ReCLaS workshop

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Date(s) - 17/09/2019

Jyväskylän yliopisto

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A ReCLaS workshop and collaborative writing retreat

New conceptualizations of language and their consequences for education

The workshop is planned to begin at 12.15 on Tuesday 17th September 2019.

You can participate the workshop with or without a paper. On 18-20 September you can join the writing retreat accordingly to your schedule and interest.

If you are interested in the workshop and/or collaborative writing, please send an email to by 30 August.



This project consist of a collaborative writing retreat and a workshop on the conceptualization of language and their consequences for education in multilingual settings. The workshop is scheduled to take place first, during the workshop the participants to the writing seminar will have a chance to learn from each other’s previous work. After this, a three day writing retreat will provide an opportunity to develop shared or individual papers on the topic. The workshop and retreat take place on 17-20 September 2019. The projects by Bodó and Heltai (invited speakers, see below) will be made available for the ReCLaS community and interested junior or senior researchers are invited to join the long-standing collaboration between Bodó, Heltai and Laihonen.

The workshop will contribute to the ReCLaS discussions about the concept of (a) language from a critical sociolinguistics point of view. Pennycook and Makoni (2006) have called attention to how languages are labelled (named), constructed, developed and maintained through social processes. In some cases, local, minoritized and contested vernaculars or ways of speaking have been caught in between the processes of invention (i.e. the construction of a separate, autonomous and named modern language) and erasure (i.e. the stigmatization and thus obvilion of the vernacular). Most importantly, invention, usually meaning separation from other “languages”, standardization (getting rid of variation) and naming is often considered as the pre-requisite for a language to be used in education as the target language or the language of instruction. This workshop will discuss exceptions to this rule and their potential for language conceptual renewal. As concrete examples, educational practices and projects where non-established, non-labelled and integrated ways or modes of speaking and writing have been recognized and brought to the fore.

The invited speakers will be Csanád Bodó (ELTE university, Budapest) and János Imre Heltai (Károli Gáspár university, Budapest). Bodó and his research group has established a bottom-up conceptualization of a contested vernacular, the Moldavian Csángó, as “the way we speak”, avoiding top-down labelling practices so far describing it as a mixed or in-between (ancient)Hungarian and (modern)Romanian code. In the alternative view, the basic units are language resources, and language practices are not separated to different (imagined) languages and “it does not conceive of language as the property of someone, but as a mode of action.” (Bodó 2017:337). In this way, language is not conceptualized as “something”, but as “some way”, thus they call the Csángó as a mode of speaking, rather than a language, dialect or a mixed code as previous studies have done.

Heltai’s project has tackled the problem of Romani in education in Hungary. In the Hungarian educational system, which relies on monolingual, majority language based literacy teaching, children using Romani at home have been at a disadvantage in learning to write, and it greatly reduces their chances of academic success. Heltai (2019) argues that by allowing children to draw on their local Romani-bounded non-standardised language practices (such as grassroots literacy), their general writing skills can be improved. Furthermore, general linguistic competences should be separated from language specific competences in education.

Bodó, Csanád, Noémi Fazakas & János Imre Heltai 2017. Language revitalization, modernity, and the Csángó mode of speaking. Open Linguistics 3: 327–341.

Heltai János Imre 2019. Translanguaging instead of standardisation: Writing Romani at school. Applied Linguistics Review.