Skip to main content

Understanding how communication shapes societies

7 December 2017

Action in the Superdiverse City shares latest research on law and sport at Network Assembly in final stage of international, interdisciplinary project

In an age of ‘superdiverse’ cities, where globalisation and changing patterns of migration mean multiple languages are drawn together, what are the wider implications for our communities and decision-makers? Policy stakeholders, academics and practitioners in sports, community support, law and advocacy address this contemporary issue at an interdisciplinary, international Network Assembly informed by new research on 7 December in Wales.

The Network Assembly focusses on language, communicative practices and translanguaging (or moving between languages), in relation to sports and law in superdiverse cities. It draws on the work of the research project Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating Linguistic and Cultural Transformations in Superdiverse Wards in Four UK Cities funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and coordinated by Professor Angela Creese at the MOSAIC Centre, Birmingham. Two key phases of the four-year project culminate in Cardiff, where Dr Frances Rock has lead research in the Centre for Language and Communication Research.

Speakers at the Network Assembly will present evidence of changing communication practices in city meeting places, including sports clubs, community hubs and legal advice centres at the day-long event in Cardiff Bay. The day will also feature input from practitioners in sports and law as well as creative responses to the research.

Sport: Movement in the city (morning session)

Deeply rooted in history and culture, sports are rich in conventions and specific ways of communicating. This session explores multilingual and cultural diversity amongst participants and the way sports bring together people ‘on the move’, all learning, interacting and bonding with each other. Discussion will focus on the future of sports practice and its potential to create social change.

Some key findings from the sport phase of the project:

  • Sport is integral to the cultural and social (as well as sporting) life of many in the city, and as such needs to be supported
  • Engaging in sport activities with people from across our superdiverse community develops an open outlook in communication with others
  • Sports clubs develop a shared activity and a sense of belonging among those involved
  • Informal language learning during sport activity happens in multilingual contexts, and English might not always be the most important language to learn
  • Language plays a role in communication, but communication does not depend only on language

Law: Advocating and involving in the city (afternoon session)

Just, fair societies rely on law. In practice, legal advice applies this individually, helping people to relate to the institutions and organisations they encounter. This session explores what law and legal advice are in contemporary cities and how they are woven into the fabric of people’s lives. Analysis of data will illustrate how legal advice operates and what it accomplishes. Discussion will focus on the future of legal advice and the place of language study in informing this future.

Some key findings from the legal phase of the project:

  • Drop-in free legal advice services fill a gap created by national government policy
  • Informal interpreters and digital technology can do some of the job of interpreting but there is still a need for professional interpreters and translators
  • People in advice-giving roles need to learn how to make difficult (but powerful) institutional language accessible
  • Social-legal advice centres need to meet their clients’ multilingual needs and to develop a multilingual outlook in the workplace and social media in line with their capability and functions.
  • Social-legal advice centres play an important role in helping migrants in navigating the system and accessing social justice.
  • Social-legal advisers are many roles in one: humanising the system, translating and explaining how the system works in an accessible way, speaking for clients or mediating with other agencies are some examples.
  • Advising can create a space in which all voices can be heard
  • Social justice is central to the type of service legal advisers and supporters provide

The Arts and Humanities Research Council project, Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating Linguistic and Cultural Transformations in Superdiverse Wards in Four UK Cities, known as TLANG, has been undertaking research in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds and London since 2014.

The aim of the project is to understand how people communicate multilingually across diverse cultures. When speakers do not share a common language they may rely on translation by professionals, friends or family, or by digital means. These 'translation zones' are at the cutting edge of translation and negotiation. Examining real language practices in public and private settings in four regional settings, researchers investigated how communication occurs (or fails) when people bring different histories and languages into contact. They had found that multilingual people ‘translanguage’, rather than use languages separately and that multilingualism is a rich resource for communities, individuals and institutions.

The work has shown how:

  • Multilingual individuals contribute to society in ways that are not easily counted (for example in commercial settings);
  • Heritage is located in individuals who become nexuses for different histories;
  • Sport provides for rich social contact and the presence of multiple ways of communicating in sports settings deepens this contact;
  • Legal advice, support and advocacy can be empowering and transformative not only in their measurable outcomes, but also in the wider changes they may encourage.

Founder of Cardiff Language and Law and fellow of the Crime and Security Research Institute, Dr Frances Rock shares the main findings of the Cardiff-led research:

“The speaking of different languages is often seen as a barrier to communication and a problem for society. However, we remove the very idea of separate languages in order to recognise communication as being about more than labels and categories. By examining how people communicate in real-life contexts, we are able to understand much more about the benefits and strengths of diversity in our rapidly changing modern world.”

Heading up the project across the universities of Birbeck, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds and UCL, Deputy Director of MOSAIC Professor Angela Creese adds:

“We hope the outcomes will impact on policy on economic growth, migration, health and well-being, sport, cultural heritage and law by informing the work of policy-makers and public, private and third sector organisations.”

Kindly sponsored by Jenny Rathbone AM, Action in the Superdiverse City: A Network Assembly takes place on Thursday 7th December at the Pierhead, Cardiff Bay. For more information, follow this event on Twitter with #TLANG2017 or visit the project website.

Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating Linguistic and Cultural Transformations in Superdiverse Wards in Four UK Cities (TLANG) has been made possible by funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Share this story