‘I‘m in contact with foreign languages every day’: University language students and their multilingualism

Anne Huhtala, Anta Kursiša, Marjo Vesalainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The focus of this article is the multilingualism of advanced university students of languages other than English. Our research questions are the following: 1) How many foreign languages do students know and use in their everyday life? 2) In which contexts do they use their various languages? 3) How do they reflect on their multilingualism? The data were collected at the University of Helsinki by means of an electronic questionnaire, through which students were invited to answer open questions about their language use. In all, 53 students of French, German, and Swedish answered the questionnaire. The results of this qualitative study have been presented from a holistic perspective, focusing on the dynamic nature of individual multilingualism (Jessner 2008). In the paper, we also discuss how the languages in the students' language repertoire could be interpreted as being a part of (or outside) their dominant language constellation (Aronin and Singleton 2012). The results show that students were aware of their language competence in their various L2s, although many of them did not seem to experience themselves as multilingual. Many students were strongly focused on one specific L2, but in some cases, it could be possible to talk about a more holistic multilingual identity (Henry 2017) beyond the individual language-specific identifications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Linguistics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)365-389
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 6121 Languages
  • 516 Educational sciences
  • multilingualism
  • dominant language constellation
  • language repertoire
  • university language students
  • languages other than English (LOTEs)

Cite this