Professional and personal implications of native language attrition (London, Nov. 2018)

Date: to be confirmed

During this Practitioner Day/Workshop we will address the question of how to transfer competencies and skills learned in a second language to the native language.

We tend to assume that, if we can do something in a foreign language, it should be easy and unproblematic to do the same thing in our mother tongue. This can, however, pose unexpected problems. Not knowing key words and specialist terms is the first obvious difficulty people tend to think of, but it is only the tip of the iceberg.

We will address the following thematic strands:

This event is aimed at non-specialists in linguistics, and will have three thematic strands:

1)  Healthcare/social care: a lot of professionals in these areas, particularly in the UK, operate professionally in a language that is not their L1. Sometimes it may then seem like a good idea to use the L1 (e.g. when a patient or client is a native/proficient speaker of that language). The assumption is that, if you can do something in the L2, you can also do it in the L1 – at worst, you may have to learn the appropriate vocabulary. Other common problems, for example the lack of appropriate style or interactive norms, are simply not on the radar, or taken to be an entirely ‘cultural’ and not a ‘linguistic’ problem.

2) Employment: if you have worked for a long time in an L2 setting, and are considering moving back home (an increasingly important topic with Brexit looming), how will language attrition affect your performance, either in an interview situation or in slotting yourself back into the working life? Issues such as linguistic insecurity, disfluency etc. may affect performance and lead to professional skills being underestimated.

3) Personal life: how is communication with ‘back home’ affected by L1 attrition, by the fact that you are no longer the person who left (way back when), by the fact that the language itself has evolved, etc.

This event is a follow-up from a Practitioner Day held in 2017 as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences.

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