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Superdiverse cities

4 December 2013


Cardiff linguistics researchers will study multilingual interaction in four of the UK's cities to help policy-makers better understand how to communicate with people across different languages and cultures.

Researchers from the Centre for Language and Communication Research in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy have been awarded £1,973,527 as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council's Translating Cultures theme.

The four-year research project, Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating Linguistic and Cultural Transformations in Superdiverse Wards in Four UK Cities, is a collaboration between Cardiff, Birkbeck (University of London) and the University of Leeds, led by the MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism at the University of Birmingham.

Globalisation and changing patterns of migration mean that 'superdiverse' cities are increasingly populated by speakers of multiple languages. The research will generate new knowledge about communication in changing urban communities and communicate these to policy-makers and communities locally, nationally, and internationally.

Co-investigator and project lead at Cardiff, Dr Frances Rock said: "This is an exciting development which will enable Cardiff academics to work on a timely and extremely important project. It is crucial that language researchers engage with pressing social issues in a constructive and empowering way and this project aims to meet that ambition. The grant also creates exciting new employment and study opportunities. We anticipate that the project will change academic and public understandings of multilingual interactions in ways which will have long-term benefits for a wide range of constituents."

The research team will conduct detailed linguistic ethnographic investigations in selected wards in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, and London. They will focus on multilingual interactions between people in contexts of business, legal advice, community sport, libraries, and museums. Analysis will provide detailed evidence of how people communicate across languages and cultures.

The interdisciplinary project will involve academic researchers from a broad range of subject areas, including Business and Entrepreneurship, Cultural Heritage, Education, Law, Sociolinguistics, Forensic Linguistics, Sport and Exercise Sciences, and Social Policy.

It will be run in collaboration with partners from private, public, and third sectors, including Migrants' Rights Network, Business in the Community,Law Centres Network, Sporting Equals, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The project will also benefit from the expertise of international specialists in multilingualism and superdiversity.

Professor Charles Forsdick, Leadership Fellow for the AHRC's Translating Cultures theme said: "The award will provide an urgently needed contribution, from an Arts and Humanities perspective, to our understanding of some of the most pressing issues in the twenty-first-century. The aim of the project is to interrogate, analyse and demonstrate the central place of languages and culture in contemporary life. The project will transform academic and public understanding of the theories and practices of translation and interpreting in innovative, exciting and, I anticipate, often unexpected ways."