UNIC Lightning Bites: Is Multilingualism a Problem or an Advantage?

Prof. Lena Heine from Ruhr University Bochum hosted her session of the UNIC Lightning Bites dedicated to "Is Multilingualism a Problem or an Advantage?".

Virtual Place


Start: 20.02.2024
End: 20.02.2024


Being proficient in more than one language is frequently thought to be a cognitive and intercultural benefit, and actively promoted by foreign language teaching. This stands in stark contrast to how migration-related multilingualism is perceived, which is often thought to be an obstacle for academic success and as a threat to societal integration. This brief talk Lena Heine clarified what we actually mean by „language“ and „language competence“, but also that an interdisciplinary approach is necessary to understand multilingualism in society.

Lena Heine shows along her research that multilingualism can both be associated with advantages and disadvantaged, both in cognitive and linguistic processing. Nevertheless, it should be considered whether these are transferable and relevant or societal and especially school contexts. Individual differences and the importance of educational background should be considered too. She argues that academic language development is also secondary language skill and not particularly associated with multilingualism.

Her input shows that monolingualism and multilingualism cannot be actually compared as they are “different disciplines”. Humans are generally a multilingual species. Multilingualism is not a cognitive or linguistic burden and the problem discourse is socially constructed.

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Lena Heine studied Scandinavian Studies, Language Teaching Research and Early German Literature at the Universities of Hamburg and Stockholm. In 2010, she became a junior professor for language teaching research in Bochum. Since 2017 she holds the professorship for "Language Education and Multilingualism" at the Institute of German Studies.

If you are interested in the recording of this session, please check the gallery section!


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