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Expert in the Spotlight in 2011: Siv Björklund

Siv BjörklundThe expert in the Spotlight feature gives you the chance to interact one-in-one with our Ask the expert-section. The feature also provides interesting and insightful comments regarding the subjects mentioned above, in-depth content and exclusive Q and A’s.

Featured Expert / Area of focus:

Professor Siv Björklund (photo) is professor in Swedish immersion and head of the Centre for Immersion and Multilingualism at the Department of Scandinavian Languages of the University of Vaasa, Finland.
At the Department of Scandinavian Languages research has been done on bi- and multilingualism since the end of the 1970s. The growing number of courses in this field led to the establishment of a donor chair in second language acquisition and the foundation of the Centre for Immersion and Multilingualism.

Professor Siv Björklund is one of the authors of a recent publication of Mercator Research Centre: 

‘Trilingual Primary Education in Europe: Some developments with regard to the provisions of trilingual primary education in minority language communities of the European Union’ (2011)

This book aims to describe the actual state of trilingual primary schooling in a number of multilingual regions in Europe in the first decade of the 21st century. This study is essentially an update of the study which reflected the situation at the turn of the century (Beetsma 2002). The publication proves that the situation in various regions during the last decade has changed greatly.

If you are interested in purchasing one or more copies of this book, please send us an email.

Face to face Siv Björklund

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

I am professor in Swedish immersion and head of the Centre for Immersion and Multilingualism, which is a subdivision under the Department of Scandinavian languages at the University of Vaasa, Finland. My PhD thesis on the second language lexicon development among immersion students was published in 1996 and is a pioneer study on immersion education in Finland. My main research areas are language acquisition, bi- and multilingualism and language pedagogy. I have a long experience of bi- and multilingual issues on both national level and international level and I been involved in both national and international in-service training for teachers since 1991

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

Various future strategy reports, e.g. the EU report "A New Framework Strategy for Multilingualism (2005) point out that early language learning is a key factor for an improved multilingual competence in future schools. Likewise content-based language learning is stated to be a very effective way to acquire a second or foreign language.. The challenge is to optimally combine early language learning, content-based learning and multilingualism in order to best promote linguistically different target groups (both minority and majority speakers) and to develop best practices within these groups.

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

In Finland, immersion is developed for Swedish as L2, but includes other languages as well. The program has thereby been developed from the original Canadian bilingual program to a multilingual program. My current project (Early multilingualism in immersion) aims at exploring multilingual dimensions within Swedish immersion programs. The current project includes e.g. research components on multilingual competence and perceptions of multilingualism among immersion students and immersion teachers. The research approach is three-folded and includes sociolinguistic perspectives (e.g. how do students and teachers define the societal status of the individual languages of the program?), psycholinguistic perspectives (e.g. do immersion students perceive themselves as multilingual speakers?) and didactic perspectives (e.g. do teachers of individual languages in immersion benefit from the multilingual competence of their students?)

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

As reference, three of my articles:

Björklund, Siv (1997). Immersion in Finland in the 1990s: A state of development and expansion. In: R.K.Johnson & M. Swain (Eds), Immersion Education: International Perspectives, 85-101. Cambridge University Press.

Björklund, Siv & Irmeli Suni (2000). The role of English as L3 in a Swedish immersion program in Finland. Impacts on language teaching and language relations. In: Ulrika Jessner & Jasone Cenoz (eds), English in Europe: the acquisition of a third language,198-221. Multilingual Matters. Clevedon.

Björklund, Siv (2011). Swedish immersion as a way to promote early multilingualism. In: Trilingual Primary Education in Europe. Some developments with regard to the provisions of trilingual primary education in minority language communities of the European Union, 13-31. Mercator/Fryske Academy.

Do you have any questions on these topics?

Ask Siv

Our focus this month lies on immersion!


Further reading / watching: : A promotional Film for Language Immersion (source: Centre for Immersion and Multilingualism, University of Vaasa, Finland)