Research Collegium for Language in Changing Society (RECLAS)
The roots of applied language studies at the University of Jyväskylä extend back to 1970s. The founding of the National Language Centre in 1974 constitutes a landmark event in this period: another example of the tradition in applied language studies at the University of Jyväskylä is the annual international summer school, which was first organized in 1977.
The University of Jyväskylä has recently defined applied language studies as one of its core research areas. Following a successful application, the Academy of Finland granted funding to strengthening the research in this area between 2016–2020.
As a result, the University of Jyväskylä has now established a profiling measure named Research Collegium for Language in Changing Society (RECLAS), which aims to make a significant contribution towards developing the field theoretically, methodologically and empirically.
What are applied language studies?
Applied language studies is a field of research that highlights the central role of language in all aspects of society, from education and communication to political argumentation, decision-making and knowledge production. Research in applied language studies helps to address language-related cultural, social and economic changes: to draw on an example, our researchers are often involved in planning and implementing language policies on the national level, such as those included in the National Core Curriculum. In addition, our research fosters dialogue about social exclusion and inclusion, particularly in relation to the integration of immigrants and the protection of language minorities.
Four thematic areas, which are introduced in greater detail below, have been initially defined for the Applied Language Studies for the Changing Society profiling initiative. These thematic areas contribute towards an understanding of language that recognises its dynamic, social and situated nature, while simultaneously paying attention to the role of language in constructing social realities, norms, ideologies, processes of identification, participation, inclusion and exclusion.
Language learning, teaching and assessment
The first thematic area focuses on foreign, second and first language learning, and learning-oriented assessment. These issues are considered in relation to social and institutional structures, policies and ideologies, while also accounting for the processes and practices of learning and the discursive constructions of language, diversity and mobility. The social nature of learning and the subjective agency of learners are also acknowledged, together with new literacies, mobility and technologies that require new multilingual and multimodal perspectives on language learning and teaching.
Language policies and social structure
The second thematic area attends to language policy research, which is currently witnessing the emergence of a body of research that challenges the traditional view of policy as a linear, macro-to-micro implementation process and turns attention towards the non-linear and multi-sited nature of policy. A similar trend in current language assessment research concerns the impact and ethics of assessment, including the norms and values that underlie all kinds of assessments from informal assessment in the classroom and workplace to formal tests and examinations. These developments open up new possibilities to study the links between the local contexts of language learning, use and assessment and the social structures in which policies are construed.
Discourses on language, diversity and (in)equality
The third thematic area focuses on critical discursive, ethnographic and sociolinguistic research on the conditions and consequences related to the multiple constructions of language, ethnicity, race, gender, class, and (post-)national categories, and on their intersections. At the current juncture of increased mobility, economic change and cultural transformation, the key categories for social inclusion, agency and participation are changing rapidly, as are their intersections in language, gender, class, race, ethnicity, and nationality. These changes also affect power relations, understood in terms of social inequalities, and struggles over inclusion, agency and participation. This has crucial social and political implications: it impacts both the ways in which people participate, belong and make a living and how their diverse identities and languages are valued or disregarded.
Theoretical and methodological innovations in applied language studies
The fourth thematic area, theoretical and methodological innovations in applied language studies, spans the three thematic areas and highlights the potential that dialogue in and across the thematic areas offers for theory-building and for developing methodological approaches in applied language studies. The goal is to combine the existing databases from the other three thematic areas in new ways, and to build new extensive and longitudinal data pools. New technologies, such as computer vision and motion capture, will be leveraged in collecting data, while also developing new means of collecting, annotating and analysing the rich data acquired using these new technologies.