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Bridging language diversity: a place for Catalan

Discover whereas there is a place for Catalan and other minority languages in today's Europe

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CIVIS focus area
Society, culture, heritage
Open to
  • Bachelor's
  • Master's
  • PhD
Field of studies
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
6 May - 13 June 2024

Multilingualism is one of Europe's defining features and core values. However, managing multilingualism and linguistic diversity has always been a challenging task. Often, multilingualism is mistakenly considered to generate confusion in societies or to hinder intercomprehension, thus neglecting the cultural richness it represents and the role it plays in the maintenance of cultural heritage, in social cohesion, and in the articulation of common projects such as CIVIS. Today, the loss of languages is a fact throughout Europe, a situation that particularly affects heritage languages which, like Catalan, are not the official language of a nation-state. In part, this is so because, regardless of their size - Catalan, for instance, has around 10 million speakers - these languages lack any presence in the formal spheres of Europe. Although significant progress has been made, for example, with the official status of Irish Gaelic in the European Parliament, there is still a long way for Europe to move towards full recognition and acceptance of its multilingualism. 

Moreover, whereas the processes of internationalisation of higher education create an invaluable opportunity to become acquainted with Europe's linguistic diversity, the growing presence of English as the lingua franca of academia has an impact on minoritized languages which become more and more relegated to the family sphere. However, EU’s policies for the exchange of students and researchers - initiatives such as the Erasmus program or CIVIS itself - are filling this gap by aiming to foster deep cultural knowledge and to develop a more integrative multilingualism.

In this sense, this BIP relies on the methodological and theoretical tools provided by sociolinguistics and applied linguistics in order to better understand the linguistic reality of European higher education and further address the needs of a global multilingual university environment. Its main goal is to question the taken-for-granted idea that multilingualism hinders communication while showing how policies and practices that address multilingualism effectively can be a bridge towards the promotion of language diversity. As part of this objective, this BIP aims to increase participants' multilingual competences by helping them communicate fruitfully in multilingual contexts. Several strategies will be mobilised in order to exploit students’ entire linguistic repertoires. Besides resorting to a common language, participants will learn to draw on their receptive competence in multiple languages to negotiate meaning in interaction thus generating new linguistic knowledge. For this, participants will become familiarised with the use of intercomprehension strategies. Intercomprehension is a communicative practice in which each speaker uses their own language in order to carry out a conversation. 

This project focuses on learning Catalan through intercomprehension strategies which will accommodate the different languages spoken by the participants. Choosing it as the object of study is not accidental. Firstly, it is a medium-sized European language, which offers possibilities of intercomprehension with other Romance languages spoken and studied in many universities within CIVIS. Secondly, it enjoys a certain degree of official recognition in many of the territories where it is spoken - it is official in Andorra and in a number of regions in Spain. Thirdly, it enjoys an educational and scientific tradition, studied in more than 150 universities around the world, out of which 97 are in Europe. It also counts with political and economic support which translates, for instance, in the creation and support of cultural institutions, such as the Ramon Llull Institute, which manages that network of universities where Catalan is taught: 

The course is organised in two parts. The first one will be delivered virtually and it will offer monographic theoretical sessions on different aspects related to sociolinguistics, language policies, and the management of multilingualism, always with a European focus and with an emphasis on the higher education system. Each session’s lecturer will be a well-recognised specialist in the field, with professors both from CIVIS and from other higher education institutions. Students will have to prepare for these sessions by reading the assigned texts in advance in order to fully contribute to the subsequent discussion spaces that will be created during and after class time.

The second part consists of in-person teaching and focuses mainly on linguistic practices that facilitate intercomprehension, aiming for participants to become more multilingual. After a theoretical session about the value of and strategies for intercomprehension, there will be two practical workshops, which will be further divided into two parts. For the first one students will have to apply the newly gained contents  in an immersion - and Catalan-speaking - context. To this end, some sessions will be held in Barcelona - with the collaboration and co-financing of Institut Ramon Llull (see below) - where students will interview language policy makers and carry out conversations with Catalan speakers both in a controlled environment (the classroom) and in free interactions with people in the city. The second part will also be practical, consisting of linguistic intercomprehension workshops and based on horizontal learning (collectively among the participants), where students will learn from one another within their multilingual group. This will mobilise participants’ acquired knowledge of Catalan, as well as of other languages of their repertoires. In all cases, teachers will provide them with strategies and bridging tools to understand all languages involved in the dialogues through the use of their linguistic competence.

Besides offering the CIVIS community valuable multilingual strategies to navigate today’s global world, this BIP will also foster positive attitudes towards diversity through the acquisition of intercomprehension skills and through the increased knowledge of multilingualism and of a language with a significant social, cultural, political and economic presence in Europe.

Main topics addressed

  • Multilingualism management
  • Language, identity and higher education
  • Linguistic intercomprehension
  • Role of English in today's Europe

Learning outcomes

Two main learning outcomes are expected:

  • First, students will acquire an initial or intermediate level of Catalan (A2/B1 of the CEFRL), together with competences for multilingual communication. Through intercomprehension practices, they will acquire several linguistic tools that will mobilise their whole repertoire. This will be achieved through several strategies, namely the experimentation with alternative forms of expression in different languages and with linguistic and paralinguistic resources (mimicry, gestures, facial expressions, etc.), and finding out the rules of equivalence and derivation.
  • Second, they will gain theoretical knowledge about multilingualism in Europe and about linguistic policies in higher education. Students will be provided with frameworks and tools to understand and apply linguistic policies. Finally, they will have to put into play the acquired knowledge and skills. On the one hand, they will submit a report reflecting on their experience interviewing Catalan policy makers. On the other, participants will practice with oral and written assignments that will require them to apply intercomprehension strategies in communication with speakers of Catalan and other European languages spoken by participants.
Dates:  6 May - 13 June 2024 Language: English 
Location: Madrid, Spain ECTS: 3*
Format: Blended Workload: 75 hours

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university. 

Physical mobility

The physical mobility part will be running from 10 to 13 June 2024 in Madrid, Spain.

Moreover, face-to-face sessions will be mainly held in the Sierra Norte de Madrid, at the Residencia la Cristalera that the University owns. This place is equipped with classrooms and also offers facilities for leisure and convivial activities. Thanks to the support of the Ramon Lull Institute - a public body set up with the aim of encouraging the academic study of Catalan language and culture abroad - the course also includes a short immersion stay in Barcelona.

Virtual part

The virtual part will be running from 6 May to 9 June 2024.

Moreover, the first virtual session will offer an overview of what multilingualism is and of how language policies can manage it. Furthermore, students will be provided with a theoretical introduction to the fields of sociolinguistics and applied linguistics, as well as a foundation on intercomprehension and on multilingual communication. In addition to this, participants will be able to find a list of recommended readings on Moodle (or on the available digital platform), of which a selected number will be compulsory during the course.

The remaining seven sessions will be conducted by a different professor, each one. They will first lecture on a topic related to the course (about which the students will have read in advance), and, second, they will moderate a debate in which all students will participate. The main purpose of these sessions is to give students theoretical tools - which will also be used in the physical mobility part, as well as to develop their critical thinking skills. 


This course is open to Bachelor's, Master's and PhD students at CIVIS member universities enrolled in the following fields of study: Multilingualism management, Sociolinguistics, or any other fields related.

Previous knowledge of Catalan or of the Catalan sociolinguistic reality, or of other minorized European languages is also required. 

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

Application process

Interested students should apply by filling in the online application form by 7 November 2023. 

Students will be selected according to the following criteria:

  • CV (considered according to the level of studies of each student)
  • Motivation Letter 
  • Previous knowledge of Catalan or of the Catalan sociolinguistic reality, or of other minorized European languages

Apply here


In order to receive the certificate of attendance and the 3 ECTS credits related to this course, students are required to undertake the following activities:

The assessment will take into account, on the one hand, the knowledge acquired during the course and, on the other hand, the attitude and participation of each student, both in the virtual and physical parts of the BIP. Each participant will be evaluated through individual and collaborative work, and this collaboration will be carried out in groups of students from different CIVIS universities. A small survey about their educational processes will be given at the very beginning in order to detect the initial ideas of students and, this way, to better assess students' progress during the course. 

The referred work unfolds in the following way:

1. Individual work:

  • Students will be required to write a short essay developing, on a theoretical or a practical level, some of the aspects that were dealt with in the virtual sessions. In the case of master’s or PhD students, the design of further research proposals will be particularly valued (40%)

2. Group work:

  • Students (in groups of at least three people) will have to write a short reflection paper on the language policies in Europe and / or in Catalonia (25%)
  • Students are expected to participate actively in the language intercomprehension workshops and to provide feedback on the activity, as well as to take a group challenge aiming at increasing their language awareness and multilingual competences (25%)
  • Active participation in the discussion forums of both face-to-face and virtual sessions will be positively valued (10%)

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

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The course is coordinated by:

  • Luisa Martín Rojo, Professor of Linguistics at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
  • Eloi Bellés Boeta, Lecturer in Catalan Linguistics at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
  • Isabel Turull, Lecturer in Catalan at Sapienza Università di Roma
  • Josep Soler Carbonell, Associate Professor of Sociolinguistics at Stockholm University
  • Joan Llinàs Suau, Lecturer in Catalan at the Univerity of Bucharest
    There will be other professors from different European universities offering monographic sessions, whose names will be announced at a later date.