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

Emma Marsden (Université de York, GB), partenaire

The goal of the project is to study the influence of teaching materials found in a compulsory school textbook on the learning of two grammatical phenomena. Following an analysis of the way in which these two phenomena are presented in the textbook, an improved variant will be constructed using criteria associated with input quality.

Project management

Agnieszka Otwinowska-Kasztelanic (University of Warsaw)

Vocabulary learning in a second or foreign language can take place in many different ways. In our project, we want to better understand how learners learn words incidentally or intentionally through the use of digital tools. Our project covers several language combinations and is being conducted in two countries in parallel, Poland and Switzerland. In Poland, we study learners who are Polish monolinguals and learn English as a second language (L2).

Project management
This project – a collaboration between S. Madikeri (Department of Computational Linguistics, University of Zurich) and N. Dherbey Chapuis – aims to attain an error rate of approximately 20 percent in automatic transcriptions of audio recordings; at present, AI-generated transcriptions (e.g. Whisper, Microsoft) have an error rate of nearly 50 percent. In a second step, the transcripts will be corrected by hand.

Project management
This interdisciplinary research project focuses on the relationship between multilingualism and plurilingualism, political institutions and legal conditions in Switzerland.

Project management
International and Swiss studies alike have shown that early language promotion in the context of pre-school settings has a positive impact on a child’s scholastic success. In view of the current state of research and the various challenges facing professionals in early education, however, many questions remain unanswered and further research findings are needed. One question addresses the transition from the family to pre-school settings like day care centres.

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...

A minority within the minority

Supporting heritage language speaking students in German vocabulary at Romansh schools
Project management
The canton of Grisons in Switzerland promotes the goal of Romansh-German bilingualism with unique school models in traditional Romansh-speaking areas. In those areas, the minority language Romansh is the school language in primary schools. At secondary school levels, however, school language is switched to the majority language German. Differences in contact with German outside of school settings lead to extremely heterogeneous class constellations during German lessons from the third...

Project management

Thomas Studer


(Santi Guerrero Calle research manager till August 2021)
(Romeo Wasmer research assistant till January 2022)

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).

Benefits of multilingualism for Switzerland

Individuals and society at large (APSIS)
Project management

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.

The project offers a space for methodological reflections about critical ethnographic sociolinguistic research based on researchers’ experiences. On a dedicated website, the team makes available a collection of personal tales about specific problems that raise questions for the researchers, which are seen as opportunities to make sense of, and lead toward a better comprehension of, the phenomena, institutions and actors that are studied.  

Project management

(Eva Wiedenkeller and Katharina Karges 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

Cédric Diogo (-06.2022)

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

(Cédric Diogo -06.22)

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.

Project management



    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.

    Discourse, Disability and Inequality

    Developing a Sociolinguistic Approach to Disability
    Project management
    How do I find out if a train is wheelchair-friendly? Should I talk about my "disability" at job interviews? What types of educational support are available for disabled children, and who should I contact to apply for it? Are the toilets in this restaurant accessible? To find answers to these kinds of questions, people with disabilities develop a range of social and linguistic practices that are often unknown to the general public, as do their friends and family.

    Evolution of patois in French-speaking Switzerland

    Predictions regarding vitality, the linguistic system and language practices
    Project management
    Research cooperation with the Glossaire des patois de la Suisse romande - GPSR

    Project management

    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....

    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.

    The goal of this research project is to examine language ideological debates throughout the period 1970-1990 in two international organisations, the Council of Europe and the European Union, from a critical sociolinguistic perspective. Their discourses on multilingualism and their recommendations for language teaching have shaped language policy in education in many European contexts since.