The Project

“LoCALL: LOcal Linguistic Landscapes for global language education in the school context” is an Erasmus Plus project, financially supported between 1.09.2019 and 31.08.2022.

LoCALL is a collaboration between the University of Hamburg (coordinating institution), University of Groningen, Autonomous University of Barcelona, University of Aveiro and University of Strasbourg.

What are linguistic landscapes?

Linguistic Landscapes (LL) refer to the languages that are visible all around us – in our neighbourhoods, town and city centres, schools and public spaces, as well as in our homes. They refer to the (in)visibility of languages on informational signs, such as street names or traffic directions, which usually appear in the majority (or national) language. In officially bi- and multilingual regions, these signs will be displayed in recognised languages. In areas attracting tourists, information is often featured in English and/or perhaps other ‘global’ languages. Not clear? Check “LL around the world“, to see some examples.

Linguistic Landscapes – project video from University of Groningen Researchers.

Commercial signage in the linguistic landscape can be especially multilingual (but also multimodal, being combined with symbols, images and sounds). For example, food stores and services that aim to appeal to migrant communities produce signs in different languages. Some retailers also use ‘symbolic multilingualism’, for example by including English terms (in non-English speaking contexts) to appear cosmopolitan; or through the co-display of different symbols and diacritics to convey an ‘ethnic’ character to a broad range of consumers, e.g. contemporary Chinatowns in urban areas which can be easily identified by consumers having no knowledge of such languages or scripts.

In some spaces, multilingual signage is produced to be clearly understood by those who may need it, for example in hospitals. Elsewhere, warning signs may be issued in some languages but not in others. And in some institutions, for example libraries, signs in different languages may suggest a welcoming and inclusive space. Much depends on the sign makers (top-down official as well as bottom-up grassroots), the language policies and ideologies, and what they wish to communicate.    

The linguistic landscape is therefore not only multilingual, but multisemiotic and multifaceted as it contains information that is functional and symbolic. Moreover, signs are produced by actors with different agendas and motivations – to inform, instruct, attract, etc. – and are perceived by readers who may feel a sense of inclusion or exclusion, depending on the make-up of the linguistic landscape in their surroundings. As we reflect on the different purposes of signs in different languages, it becomes clear that the linguistic landscape tells us something about the symbolic construction of our society – about ethnolinguistic vitality, social relations, identities, who is being addressed (or not) and for what purpose. 

The linguistic landscape can not only be perceived through official signage – look at some of the mundane objects in your surroundings (for example graffiti or garbage in the streets) to see what languages and scripts they bear. This tells us something about human activity. A starting point of reflection can also be the linguistic landscape of your home or workplace. In which languages do you have posters or reading materials (recipes, prayer books, novels, manuals) and what do they mean to you? 

Linguistic landscapes comprise real-world linguistic expressions and manifestations of multilingualism. By perceiving them, we can raise language awareness, which is a relevant feature and goal of language learning in Europe. By raising knowledge of the forms and functions of language, key skills for language acquisition, social communication and intercultural competence can be attained. Moreover, the linguistic landscape is a free, immediate and dynamic educational resource.

What is LoCALL? Principles and aims of the project

The project:

  • describes and tackles the formative needs of teachers to deal with linguistic superdiversity in language education, proposing new methods and collaborative learning tools to overcome those needs;
  • commits to acknowledging the added value of superdiversity in language education, by mapping local Linguistic Landscapes (LL) and discussing them comparatively at an international level;
  • acknowledges the importance of involving youth, especially those with a migrant background, in the active discovery and dissemination processes related to social and lived multilingualism and to their own linguistic repertoires;
  • connects foreign language learning and language awareness through sociolinguistic discussions on language presence, roles and dynamics in broader social contexts, acknowledging languages and the linguistic resources that young people have at their disposal and promoting their integration in teaching practices.

LoCALL is a project that sees adolescents and teachers as co-ethnographers and experts of LL in their own environment, according to the following principles:

  • “linguistic landscapes” (and also “schoolscaping” and “homescaping”, referring to the visibility of languages at school and at home, respectively) are powerful starting points for valuing the presence of various languages and linguistic resources in (foreign, second, additional or mother) language teaching, favoring the development of multilingual, critical and plurisemiotic literacies (by actively engaging actors on discussions on language hierarchies and linguistic prestige, language comparison and language awareness, and translanguaging in public spaces) and, concomitantly, the development of skills in the languages of the school and the development of linguistic repertoires;
  • to foster global language education – a cross-linguistic and interdisciplinary education that promotes an identity that is open to linguistic and cultural diversity fostering lifelong learning – it is necessary to bring students’ lifeworld and school multilingualism into (foreign) language teaching in order to develop a sense of belonging through active participation in multilingual and intercultural spaces;
  • teachers develop a deeper understanding of pupils’ plurilingualism through the joint analysis of the semiotic artifacts produced by their pupils, as well as by other adolescents from partner institutions throughout Europe.

Bearing in mind these three principals, LoCALL intends to foster pupils’ engagement and critical skills (“savoir s’engager” in Michael Byram’s terms) by promoting young people’s roles as coeducators and experts: youth take part in the 5 teacher training events by guiding the teachers of the partner schools through their cities and by giving small talks about their discoveries at those events.

What is LoCALL producing?

LoCALL’s principles and aims will be realised through the sequential but interrelated conception of 4 intellectual outputs (IO):

  • (Multimodal) modules on LL for language education in the different contexts, aimed at teachers and teacher trainers;
  • Tutorial and podcast library on LL
  • App for mobile learning, including several functions
  • Guidelines for the introduction of linguistic landscapes in (foreign) language learning and teacher education.

Want to know more about our activities?

Want to know more about Linguistic Landscapes in language and teacher education?

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Badstüber-Kizik, C. & Janíková, V. (2018) (Eds.). Linguistic Landscape und Fremdsprachendidaktik. Perspektiven für die Sprach-, Kultur- und Literaturdidaktik. Peter Lang.

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Malinowski, D.; Maxon, H., & Dubreil, S. (2020) (eds.). Language teaching in the linguistic landscape. Mobilizing pedagogy in public space. Springer.

Marten, H. & Saagpakk, M. (2017) (Eds.). Linguistic landscapes und spot German an der Schnittstelle von Sprachwissenschaft und Deutschdidaktik. IUDICIUM Verlag.

Niedt, G. & Seals, C. (Eds.) (2020). Linguistic Landscapes Beyond the Language Classroom. Bloomsbury.

Scarvaglieri, C. (2017). ‘Educational Landscaping’: A Method for Raising Awareness about Language and Communication. Language Awareness 26 (4), 325-342.

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LoCALL: LOcal Linguistic Landscapes for global language education in the school context

The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


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