posted by Simon Kemp
Last Friday, Oxford University kicked off a four-year, multi-million pound programme of research, outreach and public events around the theme of Creative Multilingualism.
We’re looking at connections between the ability to speak or learn more than one language and creativity of all kinds. We’re convinced there are vast reserves of multi-language ability and language-related creativity even here among the British who so often see themselves as lacking the gift or enthusiasm for languages. As the project leaders themselves put it:
British society perceives itself as monoglot, but nothing could be further from the truth: many schools teach pupils with some 100 languages between them, and many workplaces are veritable hubs of multilingualism. Nationally, this is an under-valued resource, not only economically but also educationally and culturally. One aspect that is under-valued is the creative potential of a linguistic diversity that interacts productively with cultural diversity.
Even those of us who grow up using only one language are born with the capability of using more than one, and we never completely lose that talent. In fact we deploy it routinely in our day-to-day lives as we move between different linguistic contexts at home, at work or at school, and in leisure pursuits. This involves a continuous process of creative adaptation. When using our language skills, we draw all the time on an individual creative capability that may also inspire us to experiment with language in monolingual or multilingual language play or poetry.
Over the next four years, the online hub for the project will be here:
Please do check it out to see what events are planned, what the research strands are exploring, and how you or your institution might like to get involved.
It’s also an information hub on language learning in the UK. You can, for instance, find out about current issues in school language qualifications (including work to address A-level grading concerns) here.
Or see a breakdown of the kinds of jobs that language graduates go into after university here.
Or head over here to discover a wealth of bite-sized language facts, including which breakfast cereal goes Knisper! Knasper! Knusper! in German, and why Finnish people pace around hot porridge like a cat.
As the research programme develops over the course of the next four years, the Creative Multilingualism website will grow and grow. Please do check back from time to time to discover what’s new.