CASS plays leading role in major European heritage language project

The ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science will play a leading role in the new Heritage Language Consortium. The Consortium is a strategic partnership for the study of heritage languages in Europe and involves six leading universities in the UK, Germany and Portugal, as well as the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Through this partnership, CASS will have privileged access to over 130,000 students in 85 countries, and we will use this unique opportunity to build the world’s largest heritage language corpus. The corpus will enable ground-breaking new research on language learning and education and have important implications for educational policy, curriculum design, and materials development.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed at a ceremony in Lisbon to officially launch the Consortium. The launch event featured statements by the Secretary of State for the Portuguese Communities, Dr José Luís Carneiro, by the Secretary of State for Education, Professor João Costa, by the President of the Camões Institute, Ambassador Luís Faro Ramos, and by the Consortium’s Director, Dr Patrick Rebuschat, from Lancaster’s Department of Linguistics and English Language.

Portugal maintains a heritage language network across 85 countries for the families of Portuguese citizens, the world over. This enables children to improve their heritage language with qualified teachers who go into schools to run approved language programmes funded by the Portuguese government.

The Consortium Director, LAEL’s Dr Patrick Rebuschat, said: “This strategic partnership provides us with a unique opportunity – no other country maintains such a significant heritage language network overseas, and we will have privileged access to substantial, yet completely unexplored data.

“The Consortium is a major international initiative which uses Portuguese as a ‘test case’. The insights gained from this project will be applicable to other languages, of course. Our research will help us understand how children and adults learn new languages and identify those factors that make some of us particularly good language learners. We can then use these insights to improve language teaching.

“The Consortium will also organize impact and outreach initiatives to engage with parents, teachers, and policy makers across Europe.”

Professor Steve Bradley, Lancaster’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International), said: “This important initiative demonstrates again Lancaster’s strong international outlook and our commitment to playing a leading role in research that impacts lives, communities, and educational practices across the globe. The Consortium will provide unique opportunities for Lancaster’s staff and students to be involved in a research area that is of particular significance to Europe today.”

The idea for the consortium was born earlier this year when the Portuguese Secretary of State for Education, Professor João Costa, visited Lancaster University to deliver a keynote at a conference organized by Dr Rebuschat. The event focused on bilingualism and heritage language education across Europe. It brought together policy makers from the Portuguese Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education, leading academics, journalists, school teachers and parents to discuss current trends and challenges in heritage language research and education.

Caption: A Memorandum of Understanding was signed at a ceremony in Lisbon to officially launch the Consortium. From left to right: Ambassador Luís Faro Ramos, President of the Camões Institute; Dr José Luís Carneiro, Secretary of State for Portuguese Communities; Professor João Costa, Portuguese Secretary of State for Education; Professor Susana Trovão, NOVA University Lisbon; Dr Patrick Rebuschat, Lancaster University; Professor Maria de Fátima Marinho, University of Porto; Professor Detmar Meurers, Tübingen University; Professor Paulo Farmhouse Alberto, University of Lisbon; Professor Cristina Flores, University of Minho.

For more information, please visit http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/heritage-language or email Dr Patrick Rebuschat: p.rebuschat(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)lancaster.ac.uk.