Promoting the Benefits of Linguistic Diversity

In this article we hear from Professor Yaron Matras from School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures about the benefits of promoting language diversity.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister declared that we’ll succeed in opening up to the world because “our language is the language of the world”. But effective outreach depends on knowing more, not less about the world. Now, more than ever, we have a duty to promote knowledge and awareness of other languages and cultures, and to flag the benefits and rewards of language diversity in our local community.

We can do this by supporting front line practitioners in public services who require knowledge of their diverse client population, assisting communities’ efforts to maintain linguistic and cultural heritage, and equipping students with the knowledge of the world that they need in order to take on leadership positions in the private, public and voluntary sectors.

The experience of the Multilingual Manchester initiative has shown that such goals are within reach: through our student volunteer scheme and learning through research model (including the world’s largest online research resource authored exclusively by undergraduate students) students have opportunities to get involved with communities and public services; we launched LinguaSnapp, the university’s first teaching and learning app; we co-produced research with local stakeholders and organised public events to celebrate language diversity. We’ve shown that the study of languages can be at the forefront of innovation and public engagement, and that languages are not the property of the elite but the reality of the masses.

Our language degree programmes are an important asset. If we find the courage to adapt the way we deliver them to the multilingual reality of our local community and the global world, then we will be in the best position to counteract divisive attitudes in our society, and to lead on delivering the experience, values, and skills that are desperately needed to ensure equality, community cohesion, and competitiveness.

Professor Yaron Matras coordinates the Multilingual Manchester project and leads the Multilingual Communities strand of a new AHRC research consortium on “Cross-Language Dynamics: Re-Shaping Communities”, which was launched on 1 October 2016.