Posted April 30, 2009

University of Ottawa hosting symposium on language acquisition through immersion

OTTAWA — On April 30 and May 1, 2009, the University of Ottawa's Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI) is hosting the second annual symposium of its Canadian Centre for Studies and Research on Bilingualism and Language Planning (CCERBAL), titled Language Immersion as Formal and Informal Learning: New Perspectives for Research and Public Policy.

The terms "formal learning" and "informal learning" were introduced as a way to underscore the similarity between the issues involved in content-based, second-language learning in two types of setting: 1) formal settings like immersion-studies schools or adult immersion programs much like the ones here at uOttawa; and 2) informal settings, such as day-to-day life, where individuals have to learn "off the cuff" or have to "get by" in a second language, like immigrants who arrive with little or no knowledge of their adopted province's official language.

More than 80 language-acquisition experts from both Canada and abroad will take part in seminars and round-table discussions during the two-day symposium. What's more, three plenary sessions are on the program, featuring the following keynote speakers:

Thursday, April 30 at 8:30 a.m. – The eminent sociolinguist Louis-Jean Calvet, professor at the Université de Provence - Aix-Marseille 1, kicks off the plenary series with a reflection on the future of the world's 6,000 languages as globalization spreads.

Friday, May 1 at 8:30 a.m. – Roy Lyster, associate professor at McGill University's Department of Integrated Studies in Education (DISE), will discuss challenges and solutions in immersion pedagogy in an English-language presentation titled Issues and Options in Immersion Pedagogy. Professor Lyster's teaching interests range from educational sociolinguistics and cross-cultural pragmatics to second-language acquisition and second-language pedagogy. His research focuses primarily on immersion and content-based classrooms, including both observational and experimental studies of teacher-student interaction, form-focused instruction and corrective feedback.

Friday, May 1 at 3:30 p.m. – John Ralston Saul, essayist and novelist, and founder and honorary chair of French for the Future, delivers a conference titled Faire face à une maladie canadienne : le refus de rendre normal le bilinguisme (A Canadian illness: refusing to make bilingualism normal...). John Ralston Saul is also the general editor of the Penguin "Extraordinary Canadians" project, co-chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, patron and former president of the Canadian Centre of International PEN and distinguished patron of the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars. Saul's latest book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada, was published in 2008.

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