University of Manchester

Multilingual communities

Multilingual Manchester is preparing to deliver a new project on ‘Multilingual Communities’, to be launched in October. The research will be led by Professor Yaron Matras, together with Professor Eva Schultze-Berndt and Dr Rebecca Tipton, all from the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester.

Drawing on the example of Manchester’s multilingualism, the project will focus on mapping language needs, understanding interpreter provisions in public services, and exploring how community languages influence one another. Special attention will be given to Arabic, a language that has seen a rise in the number of speakers in Manchester in recent years.

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Multilingual Manchester

Multilingual Manchester (MLM) is an activity cluster based at the University of Manchester’s School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. The project brings together teaching, research, and public engagement in a novel and innovative way.

Our online archive of reports presents the results of research work undertaken by undergraduate students as part of a module that explores the implications of language diversity in Manchester. Since 2010, more than 400 students have contributed to over 100 reports, making this the largest known online research resource authored exclusively by undergraduates. The reports offer insights into Manchester’s language communities, language provisions in public services, linguistic landscapes, multilingual use of social media by the city’s residents, and more.

MLM’s specialised research explores key themes such as home language maintenance among the city’s school pupils, language provisions in supplementary schools, linguistic landscapes and local language policy. We are interested in particular in evaluating and further developing instruments and methods to assess language needs and plan language provisions, and in the theoretical and policy implications of bottom-up language provisions, of partnerships between the public, private, and voluntary sectors, of new technologies, and of the role of higher education institutions in promoting public debate on multilingualism.

The project’s portfolio of public engagement includes partnerships with key stakeholders in public institutions, service providers, and the voluntary sector, as part of the Language Forum for Manchester. We run a volunteer scheme that offers students opportunities to engage with the city’s diverse population profile by supporting community groups and local service providers in the health, education, culture, and other sectors. We run events and interactive exhibitions and produce audio-visual tools to raise awareness of language diversity.

Manchester is home to over 150 languages. Almost half of the city’s population speak more than one language, with around a fifth declaring a language other than English to be their ‘main’ language in the 2011 Census. The city’s commitment to ensure equal access to services, its strategic reliance on global markets, coupled with communities’ own efforts to cultivate heritage languages and to make use of community languages in local commerce and marketing ¬– all contribute to the vitality of multilingualism in Manchester, on which the project draws for inspiration.

MLM is facilitated by the University of Manchester’s social responsibility agenda, which aims to deliver research with impact, socially responsible graduates, and active engagement with communities.

Read more at the Multilingual Manchester website.

Phone: +44 161 275 5999
Project Manager: Alex Robertson
Academic contact: Professor Yaron Matras

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