Community Languages: policy, pedagogy, public understanding

Mon 24 Nov 2014, 18:00 - 20:30

British Academy

Organised by the Arts and Humanities Research Council 'Translating Cultures' theme in collaboration with the British Academy.

With immigration high on the political agenda ahead of the 2015 General Election, the debate on multiculturalism and multilingualism is enjoying increased attention from policy-makers, the media and the public. Community languages and how we perceive them form an integral part of these discussions. The 2011 census in England and Wales has provided detailed information regarding linguistic mapping, and reveals the growing place of superdiversity in a number of urban contexts. This situation is central to the rationale of the AHRC 'translating cultures' theme, one of the aims of which is to engage with key concepts such as multiculturalism, multilingualism, tolerance, intolerance and identity.

With a huge array of communities in the UK, speaking over 300 languages from all over the world, are we making the most of a valuable asset? The British Academy's recent report, Lost for Words, identified some of these languages, such as Kurdish and regional varieties of Arabic, as strategically important to the UK's diplomacy and security, yet 'asset language' qualifications in UK schools have been discontinued. In a period of heightened tension around questions of  immigration, the association of languages and national identity has further exacerbated the issue.

The panel will explore debates regarding community languages, examining: 

  • the role of policy-makers and the education system in supporting and making best use of them

  • the impact of public perception and how to engage with languages in the public sphere to increase awareness and understanding of their centrality to civil and civic life.


To register for this event please contact the British Academy Conference Desk on

Email: [email protected] 
Tel: 020 8542 7622


Translating Cultures
In a world seen to be increasingly characterized by transnational and globalized connections, the need for understanding and communication within, between and across diverse cultures is stronger than ever. The Arts and Humanities Research Council’s 'Translating Cultures' theme addresses this context by studying the role of translation, understood in its broadest sense, in the transmission, interpretation, transformation and sharing of languages, values, beliefs, histories and narratives. The almost ninety grants awarded under the theme to date have addressed numerous sites, locations and zones in which translation occurs, and have contributed to our knowledge of the role of translation and multilingualism in frames ranging from the global and regional to the national and local.

Languages and Quantitative Skills Programme
In 2011, the British Academy launched a programme, with funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, to address the deficit in languages and quantitative skills in UK education and research. Recognising that these deficits are rooted in the way in which these disciplines and skills are taught at every level – from school to undergraduate degrees and beyond – the Academy is supplying leadership to help strengthen skills in these vital areas. We engage in both high level activity, working with key stakeholders with the aim of facilitating greater change and deepening awareness within relevant communities; and through identifying and promoting best practice, and supporting research and scholarship.

Community languages: policy, pedagogy, public understanding is part of the British Academy and Guardian Language Festival 2014.  

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