Past Events and Projects


Screen shot of a large Zoom meeting
Multilingual Life on a Monolingual Campus: A project exploring the linguistic experiences of international students in English language-medium universities

The final report on this project is now available. Download the PDF.

Meet the Brandeis researchers.

Over the 2021-22 academic year, the LCJ Hub delved into the experiences of Brandeis’ international students around language use and language attitudes. Director of Programs in International Justice and Society Leigh Swigart assembled a research team of both undergraduate and graduate students from Brandeis who spent the year preparing and administering a survey to Brandeis international students, conducting follow-up interviews with a smaller number of participants, and then analyzing and summarizing the findings.

The project aimed to shed light on how our international students use all the linguistic resources at their disposal and respond to language challenges and opportunities, in both their academic and social lives, in a space that is predominantly English-speaking. This group constitutes an important component of the Brandeis population. In Fall 2020, 20% of Brandeis undergraduates and 33% of graduate students were international, with China being the first source country in both categories. Various other Asian countries were among the top 10 source countries.

"Multilingual Life on a Monolingual Campus" (MLMC) was enhanced by running in parallel with similar studies at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and the University of Birmingham in the UK, both of which, like Brandeis, are English-dominant spaces with large international student populations. The LCJ Hub acted as the coordinator of this multi-country study. The Brandeis student research team interacted online with the other teams, shared ideas for the survey design and the subsequent interview process, and compared their findings.

Given the recent increase in anti-Asian sentiment, an unfortunate and misguided response to the COVID pandemic, the Hub believed it was an opportune moment for institutions of higher education to turn their attention to how students hailing from other countries, and in particular Chinese students, navigate their multilingual lives on largely monolingual campuses.

Swigart noted, "It is important that we understand the challenges that international students face and how the pandemic, in particular, affects how they choose to communicate in public." Macquarie-based scholar Agnes Bodis, who conducted doctoral research on the discursive construction of international students' language proficiency in Australia, said of the joint project, "Understanding the lived experiences of international students is essential for the creation of a truly inclusive higher education."

University of Birmingham's Prof. Karen McAuliffe added, "This is a unique opportunity for students to work on a truly interdisciplinary and international project, which will shine a light on the experiences of international students across three continents."

The Hub hopes that "Multilingual Life on a Monolingual Campus" can help the entire Brandeis campus become aware of its attitudes around languages and their speakers, and to better appreciate and understand the multilingual members of our community.

Want to learn about some of the ideas underlying this project? Review a list of relevant resources.

cover of Languaging Myths Watch a webinar with Prof. Qianqian Zhang-Wu about her relevant study, "Languaging Myths and Realities: Journeys of Chinese International Students" (Multilingual Matters 2021).

Read about the Macquarie University project.


Rights, Rules and Rhetoric: Exploring Language for and About Migrants in Australia, Europe and North America

Nov. 17-18, 2020

This online event explored and compared diverse language-related facets of the migration experience in Australia, Europe and North America. These facets can be grouped along three axes:

  1. The rights enacted through laws or directives ensuring procedural fairness for migrants, including their ability to access critical information in their languages through translated documents or interpretation.
  2. The everyday rules, written and unwritten, of language provision and practice in situations involving migrants, which may fall short of formally guaranteed rights and reflect various "language ideologies," that is, common if sometimes misguided understandings of how language works.
  3. The problematic or demonizing rhetoric about migrants and their communities of origin, and the obstacles such rhetoric may create for people on the move.

The exchange also examined the impact of the current pandemic both on the availability and adequacy of language services, which have shifted largely to remote technologies, and on public narratives about migrants from regions that have been described, often inaccurately, as sources of the coronavirus. One discussion board was devoted specifically to the linguistic experiences of international students enrolled in universities on the three continents.

"Rights, Rules and Rhetoric" saw the participation of 120 persons from 19 countries across the globe, including several in Africa and Latin America. The organizers appreciated the open and thoughtful discourse that occurred during the 48-hour event and over multiple thematic discussion boards. The lively back-and-forth brought forward numerous thought-provoking ideas about communicative rights and language access, and it suggested new ways to emphasize, problematize, decolonize and prioritize the ways in which migrants and migration are (mis)(re)presented via language.

Summaries and next steps from the exchange will be available in the near future.

Please visit the Hub’s migration theme page for a wealth of resources relevant to language, culture and migration.

Conveners and partner institutions

The persons below collaborated over many months on the conceptualization, design and outreach efforts for "Rights, Rules and Rhetoric: Exploring Language for and about Migrants in Australia, Europe and North America."

  • Leigh Swigart, Brandeis University — Waltham, Massachusetts, USA
  • Hillary Mellinger, Brandeis University, George Washington University and American University — Washington, D.C., USA
  • Alexandra Grey, University of Sydney Law School — Sydney, Australia
  • Laura Smith-Khan, University of Technology Sydney — Sydney, Australia
  • Jean-Pierre Gauci, British Institute of International and Comparative Law People for Change Foundation — London, United Kingdom and Malta

This learning exchange benefitted from the assistance and cooperation of these institutions:

We thank the Rice Family Foundation whose generous funding supported this program.