The Study Group on Language at the United Nations
in cooperation with

The Center for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems,
The Universal Esperanto Association,
The Center for Applied Linguistics, and
Birkbeck, University of London

invites you to a symposium on

Multilingualism in International Organizations and International Co-operation

on Thursday & Friday, May 10-11, 2018
at the Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017
First Avenue at 44th Street

Please use
our form to register for our 2018 Symposium.

Jump to the PROGRAM or download it as a PDF file

For more information, please read the Biographies and Abstracts

Multilingualism in international co-operation entails both costs and benefits: costs because it requires mechanisms such as the selection of multilingual staff and the mediation of language professionals; benefits because, if properly managed, it includes all parties to decision-making, promotes consensus, supports programme delivery, and aids dissemination of results. Thus it favours social justice and inclusion. Increasingly, multilingualism is seen as a positive force, though it is not always recognized as such by all stakeholders.

Within the United Nations, for example, owing in particular to the scarcity of available data, advocates of multilingual language policies often face ideological, financial and administrative resistance, despite a growing recognition that multilingualism, as a core value of the UN, is a potential source of strength.

This symposium seeks to focus on, and generate interest in, these issues. Contributorscription will address the challenges of supporting multilingualism in organizations and in sites of international co-operation across different sectors (e.g. business, diplomacy, economics) and communities. Included will be theoretical and methodological studies, on the one hand, and studies addressing specific practical challenges, on the other – especially papers that focus directly on the work of the UN system or other international bodies, or research having obvious implications for their work.

Among the themes that we hope to address are the following:

  • evolving perceptions of multilingualism in international settings
  • linguistic inclusiveness in multilingual settings
  • interpretation and translation in international organizations
  • speed of decision-making vs. information loss in monolingual contexts
  • language in international peace-keeping
  • language and human/minority rights
  • the economics of language regimes
  • linguistic equity in organizations
  • inclusive communication in local and international development
  • language policy in international organizations
  • language and sustainability
  • multilingualism and NGOs






8:00-9:00 Registration & Coffee

9:00-9:20 Welcome

Humphrey Tonkin (Director, Center for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems)

Joel Goméz (President & Chief Executive Officer, Center for Applied Linguistics)

9:20-10:45 Panel Discussion: Parity and multilingualism at the United Nations

Moderator: Igor Shpiniov, Chief of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General, Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, UN Secretariat.


H.E. Amb. Martín García Moritán, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations

H.E. Amb. Narjess Saidane, Permanent Observer for the International Organization of La Francophonie to the United Nations

H.E. Amb. Rudolph Michael Ten-Pow, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Guyana to the United Nations

H.E. Amb. Valentin Rybakov, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Belarus to the United Nations

10:45-11:00 Break

11:00-11:45 Keynote Address: Michele Gazzola (University of Leipzig):

What are the economic effects of language regimes?: The case of the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the European Patent Office.

11:45-1:15 Session 1: Language Rights & Responsibilities

John Edwards (St Francis Xavier University and Dalhousie University):

Language claims & language rights

Timothy Reagan (University of Maine):

Sign language multilingualism: The forgotten language diversity in disempowered communities

Emmanuel Asonye (University of Mexico), Ezinne Emma-Asonye (University of Mexico), Queenette Okwaraji (University of Rochester) and Khadijah Asili (Vizionz-Sankofa):

Linguistic diversity and the language rights of the underprivileged population in Africa and America: Towards an inclusive society in 2030

Chair: Lisa McEntee-Atalianis (Birkbeck, University of London)

1:15-2:00 Lunch

2:00-3:00 Session 2: Language Rights & Responsibilities (continued)

Nirvana Bhatia (Linguistic Rights Specialist):

The paper chase: A review of the UN’s recent language-rights legislation

Maneeratana Sawasdiwat Na Ayutthaya (President of ASEAN Center for Multilingualism, Translation & Interpretation):

Multilingualism, translation and interpretation in the ASEAN Community

Chair: Timothy Reagan (University of Maine)

3:00-3:30 Break

3:30-4:00 Session 3: The International Criminal Court

Leigh Swigart (Brandeis University):

English at the International Criminal Court: Working language or default language?

Beatrice Owiti (Kenya Methodist University):

Interpretation and translation in the International Criminal Court

Chair: Rosemary Salomone (St. John’s University, New York)


4:00-4:15 Vigdis Eriksen (Chair of the Board of Red T)

The protection of language workers in combat zones


4:15-4:30 Video Presentation: “Multilingualism: why and how to promote it?” (OIF)


4:30-5:00 Summary of the day’s proceedings and general discussion


8:00-9:00 Registration & Coffee

9:00-9:15 Welcome and address:

Joel Goméz (President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for Applied Linguistics)

9:15-10:40 Panel Discussion: International Organizations at Work: The Linguistic Dimension

Moderator: Rosemary Salomone, Kenneth Wang Professor of Law, St. John's University


Guillaume Dabouis, Head of the Political Section, UN Delegation of the European Union

Mekki Elbadri, translator, Arabic Section, Documentation Division, United Nations

Carole Maisonneuve, Public Information & Multilingualism Coordination Officer, DGACM, United Nations

Jean-Victor Nkolo, Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, United Nations

Marie-Paule Roudil, Director, UNESCO Liaison Office, New York

Russell Taylor, Chief, Publications and Editorial, United Nations Department of Public Information

(Affiliation is for identification purposes only. The comments of the panelists do not necessarily represent the position of the organizations with which they are affiliated.)

10:40-11:40 Session 4: Language Policy & Linguistic Diversity

Lisa McEntee-Atalianis (Birkbeck, University of London), Michele Gazzola (University of Leipzig) and Torsten Templin (Humboldt University, Berlin):

Measuring diversity in multilingual communication

Francis M. Hult (Lund University, Sweden):

Parallel language use: A Nordic solution for multilingual organisations?

Chair: Humphrey Tonkin (President Emeritus, University of Hartford)

11:40-11:55 Break

11:55-12:55 Session 5: Language Policy & Linguistic Diversity (continued)

Dorte Lønsmann (Copenhagen Business School) & Janus Mortensen (University of Copenhagen):

English only? A critical examination of the ‘natural’ status of English as a corporate language

Spencer Hazel (Newcastle University), Katherine Kappa and Kamilla Kraft (University of Copenhagen):

Language policing in international organisations: Explicit and embedded orientations to language repertoires and their impact on professional identity

Chair: Francis M. Hult (Lund University, Sweden)

12:55-1:40 Lunch

1:40-2:40 Session 6: Interpretation & Translation

Mirna Soares Andrade (Inter-American Defense College):

Multilingualism and language services at the Inter-American Defense College

Shana Pughe Dean (Tone Translate):

Creating opportunity and understanding in a multicultural world on the move: Refugee resettlement agencies

Chair: Lisa McEntee-Atalianis (Birkbeck, University of London)

2:40-2:55 Break

2:55-4:40 Session 6: Multilingual Education

Carol Benson (Teachers College, Columbia University):

The importance of a multilingual habitus when assessing literacy skills in educational development

Maung Nyeu (Harvard University):

Multilingual education an essential cornerstone for promoting diversity and inclusion in a globalizing world

Erina Iwasaki (Teachers College, Columbia University):

Reframing multilingualism in terms of opportunity

Ari Sherris (Texas & A & M University-Kingsville, Texas) & Joy Kreeft Peyton (Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, D.C.):

The power of multilingualism and multiliteracy for languages and groups

Chair: Rosemary Salomone (St. John’s University, New York)

4:40-5:00 Closing discussion: Future directions & collaborations: Academic impact on the work of the UN


The Study Group gratefully acknowledges the financial support of:

- Birkbeck, University of London

- The Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington DC, and

- The Esperantic Studies Foundation

without which this symposium would not be possible.

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