The University of Limerick hosted the 11th International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB11) on 11-15th June 2017. ISB is the primary forum for scholarly exchange on all aspects of research on bilingualism and multilingualism, from the linguistic end of the field, including neuroscience and clinical therapies, through sociolinguistic approaches, politics and public policy to second and additional language acquisition. The conference convenes in alternate years and has been held across Europe, Asia and North America. This was the first time that it has come to Ireland.
The theme for ISB11 was ‘Bilingualism, Multilingualism and the New Speaker’, although all aspects of bilingual and multilingual research were present among the 900 delegates from 64 countries. The ‘new speaker’ is an emerging research paradigm that considers all aspects of the linguistic and sociolinguistic competences and practices of bilingual and multilingual speakers, particularly those who consistently use a language or languages in their personal or professional lives that was not the first language they spoke at home.
The scale of the conference was reflected in the work of 162 reviewers in the International Scientific Committee, who each reviewed between ten and twenty submissions. The work of 1,457 authors was presented at the conference where at least one of the original authors of each contribution presented the work in person. There were six plenary keynotes, delivered by:
- Ana Deumert (University of Cape Town)
- Alexandre Duchêne (University of Fribourg)
- Elizabeth Lanza (University of Oslo)
- Tina Hickey (University College Dublin)
- Lisa Lim (University of Hong Kong)
- Jean-Marc Dewaele (Birbeck University of London)
There were seven invited colloquia panels, including eminent scholars from around the world who addressed key, cutting-edge aspects of multilingualism’s research agenda. There were also 36 themed colloquia, 360 individual papers and 127 posters presented over the four days. About 20% of those attending were research students or very early stage scholars and the conference was able to award 41 bursaries for registration, accommodation and/or travel, designed to encourage participation from established and emerging scholars in countries with underdeveloped economies.
The conference was hugely successful on both intellectual and social levels and UL language research was showcased in all the available fora, underlining the international steering committee’s decision to award the conference to UL because of the excellence of its standing in the field and its ability to efficiently organise such a large gathering. The conference benefitted from the way that the UL community contributed in many ways beyond presenting their research; students, administrative staff and the most junior to most senior academics chaired sessions, worked at the registration desks, helped steer participants through the campus and were attentive in every way to the hundreds of international visitors at all stages in their own careers.