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University partners with Council to map diversity of Manchester’s languages

Manchester residents are being invited to contribute to new research around public signage in the city and share their experience of multilingualism.

The city is home to over 150 languages including Urdu, Arabic, Chinese and Polish. This remarkable diversity is to be highlighted in a wide-ranging new research partnership between The University of Manchester and Manchester City Council, after the council’s library service won funding from the Engaging Libraries Programme.

The programme, which is run by The Carnegie UK Trust, the Wellcome Trust, and the Wolfson Foundation, brings 14 vital research projects at universities into the heart of local communities, using libraries to encourage and share learning.

The Manchester initiative will use an app to build up a multilingual landscape map of the city, finding hotspots where more than one language is in common use through photographs of public signage taken by the community. The project will engage the public through workshops, debates, art activities and exhibitions, and create a website documenting residents’ experiences of language use in the family and across generations.

“Language diversity is about who we are and what kind of society we live in,” said Professor Yaron Matras, who leads the University’s Multilingual Manchester unit. “In the current climate of increasing polarisation of the political debate surrounding immigration, identity, and our relations with other nations, we need to raise awareness of multilingualism as a way to build bridges and restore confidence.”