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Expert in the spotlight in March 2012, Alex Riemersma

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Featured Expert / Area of focus:

Dr. Alex M.J. Riemersma (1953) is teacher Frisian and Dutch since 1978 and from 1984 on teacher trainer at the teacher training departments of the NHL and Stenden universities in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden.
He is researcher at Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning at the Fryske Akademy in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, the Netherlands since 2007. He is an expert on minority languages (education, language policy) in the context of the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages of the Council of Europe. On the 9th of February 2012 Alex has been inaugurated as Lector Frisian and Multilingualism in education at the NHL and Stenden universities in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden.

Face to face with Alex Riemersma

What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/multilingualism? 

Teacher of Frisian and Dutch from 1978, and teacher trainer for Frisian from the 1980s onwards, mainly for secondary education teachers. Thesis (Tilburg, 1994) on the Language Command of both Dutch and Frisian at the end of Primary School. 
Involved in the language planning of the Province of Fryslân, secretary of the Dutch National Consulting Body to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (1998-2007). Actively involved in the former European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, and currently member of the Steering Committee of the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity (NPLD) as well as of its Think Tank. As from 2010 appointed Lecturer for Frisian and Multilingualism at both NHL and Stenden Universities for Applied Sciences in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.

What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?

Language vitality, language maintenance and language shift & loss, are highly dependent on merging processes and scaling-up processes in society. These processes not only continuously modify administrative and management structures, but also influence mental concepts and identities, language contacts and contact patterns. The traditional criteria for language vitality, generally considered to be ancillary to the main criterion of intergenerational language transmission, should be redefined in the perspective of changing language contact patterns, both on the street and through the social media. My aim is to modify the “English only” tendency into a way of thinking and acting under the motto: 
“Multilingualism is a given of society, and a gift for the individual citizen.”

What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?

Together with Idske Bangma of Mercator Research Centre, I am working on the valorisation of the MELT project (2009-2011): a scientific article in the Journal Synergies for Europe and dissemination of the Parent’s Brochure as well as the Guide for Practitioners. 
Together with Saskia Benedictus of Mercator Research Centre, I am working on a publication related to the EU funded EUNoM project. I will present a paper on higher education and multilingualism at the closing conference of the EUNoM project in October 2012. 
Together with partners from Catalunya, Ireland and Wales, I will take up the project "Teacher Training for the Multilingual Classroom" which is granted by the ECML in Graz for the years 2012-2015.  

Together with three research fellows, within the Lectureship for Frisian and Multilingualism at NHL and Stenden Universities for Applied Sciences ( Ljouwert/Leeuwarden), I am focusing on the continuity of trilingual primary schooling and secondary education: comparability of language command in Dutch, Frisian and English; harmonizing language tests; didactics and content and subject integrated teaching and learning.        

Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention?

•    European language policies: realities and challenges for regional and minority languages. In: Claudia Schmidt-Hahn (Hrsg.), Sprachen als europäisches Kulturgut, Studienverlag, 2012. Online version  
•    Introduction: Higher education and research on multilingualism: challenge or opportunity? In: European Journal of Language Policy / Revue européenne de politique linguistique, 3(2), 135-139. Order online
•    Gelijkwaardigheid en continuïteit van meertalig onderwijs in Europees perspectief. Inaugurele rede lectoraat Fries en Meertaligheid in Onderwijs en Opvoeding op 9 februari 2012. Online version (Dutch)

Do you have any questions on these topics?

Ask Alex

Featured topic?

Our focus this month lies on multilingualism and education