Professor Christer Laurén will receive the 28th Ramon Llull International Prize for Catalan Linguistics and Linguistic Diversity

Posted on 05/07/18.

The jury of the Ramon Llull International Prize has unanimously decided to grant this distinction in its modality of Linguistic Diversity to Professor Christer Laurén, theoretician in the field of language immersion. Professor Laurén has continuously contributed to the study and implementation of language immersion, the promotion of minority languages as tools of social cohesion in the educational field, and the dissemination of Catalan and international language immersion programs . He has also worked closely with two leading Catalan experts in language immersion, Joaquim Arnau and Josep Maria Artigal.

The prize, endowed with €6,000, is convened annually and jointly by the Fundació Ramon Llull and the Fundació Congrés de Cultura Catalana. This recognition aims to assess the whole of the individual work of a person from outside the Catalan linguistic domain, written in any language, and that has made a significant contribution to knowledge on the Catalan historical and cultural reality, or the theoretical contribution or the practice of a person from any country that has made an important contribution to the knowledge, recognition, promotion or defene of one or more cultures and stateless nations.

This year, the jury was formed by Marta Rovira, Miquel Strubell, Joan Manuel Tresserras and Margalida Pons, for the Fundació Congrés de Cultura Catalana; and Vicenç Villatoro, Teresa Cabré, Joaquim Torres and Manuel Pérez-Saldanya for the Fundació Ramon Llull.

In recent editions, the winners have been Jon Landaburu (2017), Kathryn Woolard (2016), Philip D. Rasico (2015), Juan Carlos Moreno Cabrera (2014), Max Wheeler (2013), Georg Kremnitz (2012), Malika Ahmed (2010), Denise Boyer (2009), Michael van Walt van Praag (2008), Alan Yates (2007), Tilbert Stegmann (2006), Paul Preston (2005) and Giuseppe Tavani (2004).

Christer Laurén

Christer Laurén was born in Helsinki in 1942 and received a doctorate from the Abo Academy in 1972. He was Dean of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Vaasa (Finland) in various periods from 1971 and Vicerector of the University from 1990 to 1994. He is currently a professor of Swedish language and emeritus professor at the Department of Scandinavian languages.

Laurén has collaborated for a long time in the promotion and international diffusion of language immersion programs as an effective instrument for the natural learning of a second foreign language.

He visited Catalonia in the mid-eighties when immersion programmes were already firmly established as an effective instrument for the acquisition of Catalan by Spanish-speakers. At that time, these programmes were quite unknown in Europe. Laurén knew the Catalan school model closely and how Spanish-speaking children learned Catalan and communicated in a natural way in the school setting.

Based on the Catalan experience, Laurén began to conceive of the idea of promoting in his local community immersion programs in Swedish aimed at the children of Finnish-speaking families. This project was initially well received in the community and today thousands of schoolchildren follow it.

Thus he began a collaboration with the Catalan educational authorities and with university research groups, in which Catalan and Finnish teachers shared visits and pedagogical resources. All in all, this led to the organization of the first international seminar on language immersion programs. This seminar led to the creation of the European Institute of Immersion Programmes, dedicated to the dissemination, promotion and research of these programmes, with meetings held in various territories. At the III International Congress, held in 1987, proposals were presented on this pedagogical model that were to revolutionize the teaching principles of the second national languages (Catalonia, Finland, Estonia, Israel, South Tyrol) as well as foreigners (English in Germany and Holland). Thus Finnish and Catalan specialists, coordinated by Christer Laurén, participated in giving advice to German immersion programmes aimed at the Italian-speaking community of South Tyrol. He and his Finnish research group have also given advise on the development of immersion programmes in the Baltic countries, aimed primarily at the Russian community established in these countries.

Laurén has carried out with his team a wide range of research and publications in language immersion, multilingualism, didactics and pedagogy of second and third languages and has collaborated in various publications that bring together policies, research and good teaching practices .

Christer Laurén is also a researcher of medieval philology, poet, narrator and member of important research societies (Royal Skittean Research Society of Sweden, Royal Norwegian Research Society) and founder of the International Institute for Terminology Research in Vienna. In 2014 he became a corresponding member of the Institut d'Estudis Catalans.

He has received numerous awards: from the Finnish Ministry of Education and the European Union.

As an author, Laurén has published some 350 works. His most widely acclaimed works include Special language: from humans thinking to thinking machines (1989), From office to school: special language and internationalization (1989) and Canadian French and Finnish Swedish: minority languages with outside standards, regionalisms, and adstrata (1983).

Laurén's works that deal with the linguistic immersion in Catalonia include Immersion programs in Catalonia and Finland. A comparative analysis (1992), and  L’immersione linguistica per una futura Europa (1996, co-authored with Josep Maria Artigal; and El programa d’immersió: Una via cap el multilingüisme. L’experiència catalana (1995).