There are few cities around the globe as cosmopolitan and diverse as Manchester. It is thought that almost 200 languages are spoken in the Greater Manchester area, and researchers believe that nearly 50% of the adult population are multilingual, highlighting the distinct make-up of the city. It is thought that Manchester is the most linguistically diverse city in Western Europe.
Since the start of the year, we have been working alongside Multilingual Manchester, an organisation that is attempting to connect communities through language so people can gain a better understanding of their fellow citizens. We believe that it is important to encourage language diversity so that people feel more comfortable in their surroundings and can learn to understand and appreciate the people they share a city with. It is a way to learn from each other about culture, history, nation, and belonging, and is certainly something to embrace and study rather than shun and ignore.
We have created a short film that is attempting to go some way in illustrating that language differences should be embraced and cherished rather than acting as a barrier between communities. The diverse workforce at Manchester Museum offers an intriguing micro-study into the different tongues spoken across the city, and we have spoken to many of the staff to understand who they are and why language diversity is important to them. Just some of the languages that are spoken at the museum include English, French, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin, Danish, Papiamento, Japanese, Polish, Urdu, Hebrew, Greek and Sinhala, showing a glimpse of the dynamic makeup of the workforce.
Language need not be an obstacle that separates people from one another, but a driving tool to connect people with those who surround them in order to learn more about their way of life. It is important to unite together despite our differences, and we hope that our video will inspire other groups and organisations to celebrate their own diversity in language by creating similar videos to celebrate the multicultural city that we live in.
To celebrate Mother Language Day 2020, be sure to check out Multilingual Manchester’s upcoming event ‘How Do You Say Our Kid in Kurdish’ at Manchester Museum on 20th February where our short video will be screening.