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Language & Education Network Research Seminar - Multilingualism in Vocational Education (m-voc): Insights from technical apprentices in Switzerland

Event details

Multilingualism in Vocational Education (m-voc): Insights from technical apprentices in Switzerland

​Gabriela Meier (University of Exeter) & Esther Styger (bzbs)

You’re invited to a talk hosted by the Language and Education Network (LEN) at the School of Education. We’d like to discuss our research with you over lunch (provided). This talk is relevant for colleagues interested in

  • Languages in education and multilingualism in society
  • Leadership studies & business studies
  • Vocational education & professional learning
  • International human resource management


Place:    University of Exeter, St Lukes Campus, EX1 2LU, Staff House (ground floor) access through walled garden next to X-keys café

Date/time: Wed 5 October 2022, 1.30-3pm

Please book here, so we know how much lunch to order.



Languages, and the way we use them at work, can smooth or hinder communication and effectiveness. Staff in today’s globally connected workplaces are often linguistically diverse and between them speak many languages; this also applies to apprentices in technical and related professions.

There is research about the role of languages at management level and in some sectors, such as tourism, but there is a dearth of respective studies related to languages on shop floors and production sites, and vocational education hardly features in such research.

As part of a study, which is informed by multilingual socialisation in education (m-soc) and social cohesion perspectives, we invited apprentices associated with 11 trades, such as masons, mechanical engineers and hairdressers who attended a vocational college in the east of Switzerland to fill in a questionnaire (n=674) and participate in an interview (n=11). Findings show that this cohort can use 56 languages and dialects and that a surprising number is interested in developing languages in the present and in the future – in addition to the official language (German). Moreover, many of them use languages at work in creative ways to facilitate communication, mediate between texts and people. However, we also noted that, from the apprentices’ perspectives, languages appear to play rather different roles in different professions.