Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Ökonomie und Sprache

Vergangen Konferenzen




International Colloquium on “Language Skills for Economic and Social Inclusion”


Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

12-13 October 2017


Final Program [click here]


General goals

This conference aims at exploring the relationship between individual language skills and people’s integration in the economy and in society in general with a special focus on the labour market. Language skills can be viewed as human capital having a positive influence on people’s income, employability and social inclusion. This holds for immigrants, refugees and mobile people who can benefit from the knowledge of the official language(s) of the host country, but also for citizens learning foreign languages and using them in the workplace.



Learning foreign or second languages has for a long time been associated with openness to other cultures. In recent decades, nevertheless, the discourse on language learning has gradually changed. Language skills are viewed as part of individuals’ human capital that can contribute to their economic welfare, increase productivity and foster growth. At the same time, language learning can promote social inclusion. As a result of recent massive migration flows to Europe both the Council of Europe and the EU have emphasised the importance of language skills for the economic and social integration of migrants and refugees.

There are some sound economic reasons behind these claims. Being a particular form of human capital, language skills may have a positive effect of the economic and social inclusion of individuals in different ways. Language skills in the official language of the host country may have a positive impact on immigrants’ income, measured in terms of earning differentials; foreign language skills may be associated with a higher employability, and with a lower probability of being dismissed when the costs of the workforce increase. Language skills, therefore, may facilitate the participation and the inclusion in the labour market, higher earnings and the possibilities of finding a job or holding it. Language skills can also promote a better inclusion in society. Employment, in fact, is one central aspect of inclusion.

Languages are necessary (although not sufficient) for social inclusion and cohesion. The Social Policy and Development Division of the United Nations defines Social inclusion as the process by which people resident in a given territory, regardless of their background, can achieve their full potential in life. This, of course, includes the economic life of individuals, without neglecting other social and political aspects. Social cohesion is a related concept that can be defined as a feature of a society in which all groups have a sense of belonging, participation, inclusion, recognition and legitimacy. This requires, among other things, avoiding the emergence of “parallel communities” that are divided (or even segregated) by language barriers within a given society.

Language policy can contribute to avoiding exclusion and segregation by promoting the linguistic integration of refugees and migrants, also in the labour market, and by fostering foreign language learning for mobile people who wish to spend a shorter or longer period of their lives abroad (e.g. international students). Language skills facilitate inclusion and cohesion because, among other things, they increase the capability of citizens and migrants to understand and communicate with the other members of society. It facilitates the access to (higher) education, which plays a key role in the development of an individual’s human capital.


Research questions

The number of potential research questions that are relevant for the conference is large. Here we present a non-exhaustive list that can help orienting prospective participants:

  1. Do language skills significantly contribute to the participation of individuals in the labour market?
  2. Which languages are more rewarded in the labour market and at which level of fluency? What differences among countries or regions can be observed in this respect?
  3. Do language skills improve international economic integration and trade?
  4. How does language competence affect the social inclusion of migrants and refugees? Which sociolinguistic barriers can hinder inclusion?
  5. Are language skills an important variable in employers’ recruiting decisions?
  6. Do some economic sectors make a more intensive use of language skills than other?
  7. What is the role of language policy in facilitating social inclusion and social cohesion?
  8. How do language education policies affect individuals’ migration decisions? Do foreign language skills significantly facilitate international labour mobility and therefore the economic integration of the European and the global labour market as a whole?
  9. What is the relationship between language skills in a lingua franca (e.g. English) and social integration in the host country where the lingua franca is not the locally dominant language? What differences can be found among low-skilled migrants and high-skilled (or “expats”) in this respect?
  10. Does a lingua franca increase social inclusion, or does it promote the emergence of separate networks of communication? What are the sociological implications of this?


Keynote speakers

  • Amado Alarcón: “Measuring Occupational Language Skills” (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain)

  • François Vaillancourt : “ Language policies and labour market earnings : plausible impacts and evidence from Québec ” (Université de Montréal, Canada)

  • Antonio Di Paolo: “The economic and social consequences of language-in-education policies” (AQR-IREA, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain)

  • Sebastian Otten: "Linguistic Distance, Migrants' Location Choice, and Their Labor Market Integration" (University College London, United Kingdom)


Date and Venue

12-13 October 2017

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,

Berlin, Germany


Working languages

You can send abstracts in English, Esperanto, French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Swedish.


Local organisers

REAL - Research group on Economics and Language

Institut für Erziehungswissenschaft

Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Bengt-Arne Wickström

Jürgen Van Buer

Michele Gazzola

Torsten Templin

Wiwex GmbH


Scientific committee

Agresti, Giovanni (Università di Teramo, Italy)

Chiswick, Barry (George Washington University, USA)

De Schutter, Helder (University of Leuven, Belgium)

Dunbar, Rob (University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom)

Dustmann, Christian (University College London, United Kingdom)

Gazzola, Michele (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany)

Ginsburgh, Victor (ECARES, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)

Grenier, Gilles (Université d'Ottawa, Canada)

Grin, François (Université de Genève, Switzerland)

Kraus, Peter (Universität Augsburg, Germany)

Marácz, Laszlo (Universiteit van Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Medda-Windischer, Roberta (European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano, Italy)

Shorten, Andrew (University of Limerick, Ireland)

Spitz-Oener, Alexandra (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany)

Templin, Torsten (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany)

Trabant, Jürgen (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)

Van Buer, Jürgen (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany)

Von Busekist, Astrid (Sciences-Po, Paris, France)

Wickström, Bengt-Arne (Andrássy University Budapest, Hungary)

Wolf, Nikolaus (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany)


In cooperation with

  • Institute for Ethnic Studies, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • ILT project (CSO2015-64247-P) - Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness
  • Andrássy University Budapest
  • The MIME Project (


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Summer School on Linguistic Policy, Linguistic Planning and Evaluation


University of Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica

31 July - 4 August 2017


Latin America is a multicultural and multilingual region, of which Costa Rica does not escape; hence addressing issues of policy and language planning is fundamental, particularly if we consider that the traditional view tends to hide other cultures and languages that make up the identity of a country.

Given the above, it is crucial to have a space in which it is possible to share experiences, where the problems, both national and international, that are exposed, allow us to analyze the situation and postulate solutions from the point of view of the diversity.

The area of linguistic policy and language planning is an interdisciplinary field of research in growth. There is increasing awareness of the importance of language policy and language planning in education, public service administration and in economic circles.

Language policy can influence student outcomes and the labor market, citizen participation in democratic decision-making processes and the ability of companies to compete. Therefore, it is a field of study that requires contributions from various specialties.

Although linguistic planning has traditionally been part of sociolinguistics, it now tends to become an interdisciplinary area in which specialists from sociolinguistics, political science, economics and philosophy converge; therefore we propose an international Summer School on this subject, which would be the first one to be held in Latin America.

The Institute of Linguistic Research (INIL) of the University of Costa Rica, in collaboration with the Esperantic Studies Foundation (ESF) (, invites to the Summer School on Linguistic Policy, Linguistic Planning and Evaluation (PLPLE), which aims to open an international space for discussion on Linguistic Policy and Linguistic Planning.

The Summer School will consist of the description and analysis of the fundamental concepts of Linguistic Policy, Linguistic Planning and Linguistic Policy Evaluation, as well as its objectives and methods. During the four sessions of the Summer School, the exponents will refer to specific cases that they have investigated. Of the four sessions, three of them will be held in English and one in Spanish. At the same time, there will be a series of lectures related to the Summer School topics.

The Summer School will last a week, with 20 hours, in a total of 4 days (except on August the 2nd, which is a holiday). Each exponent will give a four-hour workshop. We are considering the possibility that postgraduate students of the University of Costa Rica receive a credit for their attendance*.



Dr. Jorge Antonio Leoni de León

Dr. Michele Gazzola


For more information visit the homepage of the summer school

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2017: Language Policy and Planning in Multilingual Organisations: Exploring Language Regimes


Birkbeck University of London, United Kingdom

3 July 2017


Whilst there is still comparatively limited research on LPP in organisations, studies on supranational organisations (e.g. the EU and UN) and public administration of multilingual states (e.g. Canada, Switzerland, Belgium) have shown that they experience great difficulties in implementing and sustaining multilingual provision. This can lead to marked inefficiencies and inequities for those functioning within organisations/administrations and/or those affected externally by their work (Coray et al, 2015; Gazzola, 2016; McEntee-Atalianis, 2015; Turgeon & Gagnon, 2015). Current language regimes in some multilingual organisations no longer necessarily reflect the practices or needs of individuals who work within them. Moreover, there is demand for scientific data on ‘optimal’ language regimes for established and newly emerging multilingual organisations. For further developments in the field of LPP and for academics to be able to inform policy makers, concerted interdisciplinary collaboration is needed – not least the combined efforts of linguists, economists and political scientists.

This symposium will bring together some of the leading scholars in the field of LPP who work across a range of disciplines (education; economics; linguistics; politics) in order to discuss:

  • the unique challenges faced by multilingual organisations working within different sectors (e.g. business; diplomacy; economics) and the challenges faced by researchers who work in these sites
  • methods to investigate and model language regimes
  • the identification and the evaluation of the socio-economic and political effects of alternative ways of managing multilingual communication adopted by public administrations and organisations (e.g. political representativeness, democratic participation, social exclusion)
  • the current priorities for LPP research and its impact on policy makers working in multilingual organisations.


Hosted by:

Dr Lisa McEntee-Atalianis (Birkbeck)

Dr. Michele Gazzola


For more information visit the homepage of the symposium


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2015: Symposium "Economics, Linguistic Justice and Language policy"


Bengt-Arne Wickström, Michele Gazzola und Torsten Templin

Keynote Speakers

Jean-Claude Barbier, Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne, Université Paris 1

David Robichaud, University of Ottawa/Université d’Ottawa


02. - 03.03.2017

Beschreibung (Englisch)
The range of problems raised by diversity of languages in international economic and political integration processes calls upon innovative, efficient and fair language policies to manage multilingualism. Language policies are increasingly acknowledged as being a necessary component of many decisions taken in the areas of labour mobility, access to knowledge and higher education, social inclusion of migrants, and they can affect companies’ international competitiveness and the democratic control of international organisations.
The symposium "Economics, Linguistic Justice and Language Policy" aims at bringing together economists, philosophers, applied linguists and sociolinguists, policy makers, legal scholars, and social scientists in general. The purpose is to discuss, from an interdisciplinary perspective, the socio-economic effects of language policies, the impact of language dynamics and language planning on justice and inequality at the national or international level, as well as the connection between democracy, decision-making and linguistic diversity. 
Prospective participants are invited to submit an abstract on one of the following or related topics:
1. Theoretical models of linguistic justice and linguistic democracy (e.g. minority languages, immigrants, supranational integration, higher education).
2. Assessment of the socio-economic consequences of linguistic diversity, language policies and dynamics.
3. Evaluation of the costs, benefits and the fairness of language policies.
4. Languages, linguistic rights and power.
5. Multilingualism and economic activities.


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2013: Konferenz "The Economics of Language Policy"


Bengt-Arne Wickström und Michele Gazzola

Keynote Speakers

Victor Ginsburgh, Université Libre de Bruxelles
François Grin, Université de Genève
Stephen May, University of Auckland


26. - 27.07.201

Beschreibung (Englisch)

The language policy of international bodies or individual countries is a complex and often controversial issue in today’s world, as we can witness in multilingual countries like Belgium, Spain, or the Ukraine. Also the language policies of international entities like cthe European Union involve many complex problems.

Relevant issues are effective and efficient communication, possible alienation of (parts) of the population, as well as fairness. Language policy, hence, covers issues as different as management of multilingual communication in international organizations and human rights of ethnic minorities.
It raises a number of questions related both to justice and to the efficient allocation of material and symbolic resources among people speaking different languages. Also here we encounter the traditional trade-off between equity and efficiency.

Since the issues involved are interdisciplinary in their nature, the intention of the workshop is to bring together economists with sociolinguists, political scientists and sociologists, as well as scientists from other disciplines without removing the focus of the workshop from economics. The aim of the conference is a scientific exchange on language-policy issues from different methodological perspectives, furthering the development of the field of economics and language and strengthening its theoretical and empirical connections to research on language policy and language planning based in other disciplines.

Papers from economists and researches from other disciplines working on issues of language policy are solicited.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of possible specific themes of individual contributions:
• languages and economic efficiency (e.g. languages in the labor market, language as a public good,
   linguistic diversity and trade, languages and firms)
• language dynamics and network-externality properties
• language and ethnic and social identity
• language and economic and social power
• evaluation of the costs and distributive consequences of alternative language policies
• normative evaluation of official-language policies
• techniques to evaluate the material and symbolic value of languages (e.g. tools adapted from 
   environmental economics)


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