After the workshop ‘On the Border of Art and Language Teaching in the Multilingual World’

Marta Nitecka Barche (PhD student at the University of Aberdeen) brings us this blog on the influential workshop ‘On the Border of Art and Language Teaching in the Multilingual World’ (BAALT 2018) she organised with PhD students Dobrochna Futro (University of Glasgow), and Deirdre MacKenna (University of Dundee) . This workshop took place on the 18th June 2018 at Milk Café in Glasgow and was funded by the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities Cohort Development Programme.

The workshop, as well as the organisation process, was an inspiring journey for us. We heard inspiriting talks from our speakers:


Vicky Macleroy, a senior lecturer in English in Education and Head of the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning at Goldsmiths, University of London, who spoke about ‘Objects, imaginings and messy spaces: Young people’s multilingual digital stories in the making’ a research based on a global 5-year project, Critical Connections: Multilingual Digital Storytelling (2012-2017), which links language and intercultural learning with literacy, active citizenship and the arts.

Jessica Bradley, a lecturer in Education in Institute of Childhood and Education, Leeds Trinity University, and co-convener of an AILA research network on ‘Creative Inquiry and Applied Linguistics’ who presented ‘Arts-based practice and informal language learning for refugees. Lessons from the Migration and Settlement project.’, a talk drawing on an exploratory project in collaboration with artists and a third sector organisation

Bernadette O’Rourke, a lecturer in Spanish and Linguistics at Heriot-Watt University and Chair of New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe, a European COST Action scheme which includes representatives from 28 partner universities from across Europe. She spoke about the New Speakers Network project.

Gabrielle Cluness, a co-founder and co-director of Milk Café, a social enterprise in Glasgow’s southside that seeks to help ethnic minority women to integrate as well as develop and practice their language skills.

Additionally, we invited artists, teachers, children and adult ESOL and foreign languages learners to hear their voices and opinions.

We experienced the power of a teamwork.

blog2The workshop was organised in the context of the Refugee Festival Scotland 2018, supported by various organisations, for example: the New Speakers Network, Cultural Documents, Milk Cafe, and designed to be of interest to teachers and students of languages, English for Speakers of other languages (ESOL), linguistics, museum studies, sociology, art education and art. All this meant that we had a lot of coordination to do. We succeeded because we distributed tasks, supported each other, and always respected each other. We were parts of one team and learned from each other.

We had to practice the art of compromise.

Each of us coming from a different discipline, it was not easy, but united by the goal of learning about the use of art in language learning, respectful, and curious about the others’ perspectives, after several email exchanges, we managed to achieve consensus on what we expected from the workshop. Consequently, our aims were:

  • To learn about using artistic inquiry for research – how we could use artistic enquiry to establish a better understanding of multilingualism itself, about the process of language learning (becoming multilingual) and a language learner (being/ becoming a multilingual language speaker)
  • To learn how and what art and art-based teaching activities could be used to support the process of language learning in the multilingual context

We learned together.blog3

We learned a lot, about application writing, budgeting and event organising. Finding a balance between the perfect and the practicable was crucial. We invited our participants to a venue which is at the centre of life of non-native English speakers or rather the new speakers; to a place where language learning and practice happen on daily basis in real-life context, and whilst it added a lot to our experience and made interdisciplinary collaborating easier, it certainly differed from the conditions offered by the high-tech sound-proofed conference suite.

Also, the size of the venue limited our flexibility in the number of participants we could accept. This was very hard to manage particularly that, to our huge surprise, the tickets ‘sold out’ in 36 hours and we had several people interested and on the waiting list. This is both a lesson to us and an appeal to PhD students who book their places on small events, please cancel in advance if you cannot attend the event – particularly, for small events such as our workshop, this makes a huge difference.

blog4Overall, we received a lot of positive feedback from our speakers and participants; we learned about some fascinating research projects and participated in very fruitful and energetic discussions; we exchanged opinions and heard from many different perspectives – we achieved it all what the academia is all about: creativity, intellectual development, inspiration, challenge, co-operation, respect, and learning.

And, last but not least, we have also become friends what is an unexpected but very valuable bonus to this experience! If you want to learn more visit our website and watch this space for photo and video documentation. Please do get in touch if you are interested in the workshop or our PhD projects!

This workshop was accompanied by the exhibition exploring the experience of speaking new languages in Scotland today. The New Speaker Studio exhibition constituted an artistic/ visual representation of the workshop’s content and provided a tangible example of an interdisciplinary cooperation in which art was used to represent linguistic experiences of migrants. For more information about the exhibition visit Cultural Documents website. On the Border of Art and Language Teaching in the Multilingual World was devised and produced by Marta Nitecka Barche (University of Aberdeen) email, Dobrochna Futro (University of Glasgow) email and Deirdre MacKenna (University of Dundee) email

We are always seeking new guest bloggers! If you have an idea for a blog post or would like to informally discuss writing for the SGSAH blog please get in touch with Brittnee via email at or connect with the blog on Twitter

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