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Posts tagged ‘speaking’

A House of Languages? Now you’re talking…

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.

Sheffield Community Access & Interpreting Service

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.

Happy talking!


Silent voices speaking out

Sometimes it’s hard to see qualities in yourself which might seem obvious to others. In my working life, I’ve met plenty of fantastic journalists – people who have spent their careers crafting and weaving text to educate and entertain – who visibly balk at the mention of the ‘c’ word. As soon as it’s uttered, I have watched them recoil in horror. ‘No, I’m not like that,’ they shudder. ‘Not one of those…’

And no, before you think I’m being horribly rude, I’m not talking about that ‘c’ word. Dear readers, I’m actually waxing lyrical about what is too often regarded as an ‘airy fairy’ aspect to our characters. It’s a natural human trait, elevated to a higher value before we hit adulthood, why does the idea of creativity get a pretty raw deal in ‘grown-up’ sectors of society?

I can understand why the phrase ‘creatives’ induces this indifferent attitude. But I don’t buy into the idea that there are some people will never have this ‘gift’ – that only the elite, certain sophisticated souls, can possibly be creative.

Everyone can harness this capacity if they are given the opportunity and space to let their imagination and confidence grow. So when my inspirational friend Justine Gaubert ( asked me to become a voluntary board member of a new social enterprise she was setting up, which builds creative environments where silent voices can flourish, I jumped at the chance to be involved.

So, drum roll please, may I introduce you to Silent Cities –

As Silent Cities has just been born, I’m all too aware we are at the beginning of a long rollercoaster journey but as a board we are full of purpose, hope and commitment…. and of course creativity! Watch this space for more news about Silent Cities – we are starting off by piloting the scheme in Sheffield, so if you are in or live nearby the Steel City and would like to get involved as a volunteer in any capacity please register your interest on the website.

And keep those imaginations flowing!