Research strand 3: Identities in urban contexts: the European multilingual city

The contemporary challenges relating to European identity have a particular focus in the multilingual, multicultural city.  It is there also that potential solutions to this contradiction may be found.In previous work we have argued that the city is a key driver of the multilingual future.  The city is a concentration of different, changing cultures which are creating new kinds of identity. London, New York, Madrid, Johannesburg and Mumbai are living examples of the “common sense of belonging based on cultural and linguistic diversity” referred to in one of the most challenging documents published by  the European Union in recent years- Amin Maalouf’s 2008 report on Intercultural Dialogue.

Cities are important in this context for a number of reasons:

  • They are living examples – laboratories – of what can be and how diverse communities may interrelate.
  • They are places where policy discourse can be created more easily.
  • They are places where the constraints of national policies and national discourse can be modified or overcome.
  • The city is the locus for multilingualism in all its functions – learning and using languages, and in all its sites – institutional, commercial, educational, and governmental. It therefore provides a great opportunity to bring together policymakers and stakeholders at both local and national levels.
  • Cities also link to other cities, and provide the space where new generations are creating their new realities.

Most importantly, cities are NOT national. They can be ‘beyond the nation’.

We will base our research on the work of previous and existing networks – LUCIDE, Language Rich Europe –  which provide data from cities across Europe (and beyond) in order to increase our understanding of how the city is becoming part of networked new identity spaces where the meaning of ‘here’ is changing because it relates less to national hinterlands and more to preference networks, where the meaning of “neighbour” has expanded from a pre-industrial definition of the next village and a twentieth century definition of the bordering country to a global definition determined by air routes and migration patterns. These new and emerging realities have a direct impact on the other strands of our research – the educated young and our political and symbolic understandings of identity.

The research approach outlined in this proposal is about understanding and analysing the realities of “what is now” and “what has been in the past” but also, from this basis , envisaging “what can be in the future”.  We already have access to key data on multilingualism and identity in Europe and to the expertise which created and analysed that data. This includes EU and Council of Europe reports of the last 10 years, Language Rich Europe survey, the first European Survey on Language Competences, LUCIDE)

Much of these data are about provision and, to a lesser extent, performance. There are also some existing attitudinal surveys (Eurobarometer, LRE, Surveylang) which, although useful, usually remain at the level of surface opinion. We are therefore proposing a mixed-method model of research which – naturally – makes use of these existing data sets, but which goes further by involving stakeholders both in the process of understanding the current realities of multilingualism and in indicating the possibilities for future change and development.  We will carry out:

  • Consolidation of relevant known data and policy documents on languages and identity
  • Analysis of recent and current realities and social representations relating to Multilingual identities in a range of European cities

A modest pilot study in two centres using Concourse sampling (Q methodology) in order to explore the subjective disposition of key stakeholders and draw some tentative conclusions about what might in reality be possible in the future.

Our findings will be of interest to academics in a number of fields (not only applied linguists but economists, sociologists and urban planners) and also to key policy makers in Higher Education and in civil society By involving  participants in the process we believe that we will make some impact on our understandings of what it is to be European and that this will provoke some general (media) interest.

  • A research report with executive summary presenting the main findings.
  • A book on European and Global identities in the cities of the future

Lid King (strand coordinator)  is Director of The Languages Company. He was formerly National Director for Languages in England and Director of CILT, The UK National Centre for Languages.  He has expertise in language education policy and languages pedagogy.

Joseph Lo Bianco  is professor of language and literacy education at the University of Melbourne and a specialist in language policy studies.  His role in the project has been to guide and assist with research methodology and the analysis of language policy and planning.

Lorna Carson is Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics and Director of Postgraduate Teaching and Learning in the School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Sciences at Trinity College Dublin. Her research focuses on second language learning and teaching.

Maya Grekova is a professor in Sociology at Sofia University ‘St. Kliment Ohridski’. The main topics in her research involve human/social similarities and differences, communities and minorities, rights and discrimination, Roma isolation and integration.

Kaloyan Haralampiev, PhD, is associate professor of statistics at the Department of Sociology, “St. Kliment Ohridski” University of Sofia. He teaches courses on statistics for social sciences, SPSS, application of Bayesian statistics in social science, advanced statistics, and quantitative political analysis. He has a sound background in empirical research as statistician.

Krzysztof Kowalski works and teaches in the Department of European Heritage of the Institute of European Studies at the Jagiellonian University. His specialization is in the theory of heritage and anthropology of Europe.

Penka Hristova, is a Chief Assistant Professor at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” (Bulgaria). Her academic interests are mainly focused on European and national language policies, plurilingualism and multilingualism, foreign language teaching and European identity.

Daniela Modrescu  is a research student and staff member at Trinity College Dublin.  Her main interests are in Educational Policy, Educational Assessment and Curriculum Theory

Dilyana Pavlova is a PhD student in European studies at Sofia University “St Kliment Ohridski’, with a particular interest in youth education . She has also worked at the Information centre of EU in Sofia since 2015.