AEAL 2013 Bilbao – 7th International Conference on Language Acquisition

Next week the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) hosts the seventh edition of the AEAL Conference in Bilbao from 4 to 6 September 2013.

The Association for the Study of Language Acquisition AEAL (Asociación para el Estudio de la Adquisición del Lenguaje) is oriented to the study of the acquisition and learning of SPANISH, CATALAN, GALICIAN and BASQUE languages by children and adolescents. Its triennial conference is a great occasion for meeting experts in language acquisition working in a varied set of areas such as grammar, lexicon, discourse, pragmatics, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, sociolinguistics, language didactics and pedagogy.

Plenary speakers include Laurie Tuller (UniversitéFrançois-Rabelais, Tours, Frantzia), Lourdes de León (CIESAS, Mexiko), Nancy Hornberger (University of Pennsylvania, AEB) and Bernard Schneuwly (Université de Genève, Suitza).

For more information, please visit AEAL Bilbao’s website.

Today’s launches: Barcelona and Madrid

Barcelona and Madrid

Did you know that…

“Spain is a multilingual country with the Castilian variety, usually called Spanish, as the official language. Other languages, Galician, Catalan and Basque, are also official in their respective communities and in some other territories that historically were part of their linguistic continuum, such as Valencia and Islas Baleares in the case of Catalan, and the north of Navarra in the case of Basque.

Besides there is a great variety of dialects, such as Andalusian, Canario, Extremeño, Murciano; etc. and others recognized as territorial languages in the European Charter for regional or Minority languages such as Fablas Aragonesas in Aragón, Bable or Asturian in Asturias, Valenciano in Valencia, and Aranés, official language in la Vall d’Arán. The Charter also protects languages as Berber in Melilla, Caló, a non-territorial language used by gipsies, and Portuguese, used in Extremadura and other places along the border with Portugal.”

There are two launches taking place on 7 June 2012 in Spain: one in Barcelona, one in Madrid.

The Barcelona launch takes place in Arts Santa Monica. The speakers at this launch are:

  • Guus Extra, Catedràtic d’Idiomes i Minories de la Facultat de Humanitats, Babylon, Centre d’Estudis de la Societat Multicultural de la Universitat deTilburg
  • James McGrath, director del centre del British Council de Barcelona Bonanova
  • David Sorrentino, Responsable de Comunicació i Màrqueting Regional de British Council
  • Xavier Vila, professor titular de la Universitat de Barcelona
  • Miguel Àngel Pradilla, Professor del Departament de Filologia Catalana de la Universitat Rovira i Virgili

The Madrid launch takes place in a European Commission Building. The speakers at this launch are:

  • Juan Pedro de Basterrecha, Director de Patrocinio y Gestión Comercial, Instituto Cervantes
  • Aneta Quraishy, Project Manager, Language Rich Europe
  • Martin Hope, Director, Language Rich Europe
  • Marta Genís, Directora del Departamento de Lenguas  Aplicadas, Universidad de Nebrija
  • Chris Wyburd, ELT Director,Oxford University Press

There is a third Spain launch taking place in Bilbao on 12 June 2012. More information about that coming soon…

Spotlight on Spain – Languages in the Spanish Education System

In the final installment of our two-part series Spotlight on Spain, Marta Genis of the Universidad Nebrija discusses the status of languages within the education system and the importance of this to Spain as a whole.

The models for languages in education in Spain vary not only between areas, but also within them. For example, in Valencia (a bilingual community) there are different language models for non-university education. In the Castilian-speaking area Valencian is taught as a subject and the usual teaching language is Castilian. In the Valencian-speaking area there are several programs which include beginning with Valencian taught as a subject and gradually incorporating other subjects in that language; and teaching wholly in Valencian.

In Navarra, the language models range from teaching wholly in Spanish or teaching in Spanish but incorporating the study of the Basque language as a subject to teaching wholly in Basque. While in Cataluña, children are schooled totally in Catalan and learn to read and write in this language and Spanish is gradually introduced into the curriculum.

The ability to communicate in a foreign language is necessary in today’s society. It is also a pressing need within the framework of European unity, as movement of professionals and workers between the countries of the European Community increases along with foreign travel, cultural exchange and communication of news and knowledge.  There is, therefore, a great social demand for providing students with a communicative competence in a foreign language in compulsory education. Spain, a multilingual country, with four official languages, lots of dialects and many immigration languages present in everyday life, should be sensitive to learning foreign languages.

In Spain English is the language chosen in most of the communities, although some communities have programmes for French, German, Italian and Portuguese. The teaching of a foreign language begins at 8 years old, but there are many autonomous regions in which it is introduced at 3 years old. Currently Spain applies two models in what has been called bilingual education. The main characteristic of the first one, called Secciones bilingües, is the coexistence, in the same course, of bilingual groups of students and others that are not bilingual. The second model consists of infant and primary schools in which English (or another foreign language) is taught to all students. As regards to teachers, their expertise is different depending on the levels.  Primary teachers are generally non-native language specialists, while in secondary education teachers are mainly non-native subject teachers.

The preservation of cultural and linguistic diversity should be a main priority of Spanish language policy as it can affect greatly the rich variety of languages we enjoy. Cultivating language skills is absolutely necessary in this plurilingual world of ours for various reasons; firstly, they are the most outstanding vehicles for culture; secondly, they help value and respect other cultures, accepting differences more easily; and thirdly, they enable people to benefit from opportunities in employment and mobility. In addition, using different languages is necessary in order to participate in the social and political life of our plurilingual European countries. Thus, it is vital to adapt the education system to these new human needs since language is the most important mark of identity

Additional Reading:

Blanco, J. & Nicholson, D. (2010) Cambridge ESOL and Spanish school networks. In Research Notes, issue 40, May. Cambridge ESOL. Available online

Frigols Martín, M J (2006) CLIL implementation in Spain: An approach to different models. Available online.

Hnízdo, B. (2005-2011) The types of European plurilingualism:  Gateways to Creation of Transnational Identities? In Development of the Czech Society in the EU: challenges and risks. MSM. Available online.

Some 50 million EU citizens, 10% of the EU population, speak a regional or minority language

Some of my recent posts (Reindeer racing in Sápmi, Lá Fhéile Pádraig Shona Duit, etc.) have been triggered by news items I’ve spotted in the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity’s  website. The NPLD is a pan-European network which covers regional, minority, indigenous, cross-border and smaller national languages to promote linguistic diversity in the context of a multilingualEurope.  Some 50 million EU citizens, 10% of the EU population, speak a regional or minority language.

The network currently includes representatives from the following languages: Finnish, Basque, Catalan, Breton, Occitan, Cornish, Welsh, Swedish, Lithuanian, Irish Gaelic, Frisian, Estonian, Sami, Corsican, Galician, Meänkieli and Karelian.

Their aim is to facilitate the sharing of existing best practice and the development of new and innovative ideas across the field of language planning in education, the home, the workplace, legislation and the media in the contexts of constitutional, regional and smaller state languages.

NPLD website

According to the network: “as language planners we are aware that many of the issues facing these linguistic communities will be very similar and that sharing good practice is a must if these languages are to survive and flourish.” 

Further information can be found on the NPLD website ( which includes news stories concerning the network and European multilingualism, which brings me back to where I started.