Launch MIME-Amsterdam (29 and 30  January 2015)


By: Christopher Houtkamp

On 29 and 30 January , MIME-Amsterdam officially launched. To celebrate this fact, several activities were organised. On 29 January, the MIME-researchers welcomed Prof. Dr. Tom Ricento from the University of Calgary for a brainstorming session. Mr. Ricento read the research proposals of PhD candidates Nesrin El Ayadi (WP2) and Christopher Houtkamp (WP1) and engage them with constructive criticisms. Furthermore, the group discussed Ricento’s newest book, ‘Language Policy and Political Economy: English in a global context’.  Ricento expressed his concern for the rising dominance of English on a global scale, which is in particular detrimental for developing countries. English is however the most important language in our current global economic system, making it difficult to halt its expansion. For instance, many universities think about offering all their courses in English: they assume an English curriculum will attract more students and thus more money. Ricento urges everyone to critically reflect upon the role of English in society.

On 30 January, a series of activities was planned as well. In the morning, Clotilde Bonfiglioli (WP2), PhD-candidate at the Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, presented part of her research for an interested audience. Ms. Bonfiglioli’s research focusses on language policy in the periphery of Brussels, in particular towards non Dutch-speaking population. Brussels is very much a multilingual city and Brussels Capital Region is officially a bilingual region in the Belgian federal system. However, the Brussels suburbs are part of Flanders and these municipality are officially Dutch-speaking. This area is sometimes referred to as the ‘Vlaamse Rand’ (‘Flemish periphery’) to stress its inclusion in Flanders. In these suburbs, Flemish authorities put in place a rather strict pro-Dutch language policy, to the extent that government institutions refuse to accommodate non-Dutch speaking newcomers in their official communication. Ms. Bonfiglioli analyses, among other things, how this Flemish language policy affects the mental disposition of French speakers and other allophones.

In the afternoon MIME was launched formally in the presence of a wider audience in the Senate room, one of the oldest and most beautiful rooms of the University of Amsterdam. Several speakers took the floor. Professor Tom Ricento delivered a key note lecture on the complex questions one should ask when reflecting upon language policy, focusing on the Canadian case. He challenged the audience to rethink their pre-conceptions about seemingly straightforward concepts such as ‘language’ and ‘language policy’ and showed how complex they in fact are. Following Ricento’s lecture, MIME-coordinator Professor François Grin of the University of Geneva gave a general overview of the MIME-project. Subsequently three members of the UvA MIME-group, MIME vice-coordinator Dr. László Marácz (WP1), Dr. Virginie Mamadouh (WP2) and Prof. Dr. Federico Gobbo (WP3) briefly presented their research plans for the next four years. The afternoon was closed by a speech of Andy Klom, Head of the Representation of the European Commission in the Netherlands, who emphasised the importance of a good linguistic education for the European economy. Afterwards, guests and MIME researchers could discuss the MIME research agenda and multlingualism research in general over drinks.