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Language Learning in a Post-COVID World

How is COVID-19 affecting second language acquisition? The 2020 Einar Haugen Lecture will be given by renowned researcher Lourdes Ortega.

People in an auditorium listening to a lecture
This is the eighth annual Einar Haugen Lecture, and the first year the lecture will be a fully online event. Photo: Nadia Frantsen/UiO

Lourdes Ortega is a professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University. Her main area of research is in second language acquisition, particularly socio-cognitive and educational dimensions in adult classroom settings.

Watch the lecture

Abstract: Technology, health and race in multilingual learning

COVID-19 has shaken the safety and livelihood of millions, also putting a spotlight on systemic inequities that beg to be addressed. There is potential for all nations and all communities to be either painfully united by the experience of the pandemic, or painfully fragmented by it.

How will research into multilingual learning during adulthood be transformed in response to the new realities? In her talk, Ortega will single out three domains: technology, health, and race.

Technology: We need studies that will illuminate how fully digital language learning can be designed in inclusive and sustainable ways. Research into critical digital multiliteracies will also be needed to enable more multilinguals to participate in the online education of their children, and to increase their access to high-skilled occupations that allow telework from home.

Health: We need to exponentially increase research that generates capacity for a more multilingual health care workforce and that supports more effective interpretation practices in health contexts, particularly under-resourced ones. New alliances must also be forged with scholars of health and pandemic communication. They have traditionally been mostly concerned with making health messages accessible to diverse communities only in their society’s majority or dominant languages; researchers of multilingual learning are well positioned to foster additional forms of health communication that are grounded in local funds of knowledge and local languages.

Race: Theories of the intersections of race and language must be taken to heart by the mainstream of language learning researchers. Race, racialization, and racism matter in language learning. Race-evasive scholarship seems not only untenable but possibly harmful in a post-COVID world.

Lourdes Ortega
Ortega's main area of research is in second language acquisition. Photo: private

Lourdes Ortega

Lourdes Ortega is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at Georgetown University.

She has long-standing interests in second language writing and foreign language education and has published widely about systematic research synthesis and epistemological and ethical dimensions of second language acquisition research. In the last few years she has become interested in applying insights from bilingualism, usage-based linguistics, and social justice to the investigation of second language development.

Ortega received her Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii (2000) and has been a doctoral Mellon fellow (1999), a postdoctoral Spencer/National Academy of Education fellow (2003), a senior research fellow at the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies (2010), and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Advanced Research Collaborative, CUNY Graduate Center (2018). Her publications include the books Understanding Second Language Acquisition (Hodder, 2009; published in Mandarin in 2016) and The Cambridge Handbook of Bilingualism (with Annick De Houwer; 2019). She is General Editor of Language Learning and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Applied Linguistics. At Georgetown University she is also founding member and faculty director of the Initiative for Multilingual Studies.

Read more about her on her staff page at Georgetown University.

Man with glasses. Black and white. Portrait. Photo.
The annual Einar Haugen Lecture pays tribute to this eminent Norwegian-American scholar and celebrates linguistic diversity. Photo: Unknown/NTB Scanpix

The Einar Haugen Lecture

On September 26, the European Day of Languages, MultiLing honors Einar Haugen with the annual Einar Haugen Lecture. This year's lecture will be held on September 23. Haugen was a Norwegian-American linguist and a Professor at Harvard University in the 1960-70s. Haugen’s many influential works contributed to the then emerging field of sociolinguistics for which he is credited for having had an important impact, particularly in the domain of language policy. His pioneering work The Norwegian Language in America: A Study in Bilingual Behavior (1953) is a landmark study in the field of bilingualism. 

Published June 12, 2020 10:38 AM - Last modified Oct. 5, 2020 7:13 PM