Nordic multilingualism and Nordic diversity
- Side: 75-76
- Publisert på Idunn: 2014-06-24
- Publisert: 2014-06-24
In March, the Nordic Association for Educational Research (NERA) held its annual meeting, this time in Lillehammer in Norway. Researchers at different levels presented results, plans, and points of view. There was also networking, en masse. A research meeting has this tremendous hum when it’s in recess; 600 colleagues exchanging news makes for a lot of talk. But what from the distance is a comforting droning noise becomes noticeably individual discussion when one comes closer.
At NERA, these discussions are carried out in multiple languages: Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and Finnish. When moving into the sessions, the language mostly, but not always, changes to English. This division is not just acceptance of the reality that English has become the predominant language for research communication, it also reflects the intention of NERA to be a truly multilingual association, where there is space for both English and the Nordic languages, inside and outside sessions. This also requires reflection in relation to what is considered a Nordic language. In practice, Finnish and Icelandic, and the smaller Nordic minority languages, have been excluded. In this respect, the concept of Nordic multilingualism is still under construction.
As editors of Nordic Studies in Education, we see Nordic multilingualism as one of the core defining features of the Nordic dimension. This is also reflected in our published papers, in this issue with two articles in English, one in Norwegian, and one in Swedish. But the fact that this editorial, arguing for the Nordic languages, is written in English, also reflects the difficulties in finding a balance between supporting the Nordic dimension, unthinkable without the languages, while attempting to reach and talk to an audience in which as many as possible have similar opportunities to understand and take part.
Within NERA, the debates on language have been many over the years. Because of this, many Nordic educational researchers have reflexive and well-developed arguments in relation to the matter. This insightful stance is also reflected in the language policy of the association. At this point in time, where there seems to be an increased interest in Nordic education, it is tempting to argue for a full transition into English, to maximize the reach. In discussions at this year’s conference, this was also suggested. In some situations, this could be a sensible strategy. But if one wants to communicate to the larger world the relative Nordic success of basic education for an increasingly diverse population, and in doing so, one only uses English, one runs the risk of short-circuiting one’s own argument.
Recognizing diversity takes work. Such as multicultural learning and understanding. In the Nordic countries, recognizing diversity includes recognizing the Nordic languages, in practice, through using them. A good place to continue this work can be this very issue of our journal, where diversity is represented and celebrated both as a focus of represented research, and in the languages it is written in.