Words of welcome
Dear Friends, dear colleagues, distinguished guests,
As Director of the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to this 2021 edition of the CCERBAL conference: Bilingualism and Beyond chaired by Nikolay Slavkov (University of Ottawa), Marie-Paule Lory (University of Toronto Mississauga) and Catherine Levasseur (University of Ottawa) in collaboration with Education and Linguistic and Cultural Diversity.
CCERBAL was established specifically to enable OLBI and the University of Ottawa to serve as a gathering place for researchers from around the world interested in the study and design of pedagogy, assessment tools, and policies that promote excellence in language education.
As the title of the conference indicates, we are interested today in how we can go further and advance these pedagogies, policies, and practices to meet the challenges and realities of our time.
This theme was relevant before the decision to postpone the conference because of the pandemic. It is perhaps even more relevant today, when many aspects of our lives, from how we socialize and work, to how we study and teach languages, have changed and evolved, often in ways that were unimaginable a year ago.
Your presence and participation in this year's conference is a tribute to the central mission of educational institutions as sites of scholarly activity, laying the groundwork for new ideas, connections, questions, and perspectives. Indeed, as language educators and researchers, we often serve as guides, helping students and instructors navigate and prosper in environments increasingly defined by a wide range of language repertoires, each with its own unique confluence of literacies, practices and symbols.
Over the years, this reality has motivated many reconsiderations, not the least of which is the nature of language learning itself. Learners today are increasingly recognized as social agents, bearers of complex and rich histories, and of skills that will be and are transformed in and out of the classroom. As both "the locus and the actor(s) of contact" in the words of Moore & Gajo (2009), developing proficiency in other languages goes far beyond the mere ability to pass a language exam. Language learning encompasses a growing awareness of what it means to move from one language and culture to another, as well as an appreciation that learning to draw skillfully and deliberately from the full range of one's linguistic repertoire represents a way to transform one's identity and redefine one's alignment with others.
In doing so, the learner transcends simplistic notions of bilingualism and views of languages and cultures as a series of neat categories, each to be approached as separate and independent. This presents new challenges for institutions whose responsibility it is to prepare students for a multilingual and multicultural world defined by learning processes that cross and blend cultures and languages.
However, I suspect that if you are here today, these challenges do not faze you. On the contrary, they are what makes the work we do so exciting, because what we do is so impactful for all those whose lives are complicated, but also enriched by the ability to see and say the world through the words of others. There is still much work to be done, but there is also so much to be gained by learning to leverage the impact of bi/plurilingual education and all that it promises.
I welcome you thus to this conference and sincerely thank you for taking the time to come and share your ideas and contribute to the diversity of knowledge represented at this event. Your participation contributes to the richness of the conversations we are having about bilingualism and encourages us to go beyond.
I wish you all an excellent conference and hope you will have a wonderful time together over the next few days.