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Countering linguistic bias and creating linguistically open classrooms

students on brandeis campus

See our 2022-23 events

Read the report from "Multilingual Life on a Monolingual Campus".

Watch the recording of our recent webinar on "Interpretation in Critical Contexts."

As universities have become more linguistically diverse in recent years, questions are starting to be raised about language discrimination on campus and the existence of problematic language ideologies, that is, unspoken and sometimes unrecognized assumptions around languages and language use. Such ideologies impact every level of higher education, from policies for admission, to curriculum and instruction, to academic supports and resources. Yet language is an aspect of diversity, equity and inclusion that is mostly absent from institutional policies seeking to promote these values, including policies at Brandeis University. Indeed, the observation made by American sociolinguist Rosina Lippi-Green in 1994 remains largely true today - that linguistic profiling is "so commonly accepted, so widely perceived as appropriate, that it must be seen as the last widely open backdoor to discrimination."

During the 2022-23 academic year, the Language, Culture and Justice Hub will explore linguistic bias, the dominance of standard language ideologies, and strategies that can be used  to counter these realities in the sphere of higher education.  This focus builds on last year's project Multilingual Life on a Monolingual Campus. A number of Hub members, representing diverse areas of expertise, have been instrumental in designing these programs around language diversity on university campuses.

This year's programs are supported by Brandeis' International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life alongEthics Center logo with the Center for German and European Studies and the Education Program. Funding is provided by the Rice Family Foundation and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).cges logo


Language justice forum: What does English-language hegemony mean for the academy?

April 19, 2023
Moderated by Prof. Javier Urcid (Dept. of Anthropology)

one language eating anotherThe world of scholarly production and publication is increasingly dominated by a single language, English. What does this epistemic superiority mean for intellectual or scientific inquiry carried out in and through other languages? How might the borders of “the Anglosphere” impede both breadth of thinking by scholars inside this space and acknowledgement of scholars working outside this space? And how does the pressure to present research and publish in English disadvantage scholars who might prefer to pursue their careers in other languages?

Please join a discussion among Brandeis scholars who are concerned and/or impacted by English-language hegemony. Refreshments will be served.


Language justice forum: Speaking “other Englishes” on the Brandeis campus
April 3, 2023

Moderated by Prof. Joseph Assan (The Heller School)

map of english speaking worldDo you come from an English-speaking country outside of the global north, or a non-English speaking country where English has become the dominant language of global communication? Do you speak and write a variety of English that is not American and might seem unfamiliar on the Brandeis campus or in the classroom? If so, you are not alone!

During this forum, members of the Brandeis community shared their experiences around language accents, standards, and legitimacy. 

Release of findings: Multilingual Life on a Monolingual Campus (report available here)
March 13, 2023 

report coverOver AY 2021-22, six student researchers explored how international students at Brandeis use the linguistic resources at their disposal and respond to language challenges and opportunities in both their academic and social lives. This report outlines the findings of the study and the institutional recommendations that have emerged from them.

Webinar: Interpretation in Critical Contexts: Issues of Access and Quality (recording available here)
February 15, 2023 

Zaghawa speakers in ICC courtroomThis webinar explored the vital role of language interpretation in diverse settings where the stakes for achieving successful communication are high. Whether the circumstances involve a public health emergency, displacement due to conflict, or a medical or legal proceeding, individuals should be entitled to the services of a competent, and ideally professionally certified, interpreter. Yet too often a “monolingual mindset” leads institutions to overlook, underpay and misunderstand the complex positionality of these important actors, thereby endangering speakers with unmet communication needs. The webinar will also consider the potential of artificial intelligence to fill communication gaps in the absence of qualified persons to do the work. The aim of this event is to raise awareness of the need for high-quality interpretation to ensure full communication, especially in contexts where the fundamental wellbeing of speakers may be at risk.

Katie Becker - Princeton School of Public and International Affairs/Yale Law School
Alice Delorme Benites - The Zurich University of Applied Sciences
Ahmed El Khamloussy - International Criminal Court
Laura Kunreuther - Bard College
Romina Schaub-Torsello - The Zurich University of Applied Sciences
Lissie Wahl-Kleiser - Medical Law School

This webinar was part of a series of events, activities and resources associated with Global Language Advocacy Day 2023 (#GLAD23), organized by the Global Coalition for Language Rights. The theme of #GLAD23 is “Language Rights Save Lives.”

Webinar: Toward Language Justice in Higher Education (recording available here)
October 12, 2022

The goal of this webinar was to explore ways in which linguistic bias, standard language ideologies and monolingual assumptions affect various aspects of higher education. One of the challenges with pursuing linguistic justice at the university level is to balance multilingual ideologies and a linguistically additive approach with the pragmatic and very real linguistic needs of multilingual students from diverse language backgrounds, be they international or domestic students who seek to master the language of the academy.

Topics addressed included supporting the transition from secondary school to higher education for linguistically diverse students in both the United States and Germany, language bias and the burdens it creates for international teaching assistants in North America, and the concepts offered by the field of Critical Language Awareness for promoting language equity and inclusion in the university classroom.

Webinar speakers:
Marguerite Lukes, Internationals Network for Public Schools; New York University
Vijay Ramjattan, University of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Ingrid Gogolin, University of Hamburg, Intercultural and International Comparative Education
Shawna Shapiro, Middlebury College; Critical Language Awareness Collective

Pedagogical workshop: Enacting Language Justice in the College Classroom: an Introduction to Critical Language Awarenessscreen shot of workshop participants - October 17, 2022 
This workshop was designed for instructors - both faculty members and graduate teaching fellows - wishing to recognize their own biases around language and find pedagogical approaches for creating a more inclusive classroom environment where diverse languages and varieties of English are acknowledged and valued. Issues explored in the workshop included: how to promote linguistic inclusion in how we design and structure our courses; what kinds of topics and assignments tap into linguistic diversity as a resource, across disciplines; how can our grading and feedback practices be more equitable toward multilingual and multidialectal writers?

Workshop leaders:
Shawna Shapiro, Middlebury College and the Critical Language Awareness Collective
Marguerite Lukes, Internationals Network for Public Schools and New York University
Rachel Kramer Theodorou, Education Program, Brandeis University