The Implications of Multilingualism

"Don’t just ask, 'Who speaks this language?' But, 'What languages do people in this community speak and which languages serve them well for their needs and hopes, both spiritual and material?'" —Dr. Maik Gibson

(July 2018) Understanding the Implications of Multilingualism was the topic of the 7th International Language Assessment Conference (ILAC-7) in Malaysia in May 2018.  More than 125 participants involved in language work in 30 countries attended.

Sponsored by SIL International, ILAC brought together sociolinguists, language program managers, and language surveyors from SIL and collegial organizations to discuss research and strategies for addressing complex language situations in multilingual communities.

The conference also included the first Pike Center Symposium, organized by fellows of the Pike Center for Integrative Scholarship, Dr. Gary Simons (Director) and Dr. Steve Quakenbush. Eighteen scholars gave short presentations of their research and received feedback.

Simons introduced the Symposium emphasizing the importance of topics the scholars addressed. “We can fail to meet needs when we do not understand how multilingualism works in the life of a community. Having a better understanding will help us to serve more effectively.”  The final papers will be published in a Leanpub volume entitled Language and Identity in a Multilingual, Migrating World.

More than 125 participants involved in language work in 30 countries attended the 7th International Language Assessment Conference

Dr. Mark Karan, a senior sociolinguistics consultant for SIL, echoed Simons in his presentation, The Dynamics of Identity: how Migration and Diaspora Impact Identity and Multilingualism. Karan said, “We need to acknowledge that migration, urbanization, and prolonged refugee situations are very much part of our language-related world, and need to be more considered in research.”

Director of SIL Bangladesh, Cornelius Tudu, related personally to the influence of global trends in language use during his presentation on Monitoring and Evaluation Technique. His young daughter has begun to pick up Hindi words and phrases from watching television and tries to use them whenever possible to demonstrate her knowledge of other languages. Tudu himself speaks four languages and sometimes feels more comfortable speaking the national language of Bangladesh, Bengali, than his mother tongue.

Tudu said about his experience at ILAC. “We are also doing the research on how languages are changing, what way we can respond in these changes and how we can work in our contexts. I am very much thankful that we (SIL) as an organization are doing this and I am part of it."