Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft Leibniz-Gemeinschaft

Integration of migrants or communication in old age: linguistics helps


Participatory experiments, lectures, films and fun language courses at the Long Night of Sciences

The Centre for General Linguistics (ZAS) aims to encourage a more intensive dialogue between linguistics and politics. Current linguistic findings make a positive contribution to social developments and can help to solve problems. Language is, for example, an essential factor in central social processes such as international migration and demographic ageing. In addition to knowledge-driven basic research, the ZAS in Berlin also conducts application-oriented language research. For example, it has been shown that German-Polish children and young people who cannot speak perfect German or Polish suffer more easily from identity problems, or that a high level of competence in their native language supports the German language skills of children and young people with a migration background.

Although such results are a guideline for political decisions, there is still too little exchange between science and politics, says Prof. Manfred Krifka, Director of the Institute at ZAS.

"As a research institute, we want to carry our results into society so that they can be effective there. The current streams of refugees, for example, raise very concrete questions about language training. With our expertise in this field, we can contribute to the productive handling of migration and integration."

So far, apart from isolated meetings between scientists and political decision-makers, there have been too few opportunities to introduce linguistic findings into current problems. The Berlin Interdisciplinary Network for Multilingualism (BIVEM), initiated by ZAS and funded by the Berlin Senate until September 2016, networks scientific experts with representatives of educational institutions, family and parent associations, family centres and foundations. The results of the work, however, often could not be used beyond this circle or supra-regionally; Prof. Manfred Krifka:

"At our institute and at our cooperation partners relevant knowledge is generated, it reaches the places where it is needed, but still too unsystematically".

For example, Brandenburg could learn from Berlin's experiences with language training for refugees, but often those involved did not even know what knowledge was available where. In the future, the availability of knowledge to better harness the strengths of research in networks. Both sides, politics and linguistics, would have to create diverse dialogue opportunities for this.

At this year's Long Night of Sciences, ZAS will present itself with an exciting and varied programme in the main building of Humboldt University: in addition to the BIVEM stand with information on multilingualism, the spectrum between application-oriented and knowledge-driven research will be documented in hands-on experiments, lectures, films and fun language courses.

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