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Multidisciplinary Approaches in Language Policy and Planning Conference 2012

Keynote speech by Mr. Graham Fraser, Canada's Commissioner of Official Languages

From September 6-8, Education and the Language Research Centre co-hosted the first annual Multidisciplinary Approaches in Language Policy and Planning Conference. 

More than 100 academics from 25 countries gathered to present original research on language policy as it relates to such hot-button issues as national identity, political theory and globalization. Research shared demonstrates ways in which scholars provide relevant insights useful in the creation, modification, and evaluation of language policies at all levels of society.

"Language issues continue to be deliberated and often legislated on every continent and language matters have been front and centre in Canada for the past 50 years," said Tom Ricento, conference organizer and chair of the Werklund School of Education's English as an additional language program. "In the wake of Official Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, debates continue about how to balance the rights and interests of speakers of the two official languages with those who speak other languages, usually in addition to English and French."

Although intended for academics, students, and policy-makers, conference organizer and director of the Language Research Centre, Mary Grantham O'Brien, said everyone could benefit from this dialogue.

"Whether or not we realize it, language policy has an impact on our daily lives, from the ideas we have about languages and their speakers to the way in which we receive the services that we take for granted," she says. "A very basic example is the labelling of our food in both official languages in Canada."

Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages, gave a presentation entitled, Planning for Language Use: The Ever-Changing Challenges, on Friday, Sept. 7. In addition to Fraser's talk, there were plenary sessions anchored by three internationally prominent scholars: Elana Shohamy, Tel Aviv University; Francois Grin, University of Geneva; and Peter Ives, University of Winnipeg. A roundtable discussion headed by Fraser and the plenary speakers on the topic LPP Research: Future Directions, Gaps in Our Knowledge, Policy Priorities was held as a closing session on September 8.

"The fact that Canada's official languages commissioner  spoke at the conference demonstrates the relevance of language policy as an academic discipline, not only in Canada, but globally," says Ricento.

And that's  sentiment echoed by Grantham O'Brien.

"In Canada we take minority language rights seriously, and we pride ourselves on embracing multilingualism," says Grantham O'Brien. "Attendees will be shocked to learn about what multilingualism—or a lack thereof—looks like in other parts of the world. Language policy and planning often go on without the knowledge of the citizens, but their effects are far-reaching."

Full conference details can be found at

Conference Introduction by Tom Ricento

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Keynote speech by Mr. Graham Fraser, Canada's Commissioner of Official Languages

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Conference Slideshow