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Polish Britain: Multilingualism and Diaspora Community


Friday, 9 February 2018, 9:15am – 6:30pm

William Mong Hall, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.


A one-day international conference on the subject of multilingualism among Polish communities in the United Kingdom and in broader contexts. The conference took place as part of Cambridge’s ‘Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies’ (MEITS) research project under the AHRC Open World Research Initiative.


Please click here to view a selection of photographs from the conference.


Polish is now the second most commonly spoken language, after English, in England and Wales. Over a million Poles live in the United Kingdom, and the vast majority of them are multilingual and live in multilingual environments. In this conference, we aim to present a broad view of multilingualism in a range of different contexts connected with Poles, Polish communities, and the Polish language in Britain. We will put a diverse set of different approaches into dialogue, including perspectives from applied and theoretical linguistics, psychology, literary studies, language teaching, education, and community activism.


The conference connected the question of multilingualism with broader issues of migration and multicultural society. Papers examined multilingualism among Poles, but also the phenomena of non-Poles learning Polish and of multilingualism among Ukrainian migrants in Poland.


The conference was convened by Stanley Bill, Lecturer in Polish Studies at Cambridge, and Edyta Nowosielska, Lector in Polish at Cambridge.

Speakers included distinguished specialists from a wide variety of fields and institutional backgrounds:

Thomas Bak, University of Edinburgh

Jan Fellerer, University of Oxford

Elwira Grossman, University of Glasgow

Myroslava Keryk, Fundacja ‘Nasz Wybór’, Warsaw

Kinga Kozminska, Birkbeck, University of London

Jakub Krupa, Polish Press Agency, London

Elżbieta Kwiatkowska, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw

Anna Martowicz, Association for the Promotion of Polish Language Abroad

Yaron Matras, University of Manchester

Lisa-Maria Müller, University of Cambridge

Krystyna Olliffe, Polish Educational Society

Anna Seretny, Jagiellonian University in Kraków

Anne White, University College London

Zofia Wodniecka, Jagiellonian University in Kraków

Katarzyna Zechenter, University College London



8:45am – 9:15am:               Coffee and Registration

9:15am – 9:30am:               Introduction: Stanley Bill and Edyta Nowosielska

9:30am – 11:00am:           Session 1 (Chair: Wendy Ayres-Bennett)

Elwira Grossman               The Art of Trans/languaging: Teaching and Learning Polish in Multilingual Settings.

Anna Seretny                     Polish as a heritage language - an ‘in between’ phenomenon.                        

Yaron Matras                      Polish in the context of Manchester's language diversity: Data accessibility, provisions, and public engagement.

11:00am – 11:30am:            Coffee

11:30am – 1:00pm:            Session 2 (Chair: Aleksandra Gocławska)

Thomas Bak                       Cognitive effects of bilingualism: a new dimension in the old debate, whether to teach your language to your children.

Zofia Wodniecka                 Language and neurocognitive processes in bilingual speakers of Polish – a psycholinguistic perspective.      

Lisa-Maria Müller                Investigating typical English-Polish Bilingual Development and Developmental Language Disorder in a Longitudinal Twin Case Study.   

1:00pm – 2:00pm:                Lunch Break

2:00pm – 3:30pm:              Session 3 (Chair: Rory Finnin)

Katarzyna Zechenter          Bilingualism in UK and US: A Comparison. 

Myroslava Keryk                 Language practices of Ukrainian migrants in Poland.           

Elżbieta Kwiatkowska        Ukrainians and Byelorussians in Poland - communication, social and professional contexts.                   

3:30pm – 4:00pm:                 Coffee

4:00pm – 5:30pm:               Session 4 (Chair: Edyta Nowosielska)

Kinga Kozminska                 New speaking styles?: demystifying homogeneity of Polish-speaking migrants.

Anna Martowicz                   Self-reflection on language and identity in children in Polish diaspora – some findings and their implications.

Jan Fellerer                          Language Mixing: Notes on ‘Ponglish’.

5:30pm – 6:30pm:                Final Discussion (Chair: Stanley Bill):

                                              Jakub Krupa, Krystyna Olliffe, Anne White.

6:30pm:                                 Finish and Wine Reception


MEITS is a major interdisciplinary research project funded under the AHRC Open World Research Initiative. Linguistic competence in more than one language – being multilingual – sits at the heart of the study of modern languages and literatures, distinguishing it from cognate disciplines. Through six interlocking research strands we investigate how the insights gained from stepping outside a single language, culture and mode of thought are vital to individuals and societies.