Multilingual Lives


This course introduces students to individual, social and societal perspectives on multilingualism.

Over the last three decades, New Zealand (and other countries with skill-based immigration policies) has experienced increasing levels of ethnolinguistic diversity, particularly in the large urban centres. Many labour market sectors are dependent on continued levels of migration from a diverse range of countries, and the resultant cultural diversity is particularly salient in the commercial, education and health sectors. While topics related to multilingualism, such as code-choice and attitudes towards languages and dialects, have been traditional components of a course in sociolinguistics, increasingly research is beginning to focus on multilingualism in its own right.

In this course, students will learn about different theoretical approaches to multilingualism, and they will explore factors related to multilingualism at different stages of the life span: in childhood, in adulthood and in old age.

Topics related to each stage include the following (the syllabus will comprise a selection of these): 

  • Childhood: the early acquisition of more than one language, bilingual education, family language practices, language shift
  • Adulthood: acquisition of additional languages in later life, cultural practices, identity, the provision of translation and interpreting services, the workplace, values attached to languages, language maintenance, media, transnational mobility and issues related to ageing

Learning aims

Students will:

  • Acquire specialised knowledge of theoretical approaches to multilingualism
  • Develop a critical awareness of issues and debates in the field
  • Design and conduct a small-scale research project
  • Independently analyse data
  • Formulate unique recommendations for language maintenance and use
  • Identify issues or features related to the social environment which assist in understanding beliefs and practices related to the use of particular languages
  • Report projects using an appropriate academic format

The course is assessed entirely on the basis of coursework, and assignments will require students to apply specialised knowledge to their selected topics. The course assessments include a practical assignment and a small-scale research project, which will involve the collection of data for independent analysis and interpretation.

Availability 2024

Not taught in 2024


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Louisa Buckingham


LANGTCHG 701: 15 points