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School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Multilingual Manchester - the biggest online resource on urban multilingualism

A survey of community languages in Manchester has flagged the city's language diversity, highlighting how local services could improve their communication with minorities.

Research into the languages spoken by people in Manchester has led to the creation of the biggest online resource on urban multilingualism. This data has improved public awareness of language diversity and helped local services communicate with minority groups.

As part of its commitment to improve public services for ethnic minority groups, Manchester authorities needed to know more about the languages spoken by city residents. The council also wanted to understand the social, cultural and emotional effects of bilingualism.

Map of Greater Manchester with the words 'over 200 languages'
Up to 200 different languages are spoken in Manchester.

Professor Matras and his colleagues collected data on multilingualism from immigrant communities in Manchester. This information formed the basis of the world's biggest online language archive. It contains over 100 reports on multilingualism and language minorities in Manchester.

Since its launch in October 2010, the research-driven archive has been consulted by some 3,000 individuals, many from Manchester City Council, the NHS, and the European Commission as well as academic institutions.

The insights on language diversity have been incorporated into numerous policies and initiatives designed to improve the delivery of public services to minority communities, for example:

  • Planning of online healthcare advice videos and animations by the NHS in Manchester in various languages
  • An interactive exhibition on multilingualism displayed at the Manchester Royal Infirmary as part of Language Awareness Week 2013
  • Survey of language needs at four schools in Manchester and the development of interventions to strengthen bilingual children's literacy

Professor Matras' project to document the Kurdish language has stimulated international interest and uses:

  • Invitation to talk at the Kurdish Regional Government offices in London and Paris
  • Launch of a Kurdish language website for the project
  • Use of the Kurdish dialects database has supported forensic analysis and the analysis of Kurdish speech samples

Our research

Multilingual Manchester pop-up stall at a careers fair
3,000 people have accessed the Multilingual Manchester database.

Professor Yaron Matras led the research team, which carried out hundreds of interviews with community groups, businesses and Manchester residents.

Key steps in the research:

  • Data collection in Europe, the Middle East and among immigrant communities in Manchester led to a theory of multilingualism and language contact
  • Research into language policy, the maintenance of heritage languages and the linguistic landscape of Manchester
  • Examination of the structures and mental processing of languages and how language use changes through contact

The research revealed that acceptance of a language within an area can empower communities. Language skills can be identified as a community resource to support economic development through expansion to global markets.

Lead academic