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Recommended reading for those new to bilingualism studies 


The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Bilingualism Special Interest Group (SIG) traces its roots back to a Symposium on Bilingualism held at the 1985 JALT International Conference in Kyoto. The enthusiastic response to this symposium convinced the symposium organizers to make this an annual Conference event and to draw up a petition asking JALT to allow the formation of a Special Interest Group on Bilingualism. During the next few years, attendance at the annual Symposium (later Colloquium) on Bilingualism steadily increased. And when JALT eventually formulated a policy permitting the formation of Special Interest Groups [National SIGs or N-SIGs until 1999 when "National" was dropped as misleading in an international era] within JALT, the organizers and regular participants of the Colloquium on Bilingualism became the initial members of the Bilingualism N-SIG, which was one of the first two N-SIGs officially recognized by JALT in June, 1990. From its charter membership of 50, the Bilingualism SIG has grown to more than 250 members.


Publications have always been a central activity of the Bilingualism SIG. The Bilingualism N-SIG's bimonthly newsletter was initially called N-SIG NIFICANCE, but from the January, 1992 issue it was retitled Bilingual Japan, a name which more clearly expresses the purpose of the SIG. Each 20-page issue of Bilingual Japan contains a wide variety of articles about bilingualism and biculturalism from around the world, with special focus on bilingualism issues in Japan. The newsletter also contains news about Bilingualism SIG activities.

The Bilingualism SIG published its first two monographs in October, 1994. Since then, three more monographs have been added to this series. Each monograph is a compilation of articles that originally appeared as a series in the newsletter. Monographs are sold to members and non-members alike, and they have proved especially popular with new members who were not able to read the articles when they first appeared in Bilingual Japan.

As a forum for research papers on bilingualism that are more technical in nature than articles usually published in the newsletter, the Bilingualism N-SIG began publishing its annual journal, the Japan Journal of Multilingualism and Multiculturalism, in 1995. Each new issue comes out in the fall, coinciding with the JALT International Conference, and is available to members and non-members by subscription.

Since September, 1997 there has been a Web page offering bilingual information about the above journal, and that Web page has drawn links from Asian Studies Websites such as at Duke University. Since May, 1998 the Bilingualism SIG itself has been online with this Web page and a home page to provide a wider range of services to members and non-members alike through the Internet.

Presentations and Other Activities

The Bilingualism SIG has continued the tradition of organizing a Bilingualism Colloquium at the annual JALT International Conference. And as the SIG has grown, it has also been able to organize roundtable discussions and other presentations on bilingualism in addition to the colloquium. The SIG also maintains a Presenter Data-base as a means for providing speakers to JALT chapters and other interested organizations. To find out about presenters and topics on bilingualism in Japan, click here.

Another tradition that has developed at the JALT International Conference is the Bilingualism SIG banquet, an evening event where SIG members who are scattered throughout Japan can gather for a few hours of good food and informal fellowship.

The Future

Bilingualism promises to be an important topic for an increasingly large percentage of Japan's population. In order to serve this population, the Bilingualism SIG will continue its established activities and publications; and it hopes to embark on new projects and to explore new areas of bilingualism and biculturalism according to the interests and energy of its members. 

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