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2016 Symposium Report

Symposium on

Language and the Sustainable Development Goals

New York, 21-22 April 2016



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Edited by João Pedro Marinotti

City University of New York


The Study Group on Language and the United Nations, an independent group of scholars and practitioners on matters related to the international use of language, convened a symposium on Language and the Sustainable Development Goals at the Church Center for the United Nations, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, on 21 and 22 April 2016. Its goal was to examine the importance of issues of language in the formulation, implementation, and successful completion of the Sustainable Development Goals. The symposium was sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Center for Applied Linguistics, the Center for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems and its journal Language Problems and Language Planning, and the Universal Esperanto Association (an organization in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and associated with the UN Department of Public Information). Financial support was provided by the Esperantic Studies Foundation. The following document reflects some general conclusions of the symposium.


Attendance and Programme

Over 120 academics, diplomats, NGO representatives and UN officials attended the gathering, which examined the linguistic implications of the SDGs, set by the United Nations General Assembly as the basis for the UN’s development agenda for the period 2015-2030.  The keynote address was given by Suzanne Romaine, former Merton Professor of the English Language at the University of Oxford.  Michael Ten-Pow, Special Adviser to the UN Coordinator for Multilingualism, described his work in the promotion and maintenance of multilingualism within the United Nations itself.  The event was held to highlight the importance of language as a means for the communication of the SDGs to all of the world’s peoples, and as an element in the successful realization of the goals themselves.  The symposium discussed language not only as an element in the goals individually, but also as the means of communicating the goals and engaging in dialogue with a multilingual world.  Stress was laid on the importance of developing and implementing the Goals through two-way communication in which everyone could participate fully.


Purpose of the Symposium

On 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address the root causes of poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation. Growing interest in the SDGs has bolstered their global visibility, but the targets and implementation strategies of many Goals are still being developed and remain unclear.[1]

Notably absent from the goals themselves is language, which receives little or no attention, despite the fact that the goals are intended to engage everyone in global dialogue and action in a highly multilingual and linguistically fragmented world. Goal 17, the last of the goals, envisions a “global partnership for sustainable development” that will “strengthen the means of implementation” of the other 16 goals. Without greater clarity, the global partnerships envisioned in Goal 17 and fundamental to the achievement of the SDGs cannot succeed.

At the heart of such partnerships is human communication. These partnerships require fair and multidirectional communication, which must inherently involve language. In fact, all of the SDGs interface with language, either as a substantive element of the goal itself (language as a goal) or as a means of communication, dialogue, response, and implementation (language as a tool).

The dominance of certain languages, particularly English, in international development discourse creates the illusion of a unified global effort. In fact, this dominance has widened the gulf between the Anglophone elites who research, discuss, and write policies, and the billions called on to implement these policies at the individual level, creating levels of frustration that may remain unnoticed by the elites themselves, precisely because of the monolingual environment in which their deliberations take place. Thus, dialogue tends to go in one direction: from the planners to the planned. Often, language prevents dialogue in a spirit of reciprocity and equality between planners and people.

Symposium participants expressed dismay at the failure to include concern for language among the seventeen goals and their accompanying targets. At the same time, they were insistent that in implementing the existing goals, attention had to be paid to language difference, with the aim of including all parties, as much as possible on their own terms, in genuinely fruitful dialogue. They urged a review of the entire SDG framework to pinpoint those areas where language was a particularly important factor in both planning and implementation.


In short, there is an urgent need to include language at the planning, implementation, and assessment stages of each of the SDGs.



Overview: Language and the Sustainable Development Goals

Language, a fundamental medium through which all Goals must be articulated and implemented is addressed in none of the SDGs or their targets. By ignoring the role of language in literacy, education, and access to information, vulnerable populations, including linguistic minorities, are placed at economic, social, and health risks. Furthermore, language-insensitive development policies threaten to undermine educational efforts, since increasing attendance in schools, for example, will not lead to better educational outcomes if children do not actually learn. According to Katalin Buzasi, such issues will not be adequately addressed until a new unified policy framework is developed, combining large-scale, quantitative development methodology with grassroots-level linguistic realities.

The languages that people speak are bound up with their sense of identity, their culture, and their self-esteem. This linguistic reality requires an overtly multilingual approach to development, particularly human development. To address communities’ need for linguistic identity and independence, development efforts must acknowledge the significance of language policy and linguistic cultures. As Seán Ó Riain pointed out, a lack of identity and independence fosters shame of home language and culture, creating a weak base on which to build the SDGs.

Kurt Müller added that incorporating language into the implementation strategies of the SDGs is not enough without also ensuring that international efforts truly benefit the intended recipients. Without a reciprocal dialogue between local communities and international efforts, the linguistic equivalent of Potemkin Villages, façades of democratization and good governance, may materialize with no real development consequences. Only through local planning and management of development efforts can such results be avoided.

In spite of the widespread interests in the SDGs, scholarship and policy have maintained an assumption that the anglophone public sphere can efficiently interact with local populations without incorporating linguistic issues into policy strategies. Humphrey Tonkin argued that the development community has failed to address the need for bidirectional, democratic, global coalitions, rendering the SDGs potentially discriminatory and hierarchical. Linguistic complacency, by the UN, by other global development organizations, and even by Member States, could threaten the entire development agenda.


A. Language as a Goal

Many of the goals include, or should include, attention to language. This is most obvious with Goal 4 (quality education), where language of instruction is crucially important, along with other linguistic concerns. Goal 5 (gender equality) implies opportunities for women and girls to have the same access to linguistic resources as their male counterparts. Goal 8 (productive employment and decent work) is dependent on the ability of all to communicate linguistically in the workplace. Goal 10 (inequality within and among countries) implies maximizing linguistic equality and removing barriers to the use of minority languages. Goal 11 (safe and sustainable cities) requires addressing the extreme linguistic diversity of many modern cities – a resource for positive change or, if it is not well-managed, a divisive element. Goal 16 (promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies) necessitates addressing linguistic justice in the context of social justice; indeed, the latter is not possible without adequate attention to the former. The symposium addressed Goal 4 particularly, but the linguistic dimension of other goals should not be ignored.

1. Language of instruction and rights to education

In his opening statement, Timothy Reagan reminded participants that the 1992 UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities asserts that to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights, individual member states must provide minorities with favorable conditions and adequate opportunities. However, pluralism, which is often lauded as an integral part of democratic societies, is often missing from discussions on education policy, which lie at the nexus of language rights and the Sustainable Development Goals. Without taking into account language rights and language pluralism, the achievement of favorable conditions, adequate opportunities, and Goal 4 is too abstract to be reached.

At the grassroots level, achievement of any and all of the goals translates into accessible and successful education systems. However, if the languages pupils speak and understand well are not used as languages of instruction, they will not be given adequate access to the curriculum, nor to high-quality teaching and learning opportunities, and, as numerous studies have shown, will lose enthusiasm for learning and the economic advancement derived from it. Linguistically-aware educational policies, for example, well-designed mother-tongue-based, multilingual education, must be adopted if Goal 4 is to be successfully implemented and assessed. Only then can equitable education become the foundation for the implementation of all the other SDGs.

Francis M. Hult and others, in describing LitBase, a database of effective literacy and numeracy practices, enumerated three specific requirements for quality education: inclusion, lifelong learning, and multilingual ethos. Without these elements, education systems cannot hope to serve their communities adequately. Carol Deshano da Silva (Save the Children US) and Alison Pflepsen (RTI International), in response, provided examples of new quantitatively-verified methods of education in development contexts, which aim to provide comprehensive community support, fulfilling important requirements for quality education. Save the Children US’s Literacy Boost toolkit encourages mother tongue literacy as a foundation for lifelong learning by helping communities create and implement teacher training, community action, and assessments. RTI International provides educators with mother-tongue teacher training, education materials, and peer learning experiences, allowing teachers to teach longer and more effectively, increasing literacy test scores, and lowering dropout rates.

These methods of education constitute effective steps towards achieving Goal 4, but at the global level they require quantitative achievement metrics, as Carol Benson asserted. By quantitatively measuring whether (1) local teachers teach in their L1, (2) the four skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening are emphasized in L1, (3) continuing educational development is offered in L1, and (4) assessments of learning are carried out in L1, large-scale metrics will provide data that will potentially inform language and education policy, bringing the achievement of Goal 4 significantly closer. These metrics, however, are readily manipulated and misinterpreted, as Theo Du Plessis and Colleen Du Plessis demonstrated. Government reports on literacy and education can be misleading, thereby perpetuating linguistic and social inequalities, if the numbers are not analyzed in context by those with experience, and if baseline data and cumulative data do not match.

2. Education and language ideologies - A social problem

Clearly, languages are interwoven with issues of ideology and identity: they are not neutral. Incorporating language into the planning, implementation, and assessment stages of the SDGs requires acknowledging that language issues are inseparable from social ideologies and power. Top-down language policies frequently fail to engage individual members of society, whose grassroots motivations and thought-processes will ultimately determine the outcome of policy implementation.

Shareen Bhalla pointed out that, given the importance of language-in-education policies, we must note that the success or failure of policies may sometimes derive not from the policies themselves but from their social context and implementation strategies. The social prestige of English, described by Rosemary Salomone, and of STEM education, described by Antonio Bardawil, have been powerful deterrents to the adoption of mother-tongue-based, multilingual education policies, in spite of their long-term effectiveness. As a result, as John Comings stressed, the maintenance of prestige-language education strategies, often lacking effective teachers, methodology, or materials, proves less than successful and actually perpetuates the cycle of educational impoverishment, thereby having consequences precisely opposite to those intended. A better balance must be achieved.

Unless communities see the implementation of language-in-education policies as beneficial, such policies will not succeed. Accordingly, as Mark E. Karan and Elke Karan reminded participants, even well-researched and well-intentioned policies, such as mother-tongue-based, multilingual education, frequently suffer from social prejudice and misperception, when communities, rightly or wrongly, equate particular policies with the provision of substandard or marginalizing education.

A social change, not only a policy change, may be required before policymakers and individuals become allies in achieving Goal 4, among all other SDGs. This social change, Alicia Fuentes Calle stated, must include the maintenance and sustainability of languages through the presence of observers and producers of new knowledge and culture. Such a process requires a fresh analysis of the role of mother tongues, as Sarah Katherine K. Moore and her colleagues asserted, so that prejudice and misconceptions do not hinder the common goals of multilingualism, economic growth, and social justice.

3. Language issues in displaced populations

The migration of minors with interrupted schooling has reached crisis proportions in many areas of the world. This increase must be a central concern for any global sustainable development strategy since it lies at the intersection of migration, education, language policy, youth development, and inequality. Yet many policy makers, including those involved in the formulation of the SDGs, continue their work under the assumption that disruptions to formal education, be they temporal, locational, or linguistic, are mere exceptions to the norm.

In fact, these issues are just some of those facing attempts at humanitarian aid during times of conflict, pain, and pressure. Indeed, the relative lack of attention to the refugee crisis and social dislocation (including linguistic dislocation) caused by armed conflict can be considered a major shortcoming of the SDGs in their present form. As Alison Phipps asserted, we must first study the human language ecology from the perspectives of anthropology, law, psychology, arts, and applied linguistics before being able to adequately help populations in crisis. Cassondra Puls and Mackenzie Lawrence’s description of displaced youth populations incorporates such approaches. The needs of these increasingly linguistically heterogeneous populations include (1) maintaining or acquiring L1 skills, (2) acquiring national languages in host communities or countries, (3) access to safe and healing learning environments, and (4) accommodation for learners with interrupted or no schooling, the majority of whom are girls. Without fulfilling these needs, populations are at risk for permanent disenfranchisement, whether as refugees or during repatriation.

Carla Bagna and Andrea Scibetta emphasized that education during displacement is a requirement for civic competence, without which the SDGs will not be achieved. Therefore, it is imperative to implement bidirectional education methodologies to teach non-native languages to populations ranging from foreigners, to prisoners, to those seeking citizenship. Marguerite Lukes, however, warns that education systems frequently disregard language requirements of their curricula, stigmatizing students’ L1s, making learning a subtractive process for displaced learners. By doing so, currently instructor-centered education systems must adopt a plurilingual, linguistically-aware curriculum in order to better serve displaced populations.

Several papers addressed the educational needs of displaced or immigrant populations and ways of integrating them effectively into existing education programs. For example, the Multilingual Literacy Diagnostic, an assessment used by the New York City Department of Education and described by Jennifer C. Hamano and her colleagues, provides educators with data on incoming students’ knowledge and skills in their home languages. Such information may then be used to build an adaptive and additive curriculum, addressing the needs of displaced populations, incorporating new pedagogical tools such as Dialogic Practice, as Kathleen McGovern demonstrated.

Given the global flow of migrants and refugees, only a systematic and overarching re-analysis of education policies, including language policies, will allow education systems to serve displaced students appropriately and facilitate their eventual productive reintegration into society.


B. Language as a Tool

Language is an important tool for the formulation and fulfillment of all of the Sustainable Development Goals. If we are serious about leaving no one behind, and about reaching everyone, at all levels of society, at every corner of the globe, we must address language difference. To use a language not one’s own puts one at a disadvantage and creates a sense of hierarchy that can deaden the equal exchange of ideas, compromise efforts to reach consensus, and create resentment that undermines common purpose (native English speakers, particularly, often fail to notice these effects). And to have no language at all that is comprehensible, for example, to those engaged in the fulfillment of the Goals, is to be left out of the consensus altogether. It is the responsibility of those in leadership roles to find ways of reaching the linguistically isolated, not the other way round.

4. Language at the institutional level - At the UN and beyond

Taking advantage of lingua francas and selective multilingual policies, institutions, including the United Nations, have achieved global levels of cooperation in research and policymaking. Michael Ten-Pow, on behalf of Catherine Pollard, Coordinator for Multilingualism for the United Nations, summarized the UN’s efforts and successes in implementing global institutional multilingualism. The Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM), the Department of Public Information (DPI), and the Division of Human Resources Management (DHRM) provide multilingual translation and interpretation services for the various organs of the UN. In addition to translation and interpretation services, the UN is involved in creating new terminology for coverage in its official languages, standardizing terminology for better communication, and language training for UN peacekeeping personnel.

However, global multilingualism efforts are often implemented at the cost of marginalizing key stakeholders, especially those at the grassroots level. Lisa J. McEntee-Atalianis enumerated various operational difficulties in global multilingualism, including the disseminating of information to local communities. Translating key documents into a handful of official languages or lingua francas is not sufficient; nor is interpretation in these languages enough. Furthermore, modern methods of publishing, such as the use of websites, must take into account the local availability and use of digital information. Therefore, a global network of linguistic actors at different levels is necessary to create a truly global, democratic, and accessible information network, which must include the use of traditional and local media. It may not be enough to rely on Member States to achieve this objective: more proactive measures may be required.

In order to create such a network, then, language cannot be a policy addendum addressed only (if at all) during implementation stages: it must be an integral part of initial research and policy planning. Laurence Jay-Rayon and Amy R. Tuininga emphasized that the gap between research, industry, policy and language matters must be bridged by language and multilingualism specialists during the planning stages of project development. This bridge, however, will only succeed once political leaders and project managers are trained to address linguistic issues during initial planning, as Kathleen Stein-Smith stated.

In conclusion, while various institutional policies and rules regarding multilingualism demonstrate an explicit commitment to multilingual practice (whose maintenance requires ongoing vigilance), recognizing language as a core value necessary at the planning stages of global policy is fundamental to the implementation of the SDGs. These policies have been difficult to operationalize or enforce, given the complexities of linguistic issues at the grassroots level. The UN must reflect further on how best to convey the SDGs in languages and via media that can reach a global population and also (and this is crucially important) elicit a constructive, if potentially critical, response.


5. Language rights: The legal system

Legal systems which oblige individuals to interact with police, courts, and prison systems through a majority or government language infringe on the very rights that the SDGs aim to enforce. Goal 16 (Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies) implies that sustainable development must incorporate the protection and enforcement of individuals’ fundamental rights – rights guaranteed to individuals under Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights regardless of what languages they speak. Therefore, language services, such as accredited translators and interpreters, must be offered, in adequate numbers and quality, so that the burden of accurate, unbiased, and contextually appropriate communication is not placed on already disenfranchised speakers of minority and foreign languages.

The 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by a majority of the world’s countries, includes the right to due process and the right not to incriminate oneself (Article 14, Part 3). Given the global tide of migrants and refugees and the increasing number of interactions between law enforcement systems and minority language speakers, protecting these rights is increasingly fraught with linguistic complexities.

In the context of the United States, Aneta Pavlenko highlighted the fact that even native English speakers are victims of legal jargon used during police questioning – jargon which they often do not understand. These problems are even greater among vulnerable populations, such as those with mental health problems, juveniles, and minority language speakers. Even well intentioned legal transactions such as the reading of Miranda Rights and the Miranda Waiver, may present comprehension challenges, which frequently disenfranchise these vulnerable populations. In many countries, the conversion of legal jargon into plain language, the translation of legal proceedings into minority languages, and the development of better assessments of understanding may be first steps towards achieving Goal 16.

Many of these linguistic issues are exacerbated within the criminal court systems, as Dragana Radosavljevic summarized. Using the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a case study of criminal justice systems in which the onus of proving bias or inaccuracy in translation and interpretation falls on the accused, Radosavljevic demonstrated how the lack of strict accreditation requirements for translators and interpreters further burdens linguistic minorities. By training judges in sociolinguistic issues, raising the accreditation requirements for legal translation and interpretation, and giving deference of right to use languages the defendant fully speaks and understands, criminal justice systems may play an active role in implementing the SDGs. As matters stand, they frequently fall short of the very justice they purport to deliver.



There was broad agreement among the participants in the symposium – many of them language professionals and experts who have devoted their life’s work to the understanding of the role of language in society – that the Sustainable Development Goals fall short in their lack of attention to language and language difference. This problem is in part due to a more general failure to recognize the consequences, both positive and negative, of linguistic diversity. The problem has been exacerbated in recent years by the very rise of English as a bridge among languages – a state of affairs that has facilitated communication among elites, including specialists in economic and social development, thereby conveying an illusion of inclusiveness that only deepens the divide between the linguistic haves and the linguistic have-nots, effectively minimizing the positive aspects of diversity and the maintenance of distinctive linguistic identities. The rhetoric surrounding the SDGs stresses inclusiveness, two-directional communication, and reaching the world’s least advantaged citizens, but our disregard for the very essence of human communication – namely language – can easily make a mockery of such rhetoric and close us in on ourselves. Immediate attention to linguistic justice seems called for, by the United Nations and all concerned – along with a dispassionate and sober look at the practicalities of making the SDGs an authentically pluralistic and comprehensive effort.



Symposium Presentations


Bagna, C., & Scibetta, A. . Language as a factor in sustainable development: language to reduce inequalities.

Bhalla, S.  Examining language and the role of mother-tongue education through the Three-Language-Formula in India

Bardawil, A.  Leveling linguistic playing field to reduce inequalities: how language factors into Goal 10.

Barros, M., & Álvarez, A. G.  Translation of SDGs: a tool for their implementation?

Benson, C.  Documenting international progress in addressing language issues in education.

Buzasi, K.  Languages and sustainable development goals - what do we know and how do we go on?

Calle, A. F.  Pax linguistica and the preservation of linguistic diversity revisited.

Comings, J.  Mother tongue reading instruction: language and mother tongue education (Goal 4).

Du Plessis, T., & Du Plessis, C.  Realising inclusive and equitable quality education in South Africa: contributions and obstacles in language in education.

Jay-Rayon, L., & Tuininga, A. R.  Sustainability is a conversation.

Hamano, J. C., Madsen II, C. N., & Martohardjono, G.  Language assessment for sustainable development.

Hult, F. M., Glanz, C., & Hanemann, U.  Multilingual literacy and the SDGs for quality education.

Karan, M. E., & Karan, E.  The use of non-dominant languages in primary education: the key to maximizing outcomes for learners who speak these languages.

Lukes, M.  Language acquisition and immigrant young adults with interrupted schooling.

McEntee-Atalianis, L. J.  The forgotten goal - Goal 18: building sustainable knowledge societies by addressing linguistic and digital divides through global partnerships.

McGovern, K.  Dialogic practice in the language classroom: valuing learner’s voice as a means of working toward SDGs.

Moore, S. K., Fee, M., Wiley, T. G, & Arias, B.  Language, literacy, employability, and income in the US .

Müller, K.  Organization, targeting, and assumptions in foreign assistance.

Ó Riain, S.  Language and the SDGs: an Irish-language perspective.

Pavlenko, A.  You have the right to remain silent, do you understand?

Pflepsen, A.  Improving education quality through improved literacy instruction.

Phipps, A.  Language under duress.

Puls, C., & Lawrence, M.  Balancing social inclusion and educational inclusion among displaced learners: the work of the International Rescue Committee.

Radosavljevic, D.  Interpreting and translation in international criminal law.

Reagan, T.  Language rights and the SDGs.

Romaine, S.  From millennium development goals to sustainable development goals: leaving no one behind.

Salomone, R.  Education, equality, SDGs, and commodification of English.

Silva, C. D.  The successes and challenges of Save the Children US in planning and implementing reading and writing programs in linguistically diverse contexts.

Stein-Smith, K.  The role of multilingualism in the implementation of the United Nations sustainable development goals (UN Academic Impact).

Ten-Pow, M. D.  Multilingualism and the United Nations.

Tonkin, H.  The missing dimension of language.


Symposium Programme


Thursday, April 21



9:15-9:35. Humphrey Tonkin (University of Hartford, USA). The Missing Dimension of Language

9:35-9:55 Timothy Reagan (University of Maine, USA). Language Rights and the SDGs

9:55-10:15. Kurt Müller (National Defense University, USA). Organization, Targeting, and Assumptions in Foreign Assistance

10:15-10:35. Lisa J. McEntee-Atalianis (Birkbeck, University of London, UK). The Forgotten Goal – Goal 18: Building sustainable knowledge societies by addressing linguistic and digital divides through global partnerships

10:35-10:50. Discussion


10:50-11:00. BREAK


SUSTAINABILITY Chair, Kurt Müller. 11:00-12:20

- Katalin Buzasi (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands). Languages and the Sustainable Development Goals – What do we know and how to go on?

- Carla Bagna & Andrea Scibetta (Università per Stranieri, Siena, Italy). Language as a factor in sustainable development: Language to reduce inequalities

- Laurence Jay-Rayon & Amy R. Tuininga (Montclair State University, USA). Sustainability is a Conversation

- Alicia Fuentes Calle (LINGUAPAX International). Pax Linguistica and the preservation of linguistic diversity revisited

12:20-12:30. Discussion


12:30-1:10. LUNCH


1:10-1:30. Sarah Katherine K. Moore (CAL: Center for Applied Linguistics), Molly Fee (UNIVERSITY OF California Los Angeles), Terrence G. Wiley (CAL), and M. Beatriz Arias (CAL). Language, Literacy, Employability and Income in the US

1:30-1:40. Discussion


LITERACY Chair, Terrence Wiley. 1:40-2:40.

- John Comings (World Education). Mother Tongue Reading Instruction: Language and Mother Tongue Education (Goal 4)

- Carol Deshano da Silva (Save the Children). The Successes and Challenges of Save the Children US in Planning and Implementing Reading and Writing Programs in Linguistically Diverse Contexts

- Alison Pflepsen (RTI International). Improving Educational Quality through Improved Literacy Instruction


2:40-2:50. Discussion


2:50-3:00 BREAK


EDUCATION 1. Chair, Timothy Reagan. 3:00-3:40

- Theo Du Plessis & Colleen Du Plessis (University of the Free State, South Africa). Realising Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education in South Africa: Contributions and Obstacles in Language in Education.

- Shereen Bhalla (Center for Applied Linguistics). Examining Language and the Role of Mother-Tongue Education through the Three-Language Formula of India.

3:40-3:50. Discussion


LANGUAGE AND INCLUSION (Goals 4 and 10) Chair, João Pedro Marinotti (City University of New York, Graduate Center), 3:50-4:50

- Antonio Bardawil (New York University). Leveling Linguistic Playing Fields to Reduce Inequalities: How language factors into Goal 10

- Cassondra Puls & Mackenzie Lawrence (International Rescue Committee). Balancing Social Inclusion and Educational Inclusion Among Displaced Learners: The work of the International Rescue Committee

- Kathleen McGovern (University of Massachusetts). Dialogic Practice in the Language Classroom: Valuing learners’ voices as a means of working towards the SDGs

- Jennifer C. Hamano, Christen N. Madsen II, and Gita Martohardjono (Second Language Acquisition Laboratory, City University of New York). Language Assessment for Sustainable Development

4:50-5:00. Discussion


Friday, April 22


9:00. Opening comments

9:15-10:00. Keynote address: Suzanne Romaine (Oxford University, UK): From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals: Leaving no one behind

10:00-10:30. Michael Ten-Pow (United Nations): Multilingualism and the United Nations

10:30-10:45. Discussion


10:45-10:55. BREAK


10:55-11:15. Rosemary Salomone (St. John’s University, USA): Educational Equity, SDGs and Commodification of English

11:15-11:25. Discussion


CORE ISSUES. Chair, Rosemary Salomone. 11:25-12:25

- Dragana Radosavljevic (University of Greenwich, UK). Interpreting and Translation in International Criminal Law

- Aneta Pavlenko (Temple University, USA). You have the right to remain silent, do you understand?

- Alison Phipps (University of Glasgow, UK). Languages Under Duress

12:25-12:35. Discussion


12:35-1:15 LUNCH


1:15-1:35. Carol Benson (Teachers College, Columbia University). Documenting International Progress in Addressing Language Issues in Education

1:35-1:45. Discussion


EDUCATION 2. Chair, Carol Benson. 1:45-2:45

- Francis M. Hult (Lund University, Sweden), Christine Glanz (UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning), and Ulrike Hanemann (UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning). Multilingual Literacy and the SDG for Quality Education

- Mark E. Karan & Elke Karan (SIL International). The Use Of Non-Dominant Languages In Primary Education: The Key To Maximizing Learning Outcomes For Learners Who Speak These Languages  

- Marguerite Lukes (International Network for Public Schools). Language Acquisition & Immigrant Young Adults with Interrupted Schooling  

2:45-2:55. Discussion


2:55-3:05 BREAK


THE ROLE OF THE UNITED NATIONS. Chair, Humphrey Tonkin. 3:05-4:05

- María Barros & Ana García Álvarez (Spanish Translation Service, United Nations, New York). Translation of SDGs: a tool for their implementation?

- Kathleen Stein-Smith (Fairleigh Dickinson University – Metropolitan Campus; American Association of Teachers of French). The Role of Multilingualism in the Implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN Academic Impact)

Discussion 4:05-4:15


Concluding comments by Seán Ó Riain (Ireland), “Language and the SDGs: An Irish-language Perspective”, 4:15-4:30


4:30-5:00 Wrap-up and Close


In addition to all those who presented papers, chaired sessions, or otherwise contributed to the symposium debate, the organizing committee wishes to thank:

Ria Boemi, Sonya Soskina, and Emma Walker for their assistance with registration and other on-site arrangements

Ulrich Becker and Scott Turton for their help in preparing and disseminating print and on-line materials

João Pedro Marinotti for serving as rapporteur

The staff of 777 United Nations Plaza for handling the arrangements for the meeting space

The organizations sponsoring the symposium, particularly the Center for Applied Linguistics

The Esperantic Studies Foundation whose financial support made the symposium possible.

[1] As Suzanne Romaine, the Symposium’s keynote speaker, stated, the SDGs’ lack of specific targets, indicators, and clear methods of implementation, especially regarding language, make their achievement significantly more difficult. In 2015, the International Council for Science, while it saw the SDGs as an improvement over their predecessors the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), described only 5 (29%) of the SDGs as well developed, stating that 9 (54%) should be made more specific and 3 (17%) require considerable work (