As Europe celebrates the annual European Day of Languages on 26 September, researchers and practitioners have issued a call for a Multilingual Cities Movement.
The initiating signatories, representing various university projects, community initiatives, and individuals, are reaching out to academics, students, professionals, local government, and community activists to join forces to celebrate and harness multilingualism and language diversity.
The group’s statement of aims identifies linguistic diversity as a source of connection and enrichment. It seeks to build productive and sustainable collaboration with practitioners, communities and local government into universities’ teaching and research agendas, and to contribute to developing partnerships beyond the academy. The initiative emerged in the aftermath of a conference on university public engagement with urban multilingualism, hosted by the Multilingual Manchester research unit earlier this year.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Professor Yaron Matras said:
“There is no single model of how universities and non-academic bodies should collaborate to build positive and productive approaches to linguistic diversity, but there are many examples of good practice. We have formulated some principles as a networking platform, and we encourage others to sign up and to share their experiences with others”.
Meanwhile, Manchester City Council has released a policy report on linguistic diversity, the first of its kind in any major European city. The report links protection and harnessing of linguistic pluralism to the council’s strategic aims of supporting a city that is skilled, diverse, equitable, internationally connected and economically strong, and announces a plan to strengthen the city’s ‘multilingual offer’. The report also flags the contribution made by the University of Manchester’s Multilingual Manchester research unit to studying and raising pubic awareness of linguistic diversity in the city.
Professor Matras added:
“We are proud to have made a key contribution to this city council report, which is the first of its kind in the UK and in Europe. This collaboration is an excellent example of what our initiative for a Multilingual Cities Movement is about.”