The project VisibLL – High-schoolers investigate the (in)conspicuous multilingualism of the Viennese Linguistic Landscape is a Vienna-based project that explores the LL of the city together with teachers and students. In the context of the project, Lingscape will be used as a means of data collection and analysis.

Main contacts: Barbara Soukup (PI) and Elissa Pustka (Co-PI) at the University of Vienna

Project website: https://projektvisibll.univie.ac.at/ 

Funding: The project is funded through the “Sparkling Science” program by the OEAD: https://www.sparklingscience.at/, financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF): https://www.bmbwf.gv.at/en.html

Project abstract:

Shop, Café, Döner – walking through Vienna, one readily encounters shop signs and advertisements in over 100 languages. In addition to almost ubiquitous English, these comprise Viennese residents’ various heritage languages, as well as ‘foreign’ languages most typically acquired at school, such as French. The different kinds of texts that strike the eye in this written ‘linguistic landscape’ inevitably represent and enact the role the languages used play in public space, calling for a critical engagement with local multilingualism(s), and facilitating foreign language learning ‘right at home’.

Under the project VisibLL, Citizen Scientists (CS) – comprising 100 high school students and 50 teachers – thus document and critically analyze with the smartphone app Lingscape those ‘non-German’ languages they perceive in their surroundings. High-schoolers, aged between 15 and 17 years (9th-11th grade), come from two partner schools in the 5th and 8thViennese districts (Margareten, Josefstadt). Fieldwork takes place on 3 project days at the end of the school year, within the school districts. Fieldwork by teachers as CS is embedded in continuing education courses at PH Wien.

In the course of the project, we then learn, for example, whether loanwords like ShopCafé and Döner are still commonly categorized as English, French and Turkish, or whether they are already considered German. On the basis of the fieldwork and critical reflection with the CS, teaching materials on multilingualism in the linguistic landscape are developed, to ensure the sustainability of the project yield. These are tested and evaluated in a third partner school as well as in a further continuing education course.

The project culminates in exhibitions in the 5th and 8th district museums, jointly organized with the CS, as well as in an international symposium, where high school students present respective research for their VWAs in a poster session.

Situated at the interface of linguistics and didactics, our interdisciplinary project promotes high schoolers’ engagement with scientific methods in the context of their surroundings, also educating teachers in this regard. Furthermore, project results are made available to future classrooms in the form of teaching materials, and Citizen Scientists’ awareness is raised regarding multilingualism in public space.

From a linguistic perspective, the main goals are documenting heritage and foreign languages in the Viennese linguistic landscape, as well as analyzing their perception, on the background of theories of language contact and change. In addition, the project promotes the application of Citizen-Science approaches within the humanities. The project is spearheaded by Barbara Soukup as Principal Investigator (German Department) and Elissa Pustka as Co-Investigator (Romance Department) at the University of Vienna.