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Young Researchers at International Symposium on Multilingualism

Blog: The Birkbeck delegation at the Donostia Young Researchers International Symposium on Multilingualism on 3-4 March 2016 in Donostia - San Sebastián (DISM 2016)

Blog from the Birkbeck delegation at the Donostia Young Researchers International Symposium on Multilingualism on 3-4 March 2016 in Donostia - San Sebastián (DISM 2016)


From left to right: Pactricia Favretto Nonnenmacher, Dr Takako Inada, Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele, Miho Kito and Louise Rolland


Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele wrote:

As Vice President of the International Association of Multilingualism (IAM), and co-convenor of the Research Network “Multilingualism” within the Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée (AILA), I discussed with my colleagues on the Executive Board the necessity to give students and young researchers more opportunities to present their research.  The IAM organises a conference every two years (next one is in Vienna in September 2016), AILA organises a World Congress every four years (next one is in Rio de Janeiro in July 2017) but competition to present at these conferences is fierce, and they do not have dedicated slots for PhD students and young researchers (EUROSLA conferences do have a dedicated PhD workshop preceding the annual conference).  Professor Jasone Cenoz, current president of the IAM, thus proposed to organise an event for young researchers, with a number of travel grants, where they could present their on-going work, meet colleagues and more experienced researchers.  Rather than the standard 20-minute presentation with 5 minutes for questions, she decided to have 5-minute presentations in front of all participants, followed by poster sessions where more information could be presented.  Being able to talk about your research in 5 minutes is a variant of the “elevator pitch” where you have 1 minute to explain to someone in the elevator what you work on.  This is a crucial skill, much needed at job interviews, where non-specialists will ask you what your research was about.

Louise Rolland (PhD student) wrote:

This two-day symposium held was jointly organised by AILA-ReN on Multilingualism, the International Association of Multilingualism (IAM) and the University of the Basque Country (Department of Research Methods in Education). The format was very original: all participants were invited to give a short oral presentation (up to five minutes) to introduce their research, before a longer poster viewing session in which people could approach researchers to find out more. In this way, a total of 51 research projects were covered in just one day!

It was a very supportive environment and despite some nervousness about presenting in a formal hall everyone got their message across very well. Overall the research topics ranged from studies of social media (‘Parent-bloggers as Members of a Pro-Multilingualism Online Community’) to research on multilingual education initiatives (‘Attitudes towards a Yi-English-Mandarin trilingual programme in a Chinese university), via bilingual humour and national language policies. It was particularly interesting to learn about the Basque Country context, which was apparent from the opening words – in Basque – by Professor Jasone Cenoz, President of IAM. 'Team Birkbeck' added to the diversity with contributions on: ‘Brazilians’ choice of politeness strategies in Brazil and in the UK after living there for at least a year’ (Patricia Favretto Nonnenmacher, MA student), ‘Foreign language classroom anxiety of Japanese EFL college students (Dr Takako Inada), ‘Cross-linguistic transfer in Japanese-English bilinguals’ emotion narratives’ (Miho Kito, PhD student) and ‘Bi-/multilingual clients’ language choices in psychotherapy’ (Louise Rolland, PhD student).

Poster sessions are not always given pride of place at conferences but they can be very useful: not just for presenting research ideas and findings but also for obtaining feedback. Some people wander over out of general interest, while others make a beeline for you to ask a burning question or suggest a reference - ultimately all contacts are helpful!

Pactricia Favretto Nonnenmacher wrote:

I did not know I could present my BA project in an international Symposium before I had heard about the Donostia Young Researchers' event. From all the feedback and support I have received from my lecturers, in particular from my supervisor Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele, I’ve dared to send my abstract and I have been selected among PhD and Master’ students to take part in it.  I have had a remarkable experience as those two days.  They were the best moments of my academic life so far. It has been a great opportunity to learn from all the participants’ presentations and posters as they have all given me so much food for thought and interesting ideas for future research.  I was also thrilled with the feedback and comments I’ve received from my work and I can now say that this experience has helped me to improve my confidence as I am following the right track when taking on the examples of my colleagues. ‘Team Birkbeck’ was especially important as a support as well as to represent the institution and I am proud of being part of it. Congratulations to ‘Team Birkbeck’ and thanks to Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele for being there for us.

Miho Kito wrote:

Following the successful first day of the programme, what made this symposium a unique and certainly fruitful experience for the young researchers and students were the “Learning from experienced researchers” sessions on the second day. Four successful researchers, Professor Raphael Berthele (University of Fribourg), Dr Gessica De Angelis (Trinity College Dublin), Professor Johannes Müller-Lancé (University of Mannheim) and Professor Maria-Pilar Safont Jordà (University Jaume 1 in Castellon) told their life stories of establishing academic careers to the young audience. Their experiences included struggles, difficult decisions, hard work, a bit of luck, but more importantly passion and ambition. It clearly encouraged the audience dreaming about a career in the competitive academic world. Dr Gessica De Angelis from Trinity College Dublin who happened to be the first PhD student of Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele at Birkbeck told her story of being a PhD student in London, getting her first academic job in Canada which she could not love, returning to Italy while the severe economic recession forced her to start her own company, then taking a job at the University of Bozen-Bolzano in South Tirol and finally becoming an assistant professor at the current institution. Yet she ended her talk with a big warm smile by saying: “Don't worry. Try hard to make your opportunities worthwhile and make sure you love what you are doing. Chances are always there.”

Another useful parts of the symposium on the second day were the “Publishing: a meeting with journal editors” sessions where four editors of international journals; Professor Stephen May (Ethnicities and the Encyclopaedia of Language and Education); Professor Danuta Gabrys-Barker (The International Journal of Multilingualism); Professor Durk Gorter (Language, Culture and Curriculum) and Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele (the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism) gave the audience some valuable tips on publishing their work. The hour-long session felt too short, with enthusiastic discussions between the editors and young researchers. It was also a great opportunity to learn how much effort each editor puts into running their journals. For instance, Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele mentioned that he spends a large amount of time every week working for his journal since the former editor Colin Baker asked him to take over his “child”, the journal in 2013.

Overall, the symposium was unique and very well organized. It became a platform where the young researchers could learn from and discuss with experts as well as sharing their passions and curiosity with other researchers. Intelligent and enthusiastic discussions did not end during the symposium and often continued in beautifully decorated local bars with some wine and pintxos in appreciation of the Basque culture.

The organisers and the senior researchers enjoying a meal in Alzueta sidreria in

Hernani (Gipuzkoa). From left to right: Professor Jasone Cenoz, Professor Dnauta Gabrys, Professor Raphael Berthele, Professor Pilar Safont Jordà, Dr Gessica De Angelis (former BBK student – now at Trinity College Dublin), Professor Durk Gorter, Mrs Katja Wauters-Dewaele, Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele, Professor Johannes Müller-Lancé.