Even though we are surrounded by language every day, many people go through life without being aware of its essential role. Language is often taken for granted and its possibilities and effects, however interesting, beautiful, or even dangerous, are sometimes overlooked. In recent elections worldwide, politicians spoke about such issues as education, immigration and the environment and evoked various images to influence public opinion. In multicultural and digital communities, many languages appear side by side, which have become an important part of people’s interaction, creativity and identity. In many countries, English is gaining ground as the language of instruction in secondary schools and at universities, which influences both instruction and learning. These are just some of the many language-related topics affecting our diverse and globalising world. It seems that an awareness of such language issues is pivotal in order to understand each other, to enjoy the rich diversity, and to take part in society effectively.
We think the world would be a different place if everyone were to go through life as a language aware citizen. Language aware citizens are people who are able to perceive the effects language has on themselves and on others and who are able to critically engage with and use language accordingly in today’s (multicultural) society: at work, at home, at school, within their communities, etc. They are conscious of attitudes and assumptions that may lie hidden within language used to describe the past, the present as well as the future and they understand the value of society’s linguistic and cultural diversity. Language aware citizens are aware of the role language plays throughout their lives, both private and professional.
So, what exactly is it that language aware citizens should know about? How do we make them aware? And to what effect?
For the 14th ALA conference, the teacher education department of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam would like to invite scholars to present their research through the lens of language aware citizenship. Data presented may concern insights from e.g. linguistic analysis, analysis of perceptions of language, or research presenting experiences with language awareness approaches in different contexts. They may be relevant to a specific (professional) community, e.g. teachers, doctors or journalists, or could apply to society in general.