Multilingualism 2021-04-18T06:41:58+00:00

Multilingualism, in very general terms, can be defined as the use and acquisition of three or more languages. It is the social and individual language practice that has come to the forefront in today’s human society. Its various aspects relate to spheres as diverse as human physiology, cognition, communities with their traditions and material objects, and, of course, languages. Multilingualism concerns education, engineering and commerce, policymaking, family life, and entertainment, to name only some of its dimensions. The field of multilingualism studies the way various languages are acquired, used, and treated today.

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It is hard to imagine an aspect of modern life unaffected by multilingualism. The majority of the world’s population is bi- and multilingual, and those who are not, are still influenced by the mostly multilingual world they live in. Multilingualism is not about languages as such; rather it is about how people use multiple languages. We will discuss how, by whom, and in what conditions languages are acquired, spoken, and dealt with; how many and which language varieties are used or not used and why, and what are the implications of this on individuals and society as a whole.

Multilingualism has a bearing on all of us, as we have to contend with it through all the stages of life while acquiring language, pursuing a career, socializing, and getting older, as we live out our lives in the roles of language speakers, family members, citizens, and professionals. We will examine the way various languages are acquired, used, and treated today and discuss questions that arise daily in all parts of the world. For example, what is an optimal age to start teaching English as a third language? Which kinds of schools – monolingual, bilingual, or multilingual are appropriate for urban centers? Is it normal that grandchildren and grandparents do not understand each other because they speak different languages? Are there more and less economically beneficial languages? How are languages selected for work and international meetings? Why is everyone not a polyglot as Cardinal Mezzofanti was?

The aim of this interactive course is to assist the participants in developing a personal and professional vision of today’s multilingual reality. The course will be conducted in English (also available in Russian). It will consist of eight online (synchronous) meetings of two academic hours each. Teaching methods will include lectures, class discussions, and student presentations.

By the end of the course, participants will

  • identify language-related issues at work, at home, and in business and social communication
  • realistically and confidently deal with the challenges of a multilingual world and make informed decisions
  • develop skills to cope with challenges of communication in international and local settings

Session 1

  • Language and society in the era of globalization
  • What is multilingualism?
  • Are bilingualism and multilingualism the same or different?
  • Individual and social multilingualism
  • Key concepts of multilingualism

Session 2

  • Languages of the world
  • How many languages and speakers are there in the world?
  • What is a language?
  • Languages, dialects, pidgins, creoles
  • Language standardization

Session 3

  • Classifications of languages
  • Distinct categories of languages: Lingua Francas, sign languages, artificial (constructed) languages

Session 4

  • Societal Multilingualism: Multilingual regions and countries
  • Language contact
  • Diversity of multilingualism
  • How multilingual countries differ from each other

Session 5

  • Societal multilingualism: Hierarchies of world languages
  • Roles and status of languages in multilingual countries and organizations
  • Language rights

Session 6

  • Language and social norms: sociolect, idiolect, diglossia, taboo language, elderspeak

Session 7

  • Individual factors of language use: age, gender, social status, level of education, ethnic group, and nationality

Session 8

  • The way we use languages
  • Language repertoire and dominant language constellations
  • Summary of the course

The course is intended for everyone who faces multilingualism daily as a multilingual speaker and is concerned with how languages affect people. It will also be instrumental for those who specialize in education, linguistics, translation, language teaching, and language policy.

Prerequisites include enthusiasm and motivation, listening comprehension, as well as English reading and writing skills sufficient to read learning materials, write short essays, and discuss issues in class.

Professor Larissa Aronin
Email: Larisa@research.haifa.ac.il


Larissa Aronin is an Associate Professor at the Oranim Academic College of Education, Israel. She was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, Visiting Research Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, and a KIVA Guest Professor Technical Universität Darmstadt, Germany. She served two terms as a Secretary of the International Association of Multilingualism and currently is a Board Member of Language Teaching (CUP) and an Editorial Board member of a number of international peer-reviewed journals.

Professor Aronin has published in a range of international journals on a wide array of topics connected with multilingualism and authored and co-authored several books on multilingualism.

Dates: 03 June 2021 – 22 July 2021
Fees: 305USD/992NIS

*Sessions will take place on Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 (Israel time) via Zoom.

Session 1 – 3 June 2021
Session 2 – 10 June 2021
Session 3 – 17 June 2021
Session 4 – 24 June 2021
Session 5 – 1 July 2021
Session 6 – 8 July 2021
Session 7 – 15 July 2021
Session 8 – 22 July 2021