Conference on literacy of regional languages

Regional and other lesser-used languages have gained a considerable amount of attention in recent years. Perspectives that have been applied in the analysis include, for instance, their places in relation to specific cultural spaces or regional identities, language maintenance, revitalisation and learning motivation, sociolinguistic functions, language policies and law, or the borders between languages and dialects and ideologies behind them.

However, one fundamental aspect that has, in our opinion, remained under-researched and -discussed, is literacy or text competence, even though there is no doubt that this plays a crucial role in using, developing and maintaining a language. This applies, in particular, to regional varieties which are structurally and with regard to identity questions close to their respective national language – e.g. Latgalian in Latvia, Võru in Estonia, Scots, Low German or also regional varieties in France or Italy and which are often characterised by status debates along the lines of language vs. dialect.

In the development of literacy, education is fundamental. However, regional language education is often economically inefficient, with regard to speaker numbers, learners and official requirements for financing educational institutions. In addition, there is also a frequent lack of experts who are able to develop and implement up-to-date sustainable learning processes. An important aspect in this is also that learners of regional languages are usually not homogenous groups: Depending on individual competences and experiences, they can be classified into at least three different categories: 1. learners who know the national language but know very little of the regional language; 2. learners who use a regional variety on an everyday basis, but who lack skills in reading and writing; and 3. learners who have little competence in both the national and the regional variety (and who often migrated to a country only recently).

In this light, the conference intends to discuss literacies and text competences in regional languages, including ways of how the acquisition and teaching of such languages may benefit from interaction with and integration into teaching practices of majority (national or state) languages. This relates, for instance, to similarities in lexical and grammatical structures, which may be acquired simultaneously in both languages. How may developing a deeper analytical understanding of similarities and differences of the languages in question, help learners? This stands in the context of contemporary approaches to language teaching which make use of the learners’ broader linguistic repertoires. Not least, the perspectives of children and other young people is of particular importance in this – how and what do they wish to learn? And how do young people’s ways of using digital resources or social media help to learn languages – even if they may fundamentally differ from teachers’ views?

In this sense, the conference aims to present and to discuss different approaches to the acquisition of regional languages. We invite to the conference researchers, teachers, high school and university students, and any other interested persons, to hand in abstracts and to discuss highly diverse perspectives of language learners, their wishes and motivation, thereby giving learners a voice in the process. Conference presentations may address, among others, topics and questions such as:

  • the perspectives of language learners – their wishes and needs;
  • how to teach regional languages – depending on different aims of the learners;
  • methods of how to develop literacy and text competence;
  • the role of different digital resources for developing text competence;
  • how may language corpora be used in language acquisition;
  • which contents and text types should be included in regional language teaching;
  • how to increase motivation for regional language learning;
  • how to raise awareness for regional languages;
  • which roles do regional languages play in relation to the development of text competence and literacy of the national language and other languages.

The aim of the conference is, in this way, to compare experiences and research perspectives of different regional language contexts in Europe and beyond. Not least, the conference hopes to discuss implications from which contents and methods in the teaching and acquisition of Latgalian may benefit.

Invited speakers: Nicole Nau (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland), Kadri Koreinik (University of Tartu, Estonia), Birte Arendt (University of Greifswald, Germany)

Working languages: Latgalian, Latvian, English. If papers are given in a language other than English, we invite participants to provide a presentation in English.

Presentations: – 25 minutes (15 minutes for speaking and 10 minutes for discussion.

After the conference, we are planning to prepare and publish a collection of conference articles or a special edition in line with the conference topic.

Participation fee: 80 EUR (for university students: 20 EUR, for high school students: free of charge)

Date of the conference: June 16-17, 2022