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Past events

Being Multilingual, Being Well

Wednesday 22nd November, 2017, 6-7.30pm, English Faculty

Join us for a Being Human Festival event, where we share research on the connection between multilingualism and wellbeing in the family, based on a series of researcher-practitioner forums we have held over this year, and engage in interactive activities and discussion with participants to map out the links between speaking more than one language and wellbeing in their lived experience. Booking is via the Being Human site.

Multilingualism for wellbeing

Thursday 19th October, 2016, 6pm

The event included short presentations and a panel discussion (including Prof. Li Wei, UCL, Dina Mehmedbegovic (UCL), and Dr Philip McDermott, Ulster) on the connection between multilingualism and wellbeing, before questions and discussion from the floor. Topics discussed included the benefits of language learning, language policy and wellbeing in the community, and attitudes to and practices of languages in schools.

Bilingualism: Literacy and Cognition

Saturday 29th October, 2016, 2-4pm, Anglia Ruskin University

We are joined this year at the Festival of Ideas by Roberto Filippi (Anglia Ruskin) and Ianthi Tsimpli (Cambridge) for a discussion on literacy for bilingual children and the emerging evidence on bilingual cognitive advantages. In addition, Wendy Bennett (Cambridge) talks about an exciting new project on multilingualism in UK and beyond.

Prof Wendy Ayres-Bennett - Introducing Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies

Dr Roberto Filippi - Making decisions after a cocktail party: How bilingualism makes a difference

Prof Ianthi Tsimpli - Looking for the ‘bilingual advantage’: the role of biliteracy

Growing up with more than one language

Saturday 31 October, 2015, 2-5pm

Faculty of English, GR 06/07, 9 West Road, CB3 9DP

Many children grow up in a rich and complex language context: parents who speak different languages, a home language different from the school and the society language. Children develop fascinating language skills as well as social and cognitive competences. But parents and teachers also worry that bilingualism may be too much of a challenge. What are bilinguals capable of? Presentations will include the opportunity for questions and discussion, followed by refreshments. Part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

Panel (2-4pm):

Dr Teresa Parodi (University of Cambridge) will talk about the linguistic, social and cognitive skills of very young bilinguals.

How to these skills develop? At what pace, particularly compared with monolinguals?

We will then turn to the striking and common phenomenon of code-switching. When non-linguists hear bilinguals code-switch (use morphemes, words and turns from two or more of the languages in their linguistic repertoire in one single sentence or text), they often assume that the main reason for code-switching is the lack of sufficient proficiency to go on in the language the speaker started in. They also often assume that the selection of the words from one language or another is random. Nothing could be further from the truth. Code-switching is common among bilinguals, and contrary to popular belief, follows grammatical rules.

Professor Margaret Deuchar FRSA (University of Cambridge, University of Bangor) will describe some of the regular patterns she has discovered in her research, with examples from recordings. She will discuss how these patterns may be affected by the languages concerned, by community norms and by which language(s) people learn earliest.

Professor Henriette Hendriks (University of Cambridge) will discuss why speakers choose to code-switch. Very often, code-switchers are very highly proficient in the languages concerned, and research has also found that people have very distinct reasons, including sociolinguistic reasons to choose to code-switch. This talk ill define code-switching and distinguish it from other types of language mixing and explain in what contexts and situations speakers are likely to choose to do it.

Followed by refreshments (4-5pm)

Hold on to your tongue! Community languages: why do they matter?

*A report of this event is now available. Scroll down to download it.*

Saturday 28 February, 2015, 3–5pm

Faculty of English, GR 06/07, 9 West Road, CB3 9DP

How can we encourage take-up of languages among young people? Should we support qualifications in community languages? What’s good practice?

Cambridge Bilingualism Network and Routes into Languages East invite you to a debate.

Panelists include:

  • Bernardette Holmes, Principal Researcher, Born Global; .Past President, Association for Language Learning
  • Jocelyn Wyburd, Director, The Language Centre, University of Cambridge
  • School heads and language teachers, from Jack Hunt School (Peterborough), Thomas Clarkson Academy (Wisbech), and Parkside Federation (Cambridge)

Also featuring two competitions launches:

Speakers' presentations are now available!

Scroll down to download them.

Bilingualism: health and education

Saturday 1 November, 2014, 2–5pm

Faculty of English, GR 06/07, 9 West Road, CB3 9DP

As part of the Festival of Ideas, join us for an afternoon thinking about bilingualism, and its consequences for education and for health.

There are growing numbers of community language speakers in Britain – people who speak another language apart from English – and in our schools. What does this mean for education? Researchers from CRiCLE (Cambridge Research in Community Language Education) and the Faculty of Education share some of their findings.

But is it worth keeping up other languages, or even starting to learn one later in life? Thomas Bak (University of Edinburgh) talks about his research on the cognitive benefits of bilingualism in old age.

There will also be breaks for refreshment providing a chance to meet others interested in bilingualism more informally.


The afternoon will run as follows:

2 pm Cambridge Research in Community Language Education team

2.50pm Tea and coffee break

3.10pm Dr Thomas Bak

4pm Launch of community language film, followed by open discussion with the speakers

5pm Wine reception

Bilingual Myths

Faculty of English, 9 West Road,Cambridge, CB3 9DP

3.30pm Friday 20 June, 2014

We are pleased to announce that the next event by the Cambridge Bilingualism Network will take place on Friday the 20th of June from 3.30pm to 6.45pm on the theme of 'Bilingual Myths'. The event is inspired by the talk by Prof Fred Genesee in February at Cambridge Assessment.

As Prof Fred Genesee's talk was so oversubscribed, with many members of our network not able to secure a seat, Cambridge Assessment has produced a high-quality video-recording of the talk which they have very kindly shared with us. Because Prof Genesee has allowed us to use the video but has also asked us not to put it in the public domain, our event will have two parts: In the first part from 3.30pm to 5pm we will show the video of the talk and the Q&A. In the second part, from 5.15pm to 6.15pm a panel of experts on bilingualism will develop some of the themes mentioned in Prof Genesee's talk by bringing in insights from their own perspectives. We are very pleased that Prof Margaret Deuchar, Ms Gosia Bates and Ms Louise Crook, and Dr Nafsika Smith will join the panel to talk from the researcher's, teacher's and speech and language therapist's perspective respectively. A Q&A session and a wine reception will follow.

The talk by Prof Genesee and our live panel are meant to be interrelated, but while the panellists may refer to points made in the talk, their contributions will be designed to be self-standing. Please feel free to join us either for one or both of these events.

Languages in the community

Faculty of English, West Road, Cambridge 24:30pm, Saturday 3 November 2012

As part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, a team of Cambridge researchers and representatives from local communities talk about topics on bilingualism.

See attachments below mentioning Festival_of_Ideas_2012 for more information.

Bilingualism in our Community

Faculty of English, 9 West Road,Cambridge, CB3 9DP, Saturday 2 November 2–4:30pm,

As part of the Festival of Ideas, Cambridge researchers presented the latest findings on the benefits and challenges of growing up bilingual, considering questions such as: What can bilingualism bring to the cognitive and linguistic development of young learners? How is bilingual upbringing best supported? Researchers will share the floor with community groups supporting bilingualism in an open discussion between researchers, educators, parents, clinicians and young bilinguals on bilingual upbringing.

The Cambridge Bilingualism Network in the Press

We are delighted that Prof. Leszek Borysiewicz, the University's vice-chancellor, mentioned our Network in the context of humanities research that can have impact on the local community. You can read his op-ed in the Daily Telegraph, where he emphasizes that "Universities need Pepys as much as Newton":

We have also had some good press in the University's 'Research Horizons' magazine:

Let's hope we keep on spreading the message, bilingualism is a gift that needs to be nurtured.

Bilingualism in School

Faculty of English, West Road, Cambridge 2pm - 4pm, Saturday 22 October 2011, followed by an informal drinks reception

As part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, a team of Cambridge researchers and professionals in education speak about topics on bilingualism in school.

See attachments below mentioning Festival_of_Ideas_2011 for more information.

Bilingualism is an advantage

Putting into practice what professional guidelines preach: a view from speech and language therapy

Lucia Windsor Room, Newnham College, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge 5–6:30pm, Friday 18th March 2011

Keynote speaker: Dr Carol Stow, Lead Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Bilingualism, Rochdale Primary Care Trust.

Professional and government publications in the UK reinforce that bilingualism is an advantage. The majority of teachers and speech and language therapists encounter bilingual children in their work and need to be able to differentiate the child with 'typical' bilingual speech and language acquisition from the bilingual child experiencing speech and language difficulties. Such a child may then need assessment and intervention in their mother tongue/all the languages to which they are exposed. This presents a challenge to the professional who, in England, is typically a monolingual English speaker. Dr Stow's talk will examine the key challenges facing these professionals and suggest solutions to these challenges.

After the talk there will be an open floor discussion, followed by a wine reception.

Raising bilingual children: strengths and challenges

Faculty of English, West Road, Cambridge, 2–5pm, Saturday 23 October 2010

As part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, four Cambridge researchers speak about the advantages and difficulties encountered by parents and teachers of bilingual children.

See attachments below mentioning Festival_of_Ideas_2010 for more information.

Bilingualism: what, how and why?

Luton, 12 July 2010

Dr Napoleon Katsos and Dr Nafsika Smith visited the Polish-English community in Luton and gave a talk to teachers and parents of bilingual children. The audience were members of one of the best organised Polish communities in England, and the discussion after the talk revolved especially around matters of assimilation pressures and strategies for maintaining the bilingual environment at home when children go to school.

Raising a bilingual child: Challenges and benefits

Faculty of English, West Road, Cambridge, 4–6pm, Friday 18 June 2010

This launch event comprised brief talks from academics, teachers and clinicians working with bilingual children, and an informal discussion. Our invited speakers included Prof. A. Sorace from the University of Edinburgh, Mrs J. Christodoulou from St Lawrence Primary Catholic School, and Mrs J. Speake, Lead Practitioner Speech and Language Therapy, Cambridge Community Services. The event culminated in a lively open discussion and a wine reception.

See attachment BINC-invitation-letter.pdf below for more information.

McDermott_Cambridge Bilingualism.pptx
Hold on to your tongue! Thomas Clarkson Academy.pptx
Hold on to your tongue! Jocelyn Wyburd.pptx
Festival of Ideas 2014 ME-YL.ppt