Bilingualism Matters research centre opens at Laurier as the first of the network in Canada

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Photo by Hayley McGoldrick

Laurier has announced that they will be joining a network of many other institutions by launching a Bilingualism Matters research and service centre, located in the newly renovated Frank C. Peters building.

Bilingualism Matters currently exists at 26 universities in 14 countries, with Laurier becoming the first Canadian partner in the network that has been around since 2008 that specializes in research on language learning, bilingualism and learning English as a second language.

“It’s been a network for over 10 years now and it’s been on my radar ever since I started here in 2007, a year after I started at Laurier it was launched for the first time in Scotland and I was at that launch and really impressed, I’ve known the founding director for many years,” said John Schwieter, professor in the department of languages and literatures and director and principal investigator for Bilingualism Matters at Laurier.

“I thought it may be finally time to bring something like that here, it’s been growing over the years and it’s specifically come about because of the demographics of our area, I made some phone calls to the mayor’s office in both Kitchener and Waterloo, the framework was there internationally but I had to make sure it was also jiving with the needs of our community and they definitely said yes.”

The centre held a launch event on Friday, Oct. 11 to introduce the centre at Laurier as well as give collaborators for the project and others involved a chance to speak in front of the community to share the research as well as future events that will be held by the centre.

“One in every four people speak a language other than English or French as their mother tongue in the region, so we are recognizing this is a good service to give to the community so we do the research on what the needs are not only in the field but what we need to look at in Waterloo,” Schwieter said.

“Waterloo is interested in how bilingualism and identity shape the lives of citizens here, that down to earth information coming to me is then able to be put into a research project and then put back into society, hopefully we make an impact that goes beyond academic journals.”

Founded at the University of Edinburgh in 2008 by professor Antonella Sorace who was one of the speakers at Laurier’s launch event, Bilingualism Matters in Waterloo aims to hold many purposes, including helping families who have newly immigrated to Canada and have trouble understanding and speaking English.

“We will constantly be having research projects, anyone in the community as well as students can come in and participate in our research as participants, we will be looking at both people who speak one language from ages zero to 100 and also looking at those who speak tow or more languages in the same age group,” Schwieter said.

“We also will be hosting public events, not only held at the university but we will be going into schools, WRDSB connects us with schools, teachers and principals to go into the school to have talks about how to help minority language students; we’ll also host talks on campus about how speaking multiple languages can help cognitive and career opportunities and we’re always looking for volunteers.”

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