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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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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
Team

(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
Team

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
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

Direction: Center for Teachers’ Language Competences (PHSG, SUPSI, HEP VD, UNIL)

Team

Katharina Karges (till 2021)
In cooperation with PH FHNW, PH Luzern and PH St Gallen

The aim of this project is the empirically-based development of assessments to test the profession-specific language skills in teachers of French, English and Italian as a foreign language in primary and secondary schools.

Project management

Peter Lenz (till 2020)

Team

Thomas Aeppli, Katharina Karges (till 2020)
HEP Vaud, PH FHNW, PHLU, PHZH, DECS Ticino, EDK Task database

The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) planned to verify how well students are mastering the Basic Competences (educational standards) in foreign languages for the second time in spring 2020. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, classroom teaching in schools was prohibited from mid-March to mid-May. As the verification could not be carried out as planned, the EDK decided to postpone it to 2023.

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

Dr. Claudia Cathomas, lic.phil. Flurina Graf, Institut für Kulturforschung Graubünden

Two-thirds of all Rhaeto-Romanic speakers live outside the Rhaeto-Romanic homeland, yet the specific linguistic conditions for Romansh speakers outside the traditional language region have not yet been studied in detail.

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

Team

(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).

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
Research cooperation with the Glossaire des patois de la Suisse romande - GPSR

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.

Documenting Francophonie without borders

The Power of words and numbers
Project management
The 19th century saw a proliferation of scientific documentary works contributing to the production of knowledge about languages and their speakers around the world. These included linguistic corpora, ethnographic reports, maps and language statistics comprising a set of research data which was subsequently used by Western governments to define geopolitical borders, to legitimize the construction of nations and to determine those language practices that would come to be recognised as...

Project management
When commencing the compulsory education curriculum, pupils are five years old and are assumed to have mastered the oral foundations of the language of instruction. In some districts however, up to 80% of pupils entering 1H speak a different language at home, and between 60 and 70% do not speak or understand French at all. The processes whereby so-called “allophone” students, even if many of them were born in Switzerland, acquire phonological representations of French (i.e.

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.