The DYLAN Project: “Language Dynamics and Management of Diversity”


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The DYLAN Project: “Language Dynamics and Management of Diversity”
European Journal of Applied Linguistics
Berthoud Anne-Claude, Grin François, Lüdi Georges
2192-9521 (imprimé)
2192-953X (enligne)
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This paper presents the European research project Language Dynamics and Management of Diversity (DYLAN) and its main findings.1 This project, from the European Union’s Sixth Framework Program, completed in 2011 after five years’ work by nineteen partners from thirteen countries across Europe, offers a fresh look on multilingualism in European institutions, businesses and institutions of higher education.
In this project, our focus was on the interrelationships between actual language practices, people’s representations about multilingualism, their language choices, and the contexts in which they are confronted with linguistic diversity. In order to deepen our understanding of these relationships, we have examined at close range (i) how the very diverse linguistic repertoires of speakers operating in increasingly multilingual environments develop, and (ii) how actors make the best use of their repertoires and adapt them skilfully to different objectives and conditions. Throughout the project, a special emphasis was placed on how organisations actually cope with this diversity. Careful observation of actors’ multilingual practices has revealed finely tuned communicational strategies drawing on a wide range of different languages, including national languages, minority languages and lingue franche. Understanding these practices, both at the level of their meaning and at the level of their implications, helps to show in what way and under what conditions they are not merely a response to a problem – multilingualism often being primarily construed as such – but an asset in business, political, educational, scientific and economic contexts. In addition, the project explored issues that could not be assigned to any of these terrains, because they straddle the boundaries between them. Three such transversal issues have emerged as particularly relevant in the management and practice of communication in multilingual settings. They have provided much of the integrative substance of the project.The approach designed and implemented in the DYLAN project amounts to a reversal of the commonly held view that linguistic diversity is per se problematic. This research therefore allowed us to address the fundamental issue of whether (and, if so how), a European knowledge-based society designed to ensure economic competitiveness and social cohesion could develop and blossom despite the fact that, following enlargement, the European Union found itself more linguistically diverse than ever before.
The DYLAN project has adopted a “mixed-methods” approach, collecting and analysing different types of data such as official documents, interviews with agents working at different hierarchical levels, job ads, websites, various features of the linguistic landscape, and tape recordings of multilingual and monolingual interaction in the workplace, in various institutional settings and in teaching in educational institutions. Our analysis showed that the use of multilingual repertoires can constitute a resource for the construction, transmission and use of knowledge, providing various modes of access to information processing, and helping actors retain and classify new information. A multilingual mode, encouraged by a policy of multilingualism and linked to an appropriate participatory framework, seems to be one of the conditions for taking full advantage of the multilingual asset.
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09/02/2018 12:19
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