Guest blog by Elizabeth Birks, a language professional, who is based in Sheffield, UK
It’s not exactly a new notion, but I’ve recently become interested in an idea which Professor David Crystal has been talking about since around 2000 – establishing a House of Languages in the UK. Back when the beginnings of this idea were forming – around the time of the Millennium – there seemed to be an appetite for it, the money seemed to be there and plenty of influential people were backing the idea…then BANG! The closest we’ve probably ever got to seeing a House of Languages being set up, got blown out of the way by the Millennium Dome of course!
Well it dawned on me that maybe we could create something along the same lines in South Yorkshire. We have plenty of people here who speak different languages. How many? Well according to their website, there are about 150 languages offered by SCAIS (Sheffield Community Access & Interpreting Service) so presumably there are people in the region who speak those languages. Moreover, South Yorkshire. I’m putting the idea out there and asking: Why don’t we give this a go?
I’ve found a funding body that seems to be looking for a project like this to give some initial funding to. I can imagine the project would need some initial investment to help it get going before it can provide an income for many people, but it could be really fun and maybe in the future, lucrative as well.
Just think that someone who speaks Cantonese, say, could come along and let us record their voice while they are singing a folk song, or telling a story, or even having a conversation with a friend! I think it would be fantastic if the project had a physical location so that people can actually go there to meet other participants, see/hear experiences or stories which have been collected and listen to different languages to see how they are written or watch videos of people searching for lost languages. I also envisage a House of Languages as having the potential to become a pretty big online presence.
What do you think about this idea? Does a House of Languages make you think, ‘now you’re talking’?
If so, or if you know of people who might like to get involved in getting this idea off the ground in some way, please get in touch with me and I’ll pass your details onto Elizabeth.