual resources of the university population may be made more readily available and accessible.

The day will focus on multilingualism as a resource in the university, in terms of research and teaching and learning. It will address the following themes:

  1. Research Teams (including access to networks, brokering, translation, creativity)
  2. Interdisciplinarity (including communication with international partners)
  3. Support Services (including research intelligence, influencing agendas, supporting students )

We are pleased to bring together this ESRC seminar network on multilingualism with the AHRC theme, Translating Cultures. Presentations from each of the Translating Cultures Large Grant teams will reflect on the process of researching multilingualism multilingually.


Christine Hélot (University of Strasbourg) Shifting monolingual ideology in the university: Translingual Writers (Abstract)

Translating Cultures large grant team 1 – Jane Andrews (University of West of England), Mariam Attia (Durham University) Prue Holmes (Durham University), Richard Fay (University of Manchester): Universities as sites of multilingualism – exploring our experiences on a multilingual, multi-disciplinary research project (Abstract and presentation)

Translating Cultures large grant team 2 – Loredana Polezzi (Cardiff University) and Naomi Wells (University of Warwick): Working globally through multilingualism and translation (Abstract)

Translating Cultures large grant team 3 – Caroline Tagg (Open University) and Rachel Hu (University of Birmingham): Bilingual researchers as intermediaries of translation in a research team (Abstract)

Panel – Mbulungeni Madiba (University of Cape Town), Sergey Shpectorov (Maths, University of Birmingham), Zoe Pikramenou (Chemistry, University of Birmingham), Li Wei (Applied Linguistics, UCL Institute of Education), Xavier Rodde (Research Innovation Services, University of Birmingham: Working multilingually in the academy: challenges and opportunities – disciplinary perspectives

Marion Bowl (University of Birmingham) Discussant

Josep-Maria Cots (University of Lleida) Discussant

Seminar report

Download a copy of Seminar 4_Report