New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe:

Opportunities and Challenges

One-day seminar 06-07 May 2015 - Université Haute Bretagne – Rennes 2, France

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Our one-day seminar aims at working on the concept of "new speaker" with a view to redefining it within our local, regional, national, international contexts. We also wish to collect information about various profiles of new speakers in France. The third objective is to arouse debates on the ideologies, social representations and stereotypes circulating in society, either favourably or unfavourably, about these new speakers and their social legitimacy.

There will be two main areas of work during our one-day seminar:


We invite speakers to give us various analysis in the fields of applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, anthropology, ethnography or sociology. We will see that question-raising experience at local, grassroot level is reported about; experience from abroad will be sought as well, so as to broaden our perspective.

On the one hand, we will reflect on the situations of citizens whose linguistic evolution has been a multilingual one because of their personal migration history. Their arrival in Europe may have been experienced as a mere cultural shock, but also as a stigma, difficult to rub out even for the following generations.

  • What role does French language proficiency play?
  • What language policies are carried out by our institutions?
  • What do we know about the languages these people bring with them?
  • Which are the languages that are kept in use in the course of their lives, which are the ones that don’t?
  • Would it be conceivable to put forward these citizens’ multilingual skills?
  • What can be done in favour of social cohesion through the languages spoken by our fellow citizens?

On the other hand, we live in Brittany, a territory where there are citizens who commonly and fluently use the Breton language. For a number of these Breton speakers, it is now a language that they have acquired through formal education, either at school in their childhood or by attending language training courses in their adult life. New speakers of Breton are to a certain extent the ones who carry on the linguistic flame, as they help to perpetuate the language together with traditional speakers.

  • Who are these new speakers?
  • What are their own views on learning their new language?
  • What examples of good practise can we observe and retain among those used by Breton teachers?
  • What type of discourse should be conveyed in favour of these speakers?

Artistic and literary expression

One way of approaching the multilingual lives of new speakers is to examine their artistic productions, whenever they exist. These give us a chance to analyse their representations as well as their linguistic and cultural identity. Literature is one domain of special interest but it is not the only one: various experiences on community scenes where the arts take centre stage show us many more ways to go. Analysing artistic and/or literary forms of expression that are focused on "new speakers" will be the other main area of our seminar.

  • What aspects of general interest can we find in these forms of expression ?
  • Could such artistic type of actions shed new light on our field of research?
  • Are they frequent?
  • Do they get support from the various institutions?