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Swansea University opens Wales’ first Bilingualism Matters centre

GLOBAL multilingualism research and support organisation Bilingualism Matters is opening its first centre in Wales, based at Swansea University’s School of Culture and Communication.

Open from June 2024, the Bilingualism Matters @ Prifysgol Abertawe / Swansea University branch brings together researchers, community groups, education professionals and other interested parties to celebrate the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism in the home, school, workplace and community.

With the new branch at Swansea University, professionals in education, health and policy, education practitioners, and community groups can access research-based evidence on the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism, attend relevant events and training sessions, and explore research collaboration opportunities.

Led by Dr Gwennan Higham from Cymraeg/Welsh, and Dr Vivienne Rogers from Applied Linguistics, the branch will deliver on Bilingualism Matters’ overall mission to promote understanding and informed decision-making about bilingualism and language learning by engaging with a broad audience, and ensure research is developed in collaboration with communities ¾ all supported by Swansea University’s Language Research Centre

In the context of Wales, Welsh<>English bilingualism will be an important focus, but the team is also interested in the role played by international languages. The branch aims to collaboratively explore and share ideas on how to better support language learning, and how to communicate research on the neurological, psychological, and social benefits of speaking more than one language.

While supporting the Welsh Government’s vision to encourage learners to develop abilities in Welsh, English, and other international languages, the branch also aims to give confidence to families by demonstrating the benefits of bilingualism and encouraging bilingualism and multilingualism through better developed support networks.  

Dr Gwennan Higham said: “Opening Wales’ first Bilingualism Matters branch here at Swansea University is an immense privilege, and we are thrilled to be contributing to an international team of language and linguistics researchers.

“We hope the branch will act as a hub for training, support and research into bilingual and multilingual communities. Swansea has an incredible diversity and we want to bring academics and communities together to collaborate on research projects, delivering real-world impact and improving access to supportive resources for families and communities speaking multiple languages.

“Our research areas are varied, including the use of language acquisition to support brain development in combatting Alzheimer’s; supporting asylum seekers and minority language preservation; the benefits of bilingualism for cultural engagement; the benefits of bilingual education, and much more. We look forward to hosting events and conferences, improving our understanding of bilingualism and the vital role it can play in cultures and communities.”