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Expert in the Spotlight in 2010: François Grin

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Featured Expert / Area of focus:

François Grin

François Grin is director of the Observatoire Economie Langues Formation at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. He also is professor in economics at the School of Translation and Interpretation at the same university since 2003 and teaches at the University of Italian Switzerland and the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies in Geneva. Professor François Grin has specialised in language economics, education economics, and the evaluation of public policies in those fields. He is the author of over 200 articles, chapters of books, monographs and research reports. François Grin sits on the board of academic journals such as Language Problems and Language Planning, Language Policy, Journal of Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, and the Revue suisse des sciences de l’éducation, as well as on the board of book series on language policy issues at Multilingual Matters and John Benjamins.

Face to face with François Grin

What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/multilingualism?
I was trained in economics, but my research interests have always been oriented towards language, multilingualism, and the selection, design and evaluation of policies in these areas. Using some core economic concepts as a structuring tool, I have attempted to progressively develop a deeper perspective on regional and minority languages (RML’s), and on linguistic diversity in general, by bringing in, through successive research projects and activities, perspectives from sociolinguistics, policy analysis, normative political theory, the education sciences and translation studies (in that chronological order). Along with scientific research, I have occasionally served as advisor on RML issues for national governments, regional authorities, and international organisations.

What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?
In each individual language context, the issues at hand are exceedingly complex to begin with; the attempt to develop a more general, yet consistent and systematic perspective (applicable to different cases and situations) compounds the difficulty. The corresponding scientific challenge is to combine, in a mutually complementary fashion, concepts initially developed by scholars in different disciplines and using sometimes extremely different epistemological perspectives.

What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?
We (meaning the research team at the Observatoire Économie-Langues-Formation at the University of Geneva) are currently working on project called "Suisse-Société multiculturelle" which uses a unique data base of over 45,000 young Swiss men, collected in the years 2008-2009. The questionnaire focuses on intercultural and linguistic skills, and probes respondents' attitudes towards linguistic and cultural "otherness", emphasising perceptions of migrant minorities. Many of the concepts underpinning the questionnaire, however, can be adapted to other forms of otherness, including, of course, minority languages.

Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention?
Instead of highlighting a particular reference, I would like to invite interested practitioners and scholars to visit our website on, where "ELF" stands for "Observatoire Économie-Langues-Formation". It contains lists of publications, and some downloadable papers that give access to additional references.

Do you have any questions on these topics?

Ask François

Featured topic:

Our focus this month lies on multilingualism and economics.

Further reading:

Book release: François Grin, Claudio Sfreddo and François Vaillancourt, 2010. The Economics of the Multilingual Workplace. Oxford: Routledge, 244 p. -  
- Grin, François - Language planning and economics – In : Current Issues in Language Planning. - vol. 4 (2003) no. 1; p. 1-67