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BCUS Civil Society Fellowhip 2016

Marianne Scheppers has been a social worker at Brussel Onthaal vzw since 1985, which is a non-profit organisation active in different social sectors (integration, legal services, (mental) health care, family support, etc.) It is also an open place for all people confronted with difficult life questions or requiring specific information about immigration, asylum seeking, religious issues, etc.

In 1997 Marianne Scheppers was delegated by Brussel Onthaal to start up a social interpreting and translation office. At present she has a team of motivated volunteer interpreters and translators. Brussel Onthaal delivers its services to the non-profit organisations that work with people who do not speak Dutch or French.

Within her Civil Society Fellowship and in cooperation with two VUB research groups: the Centre for Information, Documentation and Research on Brussels (BRIO) and the Brussels Institute for Applied Linguistics (BIAL) Marianne Scheppers will be carrying out a research project around the main topic: ‘City culture and diversity’. Globalisation and migration are the reason for the ever increasing language diversity in big cities all around the world. The BRIO research "Taalbarometer" has revealed that no less than 104 different languages are spoken at home in Brussels. At the same time the knowledge of the two main official languages - Dutch and French - seems to be decreasing, which makes us face a number of important social challenges. One of them is the availability of public services for everyone regardless of their linguistic background.

The main purpose of the current project is to get a better understanding of the ways in which service providing organisations in Brussels communicate (both orally and in writing) with people who hardly or not at all speak any of the two official languages of the Brussels-Capital region:  French or Dutch. As a social service provider in translation and interpreting the Brussel Onthaal sees an excellent opportunity in the cooperation with BIAL and BRIO to test and apply their expertise in practice.  The characteristic traits of the language use within this specific communication chain will be approached from the linguo-sociological (BRIO) and the linguistic (BIAL) point of view.