Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS

UiL OTS researchers want to share their knowledge with parties outside of the academic world, for instance about bilingualism and comprehensible language.

Language and Migration

The diversity of origins of migrants is ever increasing and societies become more multilingual. As a result, linguistic and cultural differences become more prominent in diverse societal domains and institutions, such as education, the judicial system, and healthcare. The ‘language and migration’ project group is interested in the effects of migration on language structure and language use in various societal domains, as well as in linguistic factors that contribute to either successful or unsuccessful accommodation between migrants and the receiving society.

For more information, please contact Dr Jacomine Nortier.

Read more about Language and Migration

Although the general sentiment is that Europe is confronted with an increasing number of migrants since the mid-1980s, migration is not a recent phenomenon; we would not have had the famous Dutch Golden Age without large numbers of immigrants who entered the country in their search for safety and work. In the 17th century one out of three inhabitants of Amsterdam had an immigrant background. Bredero wrote his famous play Spaanschen Brabander as early as 1617, and the sentiments he describes are in no way different from what we encounter today.

Migration has a linguistic impact. Humankind can survive because of its flexibility and its ability to adapt to changes. Language is an essential tool for adaptation as it provides both the model and the principal means for its users to sustain functional and meaningful relationships between themselves and their environment.

The diversity of origins of migrants is ever increasing. Whatever the causes may be, when people move, languages move too, and societies become more multilingual. As a result, linguistic and cultural differences become more prominent in diverse societal domains and institutions, such as education, the judicial system, and healthcare.
 

  • On the one hand, a limited command of their new country of residence’s majority language will prevent migrants from fully realising their potential, and will diminish the potential economic gains from international mobility. The literature shows that both fluency in the language of residence and the ability to learn it quickly are key to successful cultural integration and participation in the destination countries’ labor markets.
     
  • On the other hand, linguistic capital is more than the languages immigrants need to learn. Just as in the 17th century, the linguistic and cultural heritage of today’s immigrants is a potential source for enrichment of both the receiving and migrated communities. As such, individual active multilingualism is something that can be made use of in acquiring Dutch.

The ‘language and migration’ project group is interested in the effects of migration on language structure and language use in various societal domains, as well as in linguistic factors that contribute to either successful or unsuccessful accommodation between migrants and the receiving society.

The group consists of experts in the field of language and education (Dr Sergio Baauw, Dr Ellen-Petra Kester, Dr Emmanuelle Le Pichon-Vorstman, Dr Jacomine Nortier), language contact (Dr Margot van den Berg, Jacomine Nortier), and language policy (Ellen-Petra Kester, Jacomine Nortier).

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Bilingualism

Ever wondered how children learn two languages at once? Or whether there’s an optimal age to start learning a second language? These are just some of the questions being addressed in the workshops on bilingualism and raising bilingual children by the Growing up Bilingual team, started at UiL OTS and including Dr Manuela Pinto and Dr Ivana Brasileiro.

More information for parents, teachers and others interested in bilingual children can be found at the Growing up Bilingual website: www.growingupbilingual.org.

Linguistic and cultural diversity in primary school

Children growing up in multilingual environments face a critical period in the transition from the family home to the school environment. In the context of the interdisciplinary European project ‘Transitions and multilingualism’ (TRAM), we organise workshops to provide primary school teachers with the knowledge of language and cultural diversity, intercultural competences and first and second language(s) acquisition that helps them understand their multilingual pupils and their parents. These workshops are also attended by stakeholders concerned with the management of linguistic and cultural diversity in a school setting.

For more information, please contact Dr Emmanuelle Le Pichon or Dr Sergio Baauw.

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Comprehensible language

According to the Dutch government, comprehensible language - or rather the lack of it - is one of the top 10 bottlenecks for organisations in serving clients and citizens. Banks, hospitals and numerous other organisations work at improving the comprehensibility of their messages to the public. But what do we really know about what makes texts and documents readable and usable? UiL OTS researchers study these matters in the Comprehensible Language programme of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). In the context of this programme they have developed, among other things, the Knowledge Base Comprehensible Text, which contains hundreds of empirical studies in text and document comprehension.

Examples of projects on comprehensible language:

  • Voting advice via intranet: how do voting advice applications affect what we vote? This research is conducted by, among others, Dr Bregje Holleman and Dr Naomi Kamoen, in collaboration with societal partners including KiesKompas, Gemeente Utrecht and the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR).
  • A validated reading level tool for Dutch. This research is led by Prof. Ted Sanders and Dr Henk Pander Maat and conducted in collaboration with the Nederlandse Taalunie and Citogroep.

For more information, please contact Prof. Leo Lentz.

Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS