VALS-ASLA Study Day 2023

Applied Linguistics in times of crisis

University of Zurich, Language Center, 27 January 2023


The aim of the study day is to invite collective reflection on the engagement of linguistic research in times of crisis.

Crises that trigger the sudden movement of refugees to be welcomed, supported, and integrated can pose new challenges for linguistics. The current crisis caused by the Ukrainian war and others before it show that the reception of refugees in different regions (in Switzerland and elsewhere) raises key linguistic issues. This is true first and foremost of language teaching methods, which must be adapted to dramatic circumstances and contingencies; it is also true of other situations in which citizens, volunteers, and professionals face challenges of language mediation, informal translation, and linguistic support, in very different fields, from medical care to psychotherapy, from government agencies to the workplace.

How should linguistics engage in crisis situations, both in terms of choice of research topics and in the development of new methods for application, implementation, involvement of the discipline in research fields? The conference will focus mainly on issues of multilingualism: rapid acquisition and mediation of the surrounding languages, dealing with language mediation, translation and multilingual practices. Reference will be made to the current situation in Ukraine, but also to previous crises – e.g. in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Kosovo and various African countries – and to their impact in Europe; the debate will focus on developing linguistic approaches to the manifold challenges of multilingualism that arise in these contexts.

The study day will bring together linguists who research or co-organize interventions in and around these crisis contexts, as well as other scholars from the social sciences and members of governmental or civil society institutions active in the respective fields.



Nikos Gogonas, University of Thessaly, 

Submit a contribution

We welcome papers from basic or applied research addressing the contexts and practices of refugee multilingualism and/or related interventions (format: 20 minutes presentation + 10 minutes discussion). To submit a contribution, please upload your abstract (maximum 250 words + bibliography) to the ConfTool platform by no later than November 14, 2022.


November 14, 2022      Submission deadline
November 28, 2022      Notification of acceptance

January 19, 2023             Registration closes
January 27, 2023           Study Day


The official conference languages are French, German, Italian as well as English. The contributions to the multilingual panel discussion will be translated via a chat service.


The Study Day is organized by VALS-ASLA in collaboration with SSH-CHES. It will be held in person at the Language Center of the University of Zurich on 27 January 2022.


Non-members VALS-ASLA: 75.-
Members VALS-ASLA: 50.-
Reduced (doctoral students) : 25.-

Fees include refreshments during breaks and lunch.

Scientific committee and organisation

Sara Cotelli, Daniel Elmiger, Philipp Hänggi, Alain Kamber, Ulla Kleinberger, Martin Luginbühl, Gilles Merminod, Stephan Meyer, Lorenza Mondada, Johanna Miecznikowski, Elisabeth Paliot, Caroline Roethlin, Sabina Schaffner, Regula Schmidlin, Julia Schneerson.



The aim of the round table is to bring together linguists specialized in the language practices of and with refugees and experts professionally involved with them on language issues. Three themes will be discussed: a) the effects of the journey and experience of exile on the linguistic identities and plurilingual practices of refugees; b) the diversity and creativity of interpretation and mediation practices, in terms of actors and available technologies; c) the challenges posed by refugee movements brutally provoked by crises and wars, imposing specific contexts and modalities on language teaching and learning.

I. Linguistic biographies and plurilingual practices of refugees

with Johanna Holzer (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München), Yuliia Mieriemova (University of Basel) (debate in English, 30 min.)

II. Interprétation et médiation avec et pour les personnes réfugiées

avec Silvia Cerrella Bauer (CB-Multilingual, Zürich), Anhelina Zubrii (Université de Neuchâtel), Carmen Delgado (Centre de Langues, Université de Fribourg), Alice Delorme Benites (ZHAW) (débat en français, 40 min.)

III. Sprachunterricht und geflüchtete Lernende

mit Verena Plutzar (Institut für Ausbildung, Kirchliche Pädagogische Hochschule Wien/Krems), Stefanie Neuner-Anfindsen (Sprachenzentrum, Universität Bern), Katja Schlatter Gappisch (Pädagogische Hochschule Zürich) (Debatte auf Deutsch, 40 min.)