Bilingualism: a conversation with Monica Axelsson

Monica Axelsson and Una Cunningham on bilingualism

See Monica Axelsson and Una Cunningham in conversation at Una’s home in Christchurch, New Zealand about bilingualism, and the difference between bilingualism and multilingualism. They also discuss the meaning of terms like first language, or L1, second language or L2, foreign language and home language, andwhether or not English is a second or foreign language in Sweden. Monica explains that most Swedish young people are actually bilingual, even though they may not think so themselves. Monica and Una talk about domains of language use (that is spheres of knowledge, influence, or activity) and Monica takes a look inside Una’s kitchen drawer to see what kitchen equipment she can name in English.

Una asks Monica to talk about the special position of English in Sweden, where it is more a second language than a foreign language and about translanguaging, which is the use of more than one language at a time. This term was first used by  Cen Williams (1994) “the ability of multilingual speakers to shuttle between languages, treating the diverse languages that form their repertoire as an integrated system”.

Towards the end of the video, the conversation moves to the position of indigenous languages, especially Sami, in Sweden. Monica compares the position of the Sami language with that of Te Reo Maori in New Zealand.


Bilingualism professor visiting Canterbury
Una Cunningham and Monica Axelsson in Christchurch, 2017

Professor Monica Axelsson from Stockholm University came to Christchurch and the LATL-lab as a 2017 Visiting Canterbury Fellow to the University of Canterbury. Monica’s expertise is focused on the learning conditions of newly-arrived refugee and migrant children, and on language across the curriculum. She has been recruited to the National Science Challenge E Tipu E Rea Better Start braid ‘Emerging bilinguals growing up in their digital world’ as an international advisor.