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The Multilingualism Laboratory

The northern provinces carry a long tradition of research into multilingualism and especially the province of Fryslân does so. These regions have been a multilingual area for centuries, in which closely related endogenous languages and language varieties co-exist with exogenous varieties like English and German. Since the 1960s many immigrant languages, mainly belonging to different language families, were added to this repertoire. The standardisation and official recognition of Frisian as a national language have resulted in a rather extensive infrastructure of linguistic research, for instance on the fields of education and language policy. Thus, Fryslân and the other northern provinces of the Netherlands offer an excellent natural setting for conducting ground-breaking multidisciplinary research on multilingualism.

We believe that a multidisciplinary approach is the only answer to the many questions multilingualism confronts us with. That is why our research groups are encouraged to closely collaborate and inspire each other, fueling innovative solutions, recommendations, and policy advice. By combining approaches from different backgrounds, (fundamental) research on multilingualism becomes truly innovative, able to combine societal needs with scientific questions.

Research areas

The research on multilingualism is grouped around three areas, thereby innovatively combining cognitive, sociological and technological approaches to language in a natural setting:

Language, Culture and Society

Investigating the complex relationships of globalization, migration and expressions of linguistic and cultural identity in multilingual contexts to ensure an open, democratic and fair society.

Language, Cognition, and Variation

Investigation language processing in the individual’s mind in combination with language variation in a multilingual society, and its consequences for language change and language learning, with the intention to develop new techniques to facilitate language learning.

Language and Speech Technology

Developing language and speech technologies to support a diversity of natural, multilingual interactions between people and the devices that surround them. The aim is to be involved in R&D on projects relating to multilingual text analysis, multilingual language recognition/disambiguation, and more.

All the linguistic research carried out within the faculty is part of the Center for Language and Cognition Groningen (CLCG) and The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG)

  • Opleidingsvideo

    Does learning a new language change the way we think?

    This footage is taken from the event 'Multilingual Fryslân: The Key Debates' - an event organised to celebrate the launch of the master's programme in multilingualism by the University of Groningen and University Campus Fryslân

    On the 12th and 13th September 2013 eight distinguished scientists met to debate longstanding and provocative questions relating to multilingualism.

    Four debates were held over two evenings and were open to the general public. Moderating the debates was Professor Frans Zwarts of the University Campus Fryslân.

    The topic of the four debates were:
    "Does learning a new language change the way we think?" with Geoff Pullum and Guillaume Thierry.
    "Is language an innate property of humans, or is it something acquired?" with Daniel Everett and Ian Roberts.
    "Is it possible to reverse the trend when a speaker group has started to language shift?" with Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Sue Wright.
    "How can language policy ensure the maintenance of linguistic diversity?" with Robert Phillipson and Abram de Swaan

    – Opleidingsvideo
  • Testimonial van Sophie Gruhn

    In the future I would like to develop language tests and educational material for multilingual children

    Multilingualism is a very recent development in our society and it is no longer exceptional to speak several languages. We need to make adaptations in the field of language policy and education, we need to better protect language minorities, and we need new research about language change and variation. These are just a few examples of the fields you can specialize in during this Master's track.

    I chose to do a Master’s track abroad because I wanted to seize the opportunity get to know another language and culture, as well as to improve my English. This all adds up to quite an advantage if you want to work in the field of multilingualism, especially if you live and study in a bilingual area as in Friesland.

    One of the course units I’m following this semester is Language Minorities: The Case of Frisian. This course unit is a bit different in that every week we have an excursion and some practical work to do. For example, we conducted a survey at the NHL in Leeuwarden and asked students about their attitudes towards Frisian, and another time we analysed the distribution of different languages in a street in Leeuwarden.

    One of the best things about the programme is that you can combine your thesis with a placement, which gives you the chance to make an initial connection with the companies you would like to work with after your studies.

    – Sophie Gruhn
  • Testimonial van Jurand Haveman

    “The program is unique in its kind.”

    This study focuses especially on multilingualism from a social perspective such as linguistic minorities, language change, contact linguistics and language policy and planning. Next to this, I chose this study as it focuses more on the practical sides. There are excursions to events and institutions that deal with multilingual settings and in these excursions you get to experience in which ways multiple languages are used.

    I chose to do this study as I think the program is unique in its kind. The program takes place in Leeuwarden, a bilingual province with multilingual practices. I think the master is challenging as it makes you think about multilingualism in different perspectives. I would say it is a full-time study as the pace of studying is quite high. I certainly study around 40 hours per week. However, I do not mind the workload that much as I really like the topics that we discuss in class. The program of the first semester is very fixed with the planned excursions and the weekly classes. The second semester will consist of your internship or another course at the RUG and your Master’s thesis.

    – Jurand Haveman
  • Testimonial van Master Ambassador Frank Hopwood

    I am particularly interested in linguistic ideologies and the role these play in the ethno-linguistic vitality of minoritized languages

    I studied Minorities and Multilingualism at the University of Groningen (RUG), and, after enjoying an intellectually stimulating BA programme, I decided to continue with the MA Multilingualism, to round off my academic education. I am particularly interested in linguistic ideologies and the role these play in the ethno-linguistic vitality of minoritized languages, so this master's track was a perfect match for me.

    The team of outstanding academics give thought-provoking, intellectually challenging lectures that help students develop their knowledge of the subject matter and challenge widespread conceptions about Multilingualism.

    During the first semester of this master's track one has 12 hours of lectures a week, spread out in three days. The rest of the week one has to dedicate to either self-study or to the completion of different assignments. As both the reading materials and the assignments are engaging this a more than enjoyable activity. During the second semester one is expected to write the master's thesis and either do an internship or choose an extra course.

    Read more about Frank Hopwood and why he chose to study Multilingualism in Groningen!

    Questions? Send Frank an e-mail!

    – Master Ambassador Frank Hopwood
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