Language Education Policy Studies
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Lesson Plan about Multilingualism:Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


(Please note: This section is in progress. The Lesson Plan section will have more information and links in the future.)


Objective: Talk about the recent wave of refugees and economic migrants; all of whom have many languages and knowledge to share that include alternate views of education: traditions, songs, ways to live with the land, medicine. Even if they have only stories of poverty and trauma, the experiences are worth learning for the next generations to shift and MEMES (Make Educational or Empathetic Multilingual Environments in Schools).

Teaching with Movies: A recent sci-fi film, produced and directed in France, is called Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. In the movie there is a space station that humans built to co-exist after the earth became uninhabitable in 2020. Eventually the space station had to leave earth's gravity and humans learned to co-exist with other species in the universe. In the opening scene David Bowie’s 1969 song Space Oddity plays while 7 centuries of history unfolds through space travel and human-alien meetings, all with handshakes and smiles.

Use the following to design discussion activites (italicized items may be critical themes), role-plays, debates, character analysis, involving all students in the class:

Humans co-exist with 2,632 species at Alpha, a space station of 30 million where the species and their over 5000 spoken languages share and pool knowledge and culture and live in peace and prosperity. The species that lives to the west are human and human-compatible, but perhaps predictably there is trouble. They achieve interplanetary PEACE: the many species co-exist by sharing languages and knowledge on ALPHA space station. ALPHA is a space station where all the different species collaborate and pool knowledge in their languages. (Watch this unfold in the embedded videobelow, or Watch the video link from minutes 2:20 to 3:39

to see Alpha and hear the description.

In the first movie action scene, the announcer states that the population of Alpha had grown in the last year by 7%. Since the city encompasses peace and prosperity, we would assume it has grown due to knowledge-sharing; but we will learn that violent events had occurred and been covered up, so perhaps the growth has to do with refugees from other planets.

However we can also assume that what led humans to outer space in the year 2020 was related to a search for an alternative home for humans due to the destruction of Earth’s environment (the land and water) and death of many species. Many humans today deny the effect of the latter on human survival, as well as the role of language and knowledge. At Alpha language and knowledge is shared, and linked to peace and prosperity. Expanding the land-knowledge-language connection, we can expand land to include water. At Alpha the south section of the space station is submerged under water for aquatic species and knowledge.

Rewind to Planet Earth 2017: The world is on the brink of environmental and cultural wars of a huge magnitude with the refugee crisis as well as indigenous issues, the legacy of which is huge.

Environmental crises are extreme, the refugee and migrant situation is extreme (over 65 million and growing), the indigenous peoples’ situation is still extreme, languages are more endangered than ever, and education is more rigid and more compulsory than ever. Rather than boats, telegrams, or newspapers, the whole planet is wired into a network of devices (many hand-held) that could facilitate awareness of problems, yet while dozens of topics from racism to wars can be seen and visualized in the memes shared online, other more friendly memes show us cute kittens or babies. Empathy seems to be lacking.

Memes today are the popular word for pictures with captions, often shared in Facebook or other social media. However, memetics runs deeper than today’s memes. Memetics involves the replication of culture and its ideas, human cultural transmission analogous to genes. We need shifting, action MEMES. “Educational” recognizes that practices are embedded in languages and worldviews. Languages include practices and worldview which all comprise education.

Teachers, other educators, participants will share life and classroom stories, anecdotes, make new memes.

Watch the first five minutes of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which shows how humans have evolved for space and space travel. Use the film and lesson plan ideas to teach about the threats to diversity, as well as the benefits of peaceful co-existence and knowledge sharing.


Besson, L. (Producer & Director). (2017). Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. France: Europacorp.


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K.M. (2018). MEMES Lsson Plan: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date).