Bar-Ilan News

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  • Prof. Sharon Armon-Lotem, of the Department of English Literature and Linguistics, Director of the Israeli branch of Bilingualism Matters

    Prof. Sharon Armon-Lotem, of the Department of English Literature and Linguistics, Director of the Israeli branch of Bilingualism Matters

    BIU and the University of Edinburgh to Launch First-of-its-Kind Bilingualism Center in Israel during Three-Day International Workshop on Multilingualism and Community Outreach

    Date: 2018-05-31 Hour: 13:52

    Next week (Tuesday, June 5, 2018) experts in multilingualism from Bar-Ilan University, the University of Edinburgh (Scotland), and around the world will gather together to inaugurate Israel's first and only branch of a renowned international network on bilingualism known as Bilingualism Matters.  The launch of the branch, Bilingualism Matters@BIU.IL, will be part of a full day of lectures and activities focusing on fostering relations with multilingual and multicultural sectors of society, including a special panel showcasing Bar-Ilan University's efforts in this sphere.

    With 18 branches in 11 countries around Europe and in the United States, Bilingualism Matters is a network headquartered at the University of Edinburgh that studies bilingualism and language learning, and communicates its findings through dialogue between researchers and the community, and partnerships with parents, teachers, health professional policy makers and employers. 

    The launch of the Israeli branch of Bilingualism Matters is the culmination of the intensive, year-long efforts of Bar-Ilan University researchers, such as Dr. Carmit Altman, of the Churgin School of Education, and Prof. Armon-Lotem, of the Department of English Literature and Linguistics, and members of this world organization. Its establishment constitutes recognition of the University's leadership in the study of bilingualism and multilingualism, and its extensive research cooperation with various universities over the years. The Bar-Ilan branch will help strengthen connections between University researchers and multilingual and multicultural communities, as well as provide a research base for activities that encourage multilingualism and multiculturalism on campus.

    "Bar-Ilan University is a leader in the study of bilingualism and multilingualism, and has worked closely with the community-at-large on different projects for many years," says Prof. Sharon Armon-Lotem, of the Department of English Literature and Linguistics, who will serve as director of the Israeli branch of Bilingualism Matters.  "Being part of this network will allow us to enhance our activities and increase our visibility in Israel and beyond, as well as to increase opportunities for research cooperation.  We have already submitted two grant proposals with members of Bilingualism Matters as we move this collaboration forward."

    Bilingualism Matters was established by Prof. Antonella Sorace, of the University of Edinburgh, in whose presence the Bar-Ilan branch will be inaugurated. Prof. Sorace founded the network in order to strengthen intercultural cooperation in language, promote research in the field, and help communities make informed decisions based on scientific conclusions. In her presentation Prof. Sorace will discuss two types of "bridges" that can foster scientific and public understanding of bilingualism – bridges that Bilingualism Matters is successfully building worldwide. 

    Over many years Bar-Ilan University has been a leader in reaching out to the community-at-large through a variety of projects that support and give expression to multiculturalism and multilingualism.  Some of these projects will be showcased in a special panel featuring heads of daycare centers for African refugees, the principal of the bilingual Arabic-Hebrew school in Jaffa, representatives of an absorption program for children in the Ramat Gan municipality, and leaders from a music dialogue workshop for Jews and Arabs initiated by Dr. Avi Gilboa, Chairman of the University's Department of Music. They will share their experiences and thoughts on the impact of these ties.

    Dr. Liat Netzer, the coordinator of Israeli Hope in Academia at Bar-Ilan, will present the work this project advances in order to encourage multicultural interaction and acceptance.   The Bar-Ilan University faculty and student body is a microcosm of the vast multiculturalism of Israeli society which includes religious, secular, and ultra-Orthodox English speakers, Ethiopian, Russian, French, and South American immigrants who speak at least two languages and whose culture remains instilled in their new identity.

    Dr. Keren Goldfrad and Dr. Zhanna Burstein, from the English as a Foreign Language Unit, and Dr. Carmit Altman, of the Churgin School of Education at Bar-Ilan, will present the results of a survey of students' perspective on multilingual and multicultural awareness on the Bar-Ilan University campus.  University campuses provide a wealth of potential multilingual and multicultural experiences and interactions. Yet, despite multiple opportunities for social contact, the most typical pattern is one of minimal interaction between students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The goals of this study were threefold: to examine  students’ awareness of multilingualism and multiculturalism in Israel; to examine students’ multilingual and multicultural awareness and attitude on campus and in the classroom; to examine students’ perception of their social, cultural and linguistic identity. An online questionnaire was completed by more than 300 Bar-Ilan University students in the language of their choice -- Hebrew, Arabic or English. Preliminary results indicate that exposure to multilingualism in one's personal life seems to increase awareness of multiculturalism and multilingualism in society. In addition, these initial results suggest that supporting multilingual and multicultural visibility on campus may enhance multilingual awareness and multicultural tolerance. 

    Just prior to the inauguration of the Bilingualism Matters branch at Bar-Ilan in the presence of University Vice President for Research Prof. Shulamit Michaeli, an afternoon session will focus on language policy in bilingual schools and family language policy, including how parents decide which language/s to use at home with their children.

    The Tuesday, June 5th gathering will take place as part of a three-day international workshop on the Scientific and Social Contributions of Research in Multilingual and Multicultural Communities on Monday-Wednesday (June 4-6, 2018) supported by the Rector’s Grant for Interdisciplinary Research Groups. During the proceedings a special session will be held in honor of Prof. Joel Walters, distinguished professor in the Department of English Literature and Linguistics and former dean of the Faculty of Humanities, upon his retirement.