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European Day of Languages at SOAS

Come and celebrate European Day of Languages with the SOAS World Language Institute on Tuesday, September 26th, between 4pm and 8pm at Senate House (SOAS).

Following the success of the European Year of Languages in 2001, the Council of Europe declared a European Day of Languages to be celebrated on the 26th of September every year. This occasion aims to celebrate the linguistic diversity of Europe, to raise awareness of European minority languages, and to promote language learning and teaching.

So far, the focus of this day has been on those languages in Europe which are regarded as indigenous to the continent. However, centuries of migration and displacement have brought people from all over the world, and with them their languages and world views, to Europe. At SOAS, celebrating European Day of Languages means celebrating languages like Punjabi, Igbo, Sylheti, Hausa and Bengali, and many other so-called diasporic languages in Europe. We invite all students, alumni, staff, and friends of SOAS who want to share their experience of language and identity to join us from 4pm at Senate House.

Some of the programme items for our European Day of Languages include:

  • PositiveNegatives: A non-profit organisation which produces literary comics, animations and podcasts about contemporary social and human rights issues, including conflict, racism, migration and asylum. They combine ethnographic research with illustration and photography, adapting personal testimonies into art, advocacy and educational materials. At the European Day of Languages, PositiveNegatives will be showcasing never-before-seen material. 
  • Everything you always wanted to know about fieldwork but didn’t dare ask: In Linguistics, fieldwork is necessary to document and describe languages that are on the verge of extinction, or have thus far received little attention. Linguistic fieldwork benefits speaker communities by providing them with the tools to revitalise their language, while, for the academic community, it provides more data that helps define the limits and possibilities of human language. Questions such as ‘how do you go about making contact with a community?’ ‘Where do you stay?’ ‘How do you explain to people the nature of your work?’ ‘How do you share your findings in an ethical way?’ and more will be answered at our ‘Everything you always wanted to know about fieldwork’ session! We will bring together some of SOAS’s finest fieldworkers to discuss the challenges and rewards of working in the field.  
  • German in Namibia by Sheenah Shah: This talk will focus on the German community in Namibia. Namibia presents a special case as it is the only African country where evidence of the German colonial rule continues to be highly present in its linguistic, cultural and architectural landscapes. It is also the only African country in which German enjoys the legal status of a national language. In this talk, Sheenah will present some basic demographic information on the Namibian German community, and will discuss how Namibian Germans have managed to successfully maintain their language for over 100 years. Sheenah will end her presentation with a discussion of language data, which will highlight some unique characteristics of Namibian German.
  • SpeakSOAS: The Language Exchange Application: SpeakSOAS is our language exchange app which you can use to connect with other SOAS staff and students in order to practice and learn languages together. It is a fun, easy-to-use and safe platform which allows you to find speakers of all kinds of languages spoken at SOAS. As an academic institution, SOAS prides itself on the linguistic diversity of its staff and students, as well as on the range of language courses and language-based degrees available. Indeed, SWLI’s WeTalk project established that speakers of over 100 languages study, work and teach at SOAS. The app was designed as a simple way to tap into this diversity, and share language and culture in a fun and informal context. Drop by our SpeakSOAS stand between 4 and 7pm, learn where you can download the app, and get some tips on getting the most out of a language exchange!
  • Language Tasters: The Language Centre at SOAS will be offering taster sessions of three languages: Kurdish, Urdu and Cantonese Chinese. See our programme for precise times and locations.

To learn more about European Day of Languages, visit the event page, found here: https://www.soas.ac.uk/world-languages-institute/events/26sep2017-european-day-of-languages—languages-of-europe.html

Blog post by Martha Tsutsui Billins

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