Share, reflect, and discuss – HaBilNet2 was a hit!
The Second HaBilNet Colloquium Part I
This past May (2022) HaBilNet organized its second colloquium in Frankfurt, Germany. About 55 people from various backgrounds and 14 countries (from Canada over Sweden to South Africa and Singapore) met in order to talk about "Supporting well-being as it relates to growing up and living in a language contact setting". Researchers and practitioners, senior and early career professionals alike accepted their invitation to join and share their experiences, ideas and challenges with regard to bilingualism in four plenary and two poster sessions. Nine seniors were engaged in mentoring sessions for early career professionals. HaBilNet Director Annick De Houwer and HaBilNet Advisory Board Member Lourdes Ortega were the conference chairs.
© Till Woerfel
The main aim of HaBilNet2 was to bring together insights on harmonious bilingualism as they are gained through working with bilingual populations in a variety of settings and from both research and day-to-day life perspectives. Building on the successful format of the First HaBilNet Colloquium in 2018 HaBilNet2 also aimed to offer support and networking opportunities to early career professionals working in research and outreach through mentoring sessions with seniors, an exclusive early career Happy Hour, and poster sessions focused mainly on work by the early career participants. The small scale of the colloquium allowed for intense contacts amongst more junior and more senior scholars, and amongst practitioners and researchers.
"Es war wirklich eine sehr schöne und hilfreiche Erfahrung".
"It was really a very nice and helpful experience" – an early career colloquium participant
A great atmosphere
For most participants this was the first professional event they attended in person after a long time in their home office due to covid-related restrictions. The program courageously started with an evening dinner and dance. Participants eagerly took this opportunity to mingle in an informal atmosphere, and the next day early career professionals felt ready to freely engage with more senior ones they had seen on the dance floor the night before. Indeed, the atmosphere was great, and there were many happy faces throughout the whole program. The many plentiful coffee, snack and lunch breaks kept up spirits even more and provided fuel for everyone to engage in lively conversation no matter whether during the poster sessions or while having a meal. A special Happy Hour only for the early career participants encouraged networking within that group. There was more opportunity for interaction during a trip to the city center of Frankfurt, two dinners, and the closing lunch.
Many HaBilNet members were present, including our tireless webmaster, and it was great for them to meet each other, often for the first time!
After the colloquium a senior scholar wrote in German: "Herzlichen Dank für eine wunderbare, sehr inspirierende Tagung mit guten, prägnanten Inputs, vielfältigen Gesprächen mit sehr interessanten Menschen aus Forschung und Anwendung. Das Format ist super gut durchdacht und wurde von allen sehr gelobt und geschätzt." This translates as: "Thank you very much for a wonderful, very inspiring conference with good, highly relevant contributions, wide-ranging conversations with interesting people from research and application. The format is super well thought out and was highly praised and appreciated by everyone".
The conference program
Indeed, the format of the colloquium was unusual. Apart from a few exceptions, there were no standard talks.
The colloquium started with a word of welcome by Annick De Houwer. Johanne Paradis (U. of Edmonton, Canada) gave a brief opening address entitled "Informal remarks on Syrian refugees in Canada, language learning, and wellbeing". The next day consisted of three plenary sessions and two poster sessions. The final day was devoted to mentoring sessions and a fourth plenary session.
"I would like to thank you once again for organizing this marvellous event in such a meticulous way" – a participant working in outreach
Plenary sessions 1, 2 and 4 were organized as panels with input from three to seven senior panellists followed by an open discussion and a closing statement. Plenary session 3 was different in that it did have "traditional" talks. Each session had a specific theme:
- Bilingualism as a lived reality: pitfalls and opportunities for research and outreach
- The contextualized nature of bilingual experience and how to deal with it in research and outreach
- Harmonious Bilingualism. A bilingual (German/English) special session at the occasion of Dr. De Houwer's retirement from the University of Erfurt
- Best practices for popularizing research on bilingualism
You can download the detailed contents of the sessions with a listing of the speakers here. In the sessions the link between research and what takes place "in the world" took on a key role. There are various challenges here. For instance, research results are never clear cut and applicable to everyone. Also, it isn't always clear what type of audience is the target for communicating research results. Furthermore, there is the question of who is responsible for getting important research results across to the right group of people and who has the ability to do so. Should researchers themselves communicate the results? Or a university's communication department? If the latter, do the people working there understand enough of the research to accurately communicate its implications? What if they have their own preconception of bilingualism and bring it to the table as well?
Session participants agreed that it is important (1) to check everything that is about to be communicated to a non-academic audience; (2) to break research results down to the main points and focus on those; and (3) for researchers who speak to journalists – to describe results in the clearest way possible to avoid misunderstandings. For instance, phrasing results in the negative is not a good idea – negatives are hard to process and the "not" might get lost in people's minds so that sometimes the exact opposite of what was said is remembered.
"Thank you so much for the wonderful event. It was so stimulating and at the same time felt like a holiday to me." – a senior colloquium participant
It was great to hear about HaBilNet Director Annick De Houwer's academic career in the special bilingual session at the occasion of her retirement from the University of Erfurt and to celebrate her work with a standing ovation! And…people really appreciated the Belgian chocolates handed out at the end of this session (See the picture at the top of this article).
The conference chairs are grateful to the following nine senior professionals who together mentored 24 early career professionals individually or in groups of 2 or 3. We know that these mentoring sessions were highly appreciated!
Ewa Haman, University of Warsaw, Poland
Maria Ringler, Verband binationaler Familien und Partnerschaften, iaf e.V., Germany
Andrea Schalley, Karlstad University, Sweden
Nikolay Slavkov, University of Ottawa, Canada
Julio Torres, University of California at Irvine, USA
Heike Wiese, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
Adam Winsler, George Mason University, USA
Kutlay Yağmur, Tilburg University, the Netherlands
Andrea Young, Université de Strasbourg, France
© Till Woerfel
Two poster sessions featured 27 posters including one about the activities of HaBilNet. The projects presented in the posters looked at bilingual settings from different perspectives. Here you can find a list of all the posters, listed alphabetically according to their author's/authors' names, with their affiliation and a brief description.
In Part II of Share, reflect, and discuss – HaBilNet2 was a hit! you'll find pdfs of a selection of posters which participants kindly shared with us.
HaBilNet would like to thank all the HaBilNet2 participants for making the colloquium into a very memorable and valuable event. Stimulates us to start thinking of HaBilNet3!
HaBilNet2 in short
The second HaBilNet colloquium took place in Frankfurt, Germany, in May 2022. It was a great success and about 55 people shared their knowledge and experiences about bilingualism research and outreach.
Dr. Till Woerfel (U. of Cologne, Germany), one of the early career participants, made some great sketches during the meeting. We are grateful he allowed us to share them here! They give a great impression of our unforgettable colloquium.