European Union; trainee; multilingualism; workplace; communication
[en] Institutions of the European Union welcome over 2,000 trainees every year (EPSO 2022). What can the young graduates learn about the specifics of language use in a multilingual workplace? To find out, the present sociolinguistic study interviewed 8 juniors (trainees) and 4 seniors (permanent employees) in a terminology and communication unit in an EU institution in Luxembourg. Qualitative data were collected from September 2020 to May 2021 in a participatory manner (McIntyre 2008), joining the recent interest in folklinguistic empowerment (Rymes 2021).
The researcher took part in discussions with participants and encouraged their in-depth reflection on communication in the multilingual workplace. Iterative interviews, viewed as social interaction with critical reflective positioning of the researcher (Deppermann 2013), were accompanied by observation of meetings (online, due to Covid-19 pandemics), reflective drawing of metaphors by participants (Molinié 2009), and written reflections. Participants were free to define what language and multilingualism meant to them, as the study also aimed to avoid implicit methodological nationalism (Kraus 2018).
Informed by the results of a pilot study in the same workplace (Lovrits and de Bres 2021), the collected data were subjected to a discursive analysis of stances (Jaffe 2009). Results showed that trainees’ understanding of language competence at work changed over the time. Aligning with stances of their supervisors towards the end of the traineeship stay, the juniors no longer focused on a linguistic standard in everyday communication. Instead, they began to pay more attention to the socio-emotional and relational aspects of their language use. The trainees reconstructed their understanding of (flexible) multilingualism as a basis for personal well-being at work and stopped fixating on formal linguistic "mistakes".
Moreover, since research has emphasized socio-pragmatic diversity in the process of meaning making (Verschueren 2000), the seniors recognized the trainees' need to make the pragmatic aspects of everyday multilingualism explicit. This revelation has led to changes in language management in the workplace and has the potential to further inspire lifelong learning and professional development in the changing conditions of the global labour market (Budach and de Saint-Georges 2017). The findings are particularly relevant for professionals who facilitate transitions from monolingual to multilingual environments. The study reveals the importance of metalinguistic awareness in people coming from linguistically homogeneous settings into the so called "post-monolingual conditions" (Yildiz 2012) of an international workplace.
Research center :
- Education, Culture, Cognition & Society (ECCS) > Institute for Research on Multilingualism (MLing)
Languages & linguistics
Author, co-author :
Lovrits, Veronika ; University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (FHSE) > Department of Humanities (DHUM)
External co-authors :
Trainees in an EU institution: Getting ready for a multilingual workplace
Publication date :
24 June 2022
Event name :
International conference "Teacher Training in Europe - Challenges, problems and solutions"
Event organizer :
The Jean Monnet Chair Freiburg for European Education and The Center for Teacher Training of the University of Education Freiburg