A linguistic risk is an authentic, every-day communication task that some language learners may shy away from and may need special encouragement to engage in. Research has shown that some learners hesitate to take risks and do not always benefit from extra opportunities to practice their second or additional language outside of the language classroom. Real-life communication is not stress free. It may involve "risk factors" such as making mistakes, being misunderstood, misunderstanding others, taking on a different identity, changing language use habits, and so on. That is why some learners tend to stay within the comfort zone of their preferred language when going about their daily business on campus and thus miss out on opportunities to "live" bilingually or multilingually.
Welcome to the Linguistic Risk-Taking Initiative launched at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI). This initiative will help you discover new and creative ways of using the University of Ottawa’s unique bilingual campus as a resource in your language-learning journey. , I wish you happy linguistic risk-taking!
Nikolay Slavkov, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI)
Director, Canadian Centre for Studies and Research in Bilingualism and Language Planning (CCERBAL)
What is a linguistic risk?
How to participate
Why the Linguistic Risk Taking Passport?
The Linguistic Risk Taking Passport passport encourages you to take various linguistic risks that will boost your confidence in your second or additional language. The passport will guide you in turning your daily routines into linguistic risks and in using your bilingual campus and multilingual uOGlobal community as a real-life language learning resource. This passport is designed for French or English as target languages. However, in many cases you can extend its use to other languages that you may be learning.
Research and publications
In 2019, the Linguistic Risk-Taking Initiative established a collaboration with uOGlobal. Within the framework of uOGlobal, the objective of the Linguistic Risk-Taking Initiative is to promote multilingualism and internationalisation. The linguistic passport supports intercultural and international learning in the uOGlobal community.
The goals of the Linguistic Risk-Taking Research Group are to:
support innovative pedagogical approaches to authentic and autonomous language learning;
generate and analyze research data related to linguistic risk-taking;
engage in various training and knowledge dissemination activities;
establish national and international partnerships with like-minded researchers and institutions who seek to promote bilingualism and multilingualism in various contexts; and
integrate interdisciplinary perspectives from applied linguistics, education, psychology, health sciences, and beyond.
The beginnings of the Linguistic Risk-Taking initiative
In 2013, , the man behind the app, was a new professor at OLBI, taking French language classes at the University’s Social Sciences Building to be able to teach in both official languages. Despite advancing in his language learning, he always ordered his French pastries in English during class breaks at the building coffee shop.
“I was too shy and anxious to even order my croissant in French,” says Slavkov, who understood that he was missing an opportunity. “I realized the disconnect between achieving some sort of high level in the classroom, but not applying it in real life. When we learn languages, we need to take risks. We need to overcome these stresses and anxieties and worries.” And as we do that, we also discover the fun of speaking a new language.
Slavkov notes that people worry about appearing less competent or vulnerable when speaking a second language. His Linguistic Passport app is the perfect risk-taking tool, with its 89 short, straightforward challenges that encourage language learners to practise in real-life settings.
The first edition of the Linguistic Risk-Taking Passport was published in 2017 to support leaners of French and English as a second language. Since then, several editions of the passport have been created as a result of the work of this research group and to support second language learners around the world!
New app makes language learning a game
In November 2022, the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI) and CCERBAL celebrated a milestone in the development of the initiative with the official launch of Linguistic-Risk app, a digital version of the popular Linguistic Risk-Taking Passport.
The new Linguistic Risk-Taking Passport app can be downloaded by selected English as a Second Language (ESL) and French as a Second Language (FLS) students, as well as students in the uOGlobal program. Plans include one day opening the app up for users from all faculties.