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Research

Research projects at IOM address a wide range of topics in the field of multilingualism and cover the subject from diverse perspectives (e.g. socio-political, historiographical, cognitive, didactical). Because we are convinced that multilingualism as a research subject can only be understood from an interdisciplinary standpoint, our work draws on different disciplines, theories and methodologies, including experimental, discourse-analytical, ethnographic or corpus-based approaches.

At IOM, we are committed to generating findings from both basic and applied research in the interest of advancing the field of multilingualism and to better understand important societal issues of our day.

The Institute’s work applied research is reinforced by the work at the Research Centre on Multilingualism, which began its activities in 2011 on the basis of a federal mandate.

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Project management
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(till 2019)

SWIKO is a multilingual learner corpus describing learner language according to principles of corpus-linguistics. The corpus is an umbrella project developed during the 2016–2019 research period and being further developed in the 2021–2024 period. It incorporates data from other projects at the Research Centre on Multilingualism. SWIKO can currently be accessed via a request to the Institute of Multilingualism.

Project management
Vocabulary is the basis for receptive and productive language use. Influential theories on second language acquisition and learning consider vocabulary and grammar to be complementary, rather than opposing elements of language. Vocabulary is viewed as an integral component of learner grammars that is worth promoting and consolidating in the foreign language classroom. In recent years, digitialisation has seen the development of many learning apps and platforms that provide new opportunities...

Project management
Digital translation tools and dictionaries have become an indispensable part of language use. DeepL, Leo and Co. are used extensively and for various purposes, however, their benefits for foreign language teaching and learning remain contested. Some consider these tools to be of educational value, while others express their doubts on the sustainability of their contribution to language learning.

WETLAND

Further development and applications of the Swiss learner corpus SWIKO
Project management
In line with the strong presence of usage-based approaches to language description and research in language acquisition, research in corpus linguistics has intensified and diversified in recent years. This applies equally to corpus-based and corpus-oriented research into language acquisition as well as to applied pedagogical research. Nevertheless, research gaps and desiderata remain. For instance, in regards to learner corpora, certain bias towards English as the target language, intermediate...

Project management
Prof. Narly Golestani, UniGE
This exploratory project addresses the question of the origins of individual differences in language aptitude, at different levels of language processing including but not limited to native language phonological, lexical and syntactic processing. This question will be addressed across different levels of multilingual language experience (i.e. in monolinguals, bilinguals and polyglots), in line with the idea that extreme giftedness, healthy  variability and at least some disorders (e.g....

Project management

Supervision
Thomas Studer

Comparatively little research has been conducted on how adult migrants – both those with low literacy skills (non-literates) and those who have competence in a non-Latin alphabet (non-roman alphabet literates) – acquire reading and writing skills, and scholarly findings on the subject are correspondingly sparse. This condition is all the more surprising as specialist discourse on the topic of “literacy levels in adults” has long revealed that traditional differentiations between so-called...

Project management

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Thomas Studer

When asked about their goals, students learning a foreign language generally say they want to speak the language. Despite the value placed on speaking, however, various studies on the foreign language competence of Swiss school students reveal that many learners have difficulty in meeting the learning outcomes set for spoken language (Peyer et al. 2016, Wiedenkeller/Lenz 2019).

Project management

 

Team

Didactic partnership: Centres de Formation Professionnelle de l'Etat de Fribourg (CD-CFP) 

The aim of the DiCoi project is on the one hand to produce teaching material from recordings of authentic conversations (spoken language corpora) and on the other hand to describe the longitudinal development of interaction skills (over 2 years) from recordings of free interactions. Spoken language corpora can be used as a resource for foreign language teaching with the aim of providing exposure to the authentically produced but contextualised target language.

Evolution of patois in French-speaking Switzerland

Predictions regarding vitality, the linguistic system and language practices
Project management
In 2018, Switzerland recognized Franco-Provençal and Franc-Comtois (spoken in French-speaking Switzerland) as minority languages within the meaning of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Their varieties are designated under the term patois, up until now they have primarily been the subject of dialectological description.

Project management
Team

Scientific partner: Stefano Losa, Daniela Kappler, SUPSI-DFA

This research project performs a retrospective analysis of the challenges posed by Swiss multilingualism during the Covid-19 pandemic. Continuous communication with the population is necessary in times of crisis – indeed, communication is an essential aspect of crisis management, be it to provide information about the current situation, health issues and distancing rules, or to explain work-related rights and obligations, access to emergency financial aid, and even educational matters....

Project management
Team

Simone Morehed

The purpose of this project is to study the ‟comprehension‟ aspect of oral interaction competence. More specifically, this involves studying the linguistic and cultural characteristics of comprehension in oral interactions as well as testing teaching sequences that target comprehension in oral interactions for an audience of advanced learners of French as a foreign language.

Benefits of multilingualism for Switzerland

Individuals and society at large (APSIS)
Project management
Team

Scientific partnership, regular consultation with: Federal Statistical Office (FSO); Institute for multilingualism (IOM)

Linguistic and cultural diversity is of particular importance to Switzerland and its residents, all the more because it is tightly bound with the long-term political, social and cultural history of the country. It is often referred to as an “asset” or even a “treasure”, with some going so far as to claim that it is essential to the very existence of the country.

Immersion and bilingual education programmes in Switzerland

A critical literature review and bibliographic database
In Switzerland, language immersion and bilingual education programmes have been both promoted and in demand for quite some time. The topic has also been the focus of numerous scholarly studies that, however, are not always known or accessible. In addition, there is a degree of uncertainty about which findings can be compared or generalised. This project aims to collect existing scholarly literature and documentation and to analyse the information according to theme.

Language exchange activities are widely viewed as a means of promoting language and intercultural competence and as a way to motivate students to learn a foreign language. Indeed,  recently, educational policy has strengthened its commitment to advance and intensify language exchange.

Body-oriented language didactics

Promotion of self-regulation skills at Rhaeto-Romanic-speaking schools
Project management
This project explores verbal, iconic and preverbal signs and interventions that promote self-regulated learning processes. The goal is to discuss the extent to which the conditions for a body-oriented language didactics are given and to promote scholastic success and well-being in equal measure. The PhD student analyses real-life interventions used by Rhaeto-Romanic-speaking teachers at all levels of obligatory schooling and examines explicit strategies taught in the textbooks....

Project management
In order to conduct this PhD research, a group of 5 secondary II teachers was formed. These teachers have been trained in the task-based and intercultural approach. A "before and after" component was added to the data collection. In concrete terms: this group of teachers was observed at the beginning of the research a first time. They were then trained in task-based and intercultural teaching. This was followed by two classroom observations, the first directly after the training and...

Information structure in bilingual speakers

Cross-linguistic influences and language dominance
Project management
Team

Laura Hodel

Swiss National Science Foundation, project funding, project no. 176338 The aim of the project is to examine the different ways in which French, German and Italian speakers achieve cohesion in narrative spoken discourse. Our approach is derived from theories and methods developed in research on information structure.

Project management
The learner's native language(s) have an impact on second language acquisition. All speakers ‘ languages share the processes that enable their functioning and also their knowledge repertoires, such as the phonological repertoire (Flege, Bohn & Jang, 1997; Kartushina & Frauenfelder, 2014). The functioning of languages and their common repertoires can generate cross-linguistic interferences and transfers, which either hinder or facilitate second language acquisition.

As the question of the teaching-learning of French in vocational schools in Switzerland is under debate once again, it is essential to study and understand the place and role of French as a school discipline, a working tool and a subject of discourse in the context of vocational training. A historical perspective will be used for this purpose, since examining current issues from a historical perspective allows for a better understanding of the origins of phenomena and the factors that...

Project management

Scientific partner: 
Hansjakob Schneider, PHZH

The potential to learn foreign languages varies from one individual to the next and has been investigated by many researchers as of the early 1950s. Individuals’ ability to learn foreign languages relies on various elements that have been identified and grouped under the term language aptitude (ability to retrieve, identify and memorise sound sequences belonging to foreign languages, ability to identify meaningful common features etc.). Another area of the research focuses on emotional/personality...