Research areas

Multilingualism in individuals

Direction: Prof. Raphael Berthele
Contact: Amelia Lambelet

This area of research deals with the simultaneous or successive acquisition of several languages (first, second and third languages) in various age groups and in varying demographic sectors – including the immigrant population. Through longitudinal empirical studies, researchers will shed light on the factors that influence the development of individual language competence. Particular attention will be given to the transfer of scholarly findings into actual practice (education, school, integration).


Teaching and learning languages, assessing and evaluating language skills

Direction: Prof. Thomas Studer
Contact: Peter Lenz and Amelia Lambelet

Work in this area involves applied research on pedagogical and didactic devices employed to develop linguistic competencies in various learning settings – both at and outside school. In particular, research in this area will furnish information on valid and fair methods of assessing language skills. Moreover, it will provide a better understanding of how testing affects language teaching and learning.

In addition to examining these aspects, the Research Centre adopts methodical approaches to observe teaching practices; these are then evaluated based on the following:

Through consideration of language requirements at school and in professional life, contributions to terminology and to concepts of multilingual skills will be made. Furthermore, the definition, determination and integration of reference levels for language competence will be analysed in respect to language projects, to curricula and to teaching tools. Investigations on use and effectiveness of tools used to define the levels will also be carried out, and needs analyses in the area of language competence – for example in curriculum planning – will be performed.

Assessment of language skills in various target audiences (children, adolescents, adults, learners with and without immigration background, learners with special needs) and in varying scholastic and professional settings constitutes another focus of research in this area. This research aims to contribute to the (further) development of assessment tools (formative and summative tools, self-assessment and assessment by others) in school and professional settings, with a particular emphasis on the prognostic validity of the instruments. Additional facets of work in this area include validation of reference tests and a clarification of the equivalency of language tests.

To further develop teaching methods in the field of multilingualism, analyses and evaluations of existing methods will be performed. Based on the conclusions, approaches to (further) development of new methods of teaching in and outside school settings will be analysed and evaluated. This work will be supplemented by studies and evaluations of the immersion method, of teaching two or more languages, of exchange programmes, and of the use of new technology. Moreover, this work explores coherence and the transfer of knowledge when learning multiple languages, as well as the influence that increased language awareness has on learning language.


Multilingualism in institutions and society

Direction: Prof. Alexandre Duchêne
Contact: Dr. Renata Coray

Applied research in the area of multilingualism in institutions and in society explores the effects of multilingualism on policy, economics and institutions; the emphasis of the research mandate lies on cultural and language policy. Analyses of multilingualism in society will be carried out using statistical findings on how Switzerland's various language regions communicate with each other. In addition, data collected about the representation and standing of the language communities in federal offices will be processed. Multilingualism at the workplace is a further point of interest: the focus of this investigation is the significance of language skills for gaining employment, for professional activities, and for social integration.