Multilingualism as a Chance – A set of conferences about concepts towards an international curriculum for teacher training and the promotion of multilingualism for children and students.
Many concepts and models for the didactics of multilingualism in Europe are being exercised, tested and scientifically analyzed. As a rule multilingualism is seen as a professional necessity. Only in a few studies the everyday multilingualism in multilingual regions and multilingual lifestyles is a topic of interest. The conferences on ‘Multilingualism as a Chance’ are attempts to use the positive potential of these experiences in our training institutions.
The first workshop of “Multilingualism as a Chance” took place in 2009 at the University of Kassel. Subjects were concepts of multilingualism in Finland, Belgium, Poland and Germany. A special feature of this conference was the participation of students not only in the auditorium but also giving presentations. This workshop allowed students and lecturers of the participating universities to get to know multilingual partner regions. Although the workshop had been intended to be a singular event the four universities decided to keep each other informed about results and working plans in the future.
In 2010 the University of Nysa in Poland staged a conference about “German – Landscapes of a Language” which saw itself in the continuity of the first workshop in Kassel. There was a lot of information about the situation of teaching German in the bilingual region of Wroclaw and Nysa. The centre of attention was the teaching of minority languages. There was also a lot of information about cultural aspects in language teaching. A special treat was a literary tour of the town guided by students showing places of literate traditions in Silesia featuring e.g. Joseph von Eichendorff and Max Herrmann Neisse.
The third conference of “Multilingualism as a Chance” took place in Eupen, Belgium at the Autonome Hochschule Ostbelgien. Main topics were the teaching of German as a second language or German as a minority language. Students as well as teachers in schools and universities discussed ideas and exchanged material especially designed for young people from abroad. Lecturers from universities in Germany, Poland, Luxemburg, Finland, Italy and Switzerland reported about programs for pre-school institutions, schools and universities caring for minorities. A special feature of this conference was the participation of government officials of the region of East Belgium.
A new dimension was reached with the conference in 2012 at the University of Luxemburg in Walferdange. In the duration of three days participants were able to visit a bilingual grammar school in the border region of Germany and Luxemburg. There were also many presentations in different parallel workshops. They gave insight into the language policies of Luxemburg where children not only learn the Languages of Luxemburg and Germany but also of France and Great Britain. In addition to that there are courses in Italian, Spanish and Latin. Nevertheless it was made clear by the more than forty lecturers that for the increasing numbers of children and students from abroad new ideas are needed.
In May 2013 the series of conferences was continued in the Pedagogical University of Heidelberg. In three different languages lecturers discussed the teaching of foreign languages and bilingual learning. There were reports about groups of learners from very different language backgrounds. A common platform was presented making it possible for scientists and practicioners to communicate in the field of multilingualism.
In June 2015 the sixth conference took place in Nysa/ Poland. It was the first conference after the establishment of a consortium of stakeholders in universities of Belgium, Germany, Austria, Poland, Finland and Switzerland agreeing on a common goal of promoting multilingualism. Concepts for the practical use of different languages and the development of personal identity were presented. Conference results were published in the Leipziger Universitätsverlag in 2016.
The next conference of “Multilingualism as a Chance” took place from 3rdrd to 5thth July 2017 in Kassel/Germany. In 8 sections more than 150 participants learned about practical examples, scientific results and political language concepts of multilingualism in Europe. It was a very special extra that students from countries like Brazil, Poland and China used the conference lectures learning German as a second language at the University of Kassel.
The consortium agreed on a long term project to chart the educational landscape of Europe creating a dynamic “Atlas of Multilingualism”. While it is clear that a single conference cannot achieve this goal a first step was taken with the publishing of the results of the Kassel conference in 2018, again in the Leipziger Universitätsverlag.
The eighth conference is being prepared at the moment. From September 23rd to 25th in 2020 lecturers are invited to come to Klagenfurt in Austria for the discussion of “Multilingualism – Identity and Education”.