Agnack is a village in Southern Senegal where both rivers and people converge in the most stunning of ways – a place where it is considered perfectly normal to speak a minimum of six languages. For the first time in history the people of Agnack – the Baïnounk people – allowed cameras to film as they prepare for an unforgettable event and capture the mystery surrounding their rituals. The Baïnounk culture is more threatened now than at any point in its long history due to abrupt changes brought by colonisation, conflict, globalisation and migration.
Anna Sowa, producer of Kanraxël for Chouette Films, and Professor Friederike Lüpke, who leads the research team behind Kanraxël, talked about the making of the film, and research findings which have arisen alongside the film.
The event was introduced by a short talk from Dr Esther de Leeuw, who leads Multilingual Capital with Professor Devyani Sharma, and multilingual landscapes of East London were presented in relation to Agnack.
The format of this evening event followed popular programmes such as Question Time, with short talks followed by a panel discussion of questions submitted in advance by members of the audience.
The discussion panel included:
- Beverley Costa, CEO of Mothertongue, a multiethnic and multilingual counselling service
- Naomi Nagy, Lead investigator of the Heritage Language Variation and Change project, Toronto, Canada (York University, Canada
- Itesh Sachdev, Director of the Centre for Languages of the Wider World and specialist in language attitudes and minority language vitality (SOAS)
- Esther de Leeuw, specialist in bilingualism in immigrant communities (Queen Mary University of London)
- Devyani Sharma, specialist in language variation and change in bilingual London communities (Queen Mary University of London)
The event was attended by over 75 people from a wide range of backgrounds, including students, researchers, interpreters, professionals with a personal or professional interest in multilingualism, educators, teachers, parents, and asylum and refugee workers.
Below is a playlist of video clips and PowerPoint presentations for several of the short talks as well as for the Q&A discussion.
Esther de Leeuw delivered a keynote talk titled “Multilingual myths in the context of the 2011 Census” at a one-day multilingualism workshop at SOAS on 20 June 2013. More information is provided on SOAS event page.
Translation Games is an interdisciplinary, multi-platform project involving collaborations between languages students at Queen Mary University of London and King’s College London (KCL), as well as artists, textile designers, digital technologists, and researchers at the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) at Queen Mary (in particular the GHack collective). It is based around the concept of translation as a form of cultural difference that can create innovative new ways of exploring language learning, translation practices and digital and creative practices. Based on the game of Chinese Whispers, the team have created a complex ‘translation chain’, running a commissioned piece of short fiction through several language combinations, in addition to a ‘chain’ of artists and textile designers. The project has so far been funded by the King’s Cultural Institute and the KCL German Department. The lead collaborator at Queen Mary is Jenny Chamarette (Department of Film).
This project involved a teachers’ workshop and a series of workshops with GCSE-level pupils from local schools, involving the participation of creative writers, around the theme of multilingualism and the study of literature. The project was also aimed at generating teaching resources, to be made accessible to any interested parties online. More information can be found on the QMUL project page.
Here are a few interesting initiatives and projects that might inspire others dealing with similar challenges in multilingual language use as well as cross-cultural engagement:
- Native Scientist. A project that empowers speakers of other languages in the classroom.
- PARSUK Schools Project. A creative example of a network that links Portuguese-speaking postgraduates and professionals with children using and maintaining the language through schools projects.
- Chatterbags. A unique, creative approach to getting people to speak their languages in a busy city!
- Mile End Community Project. An East London community organisation that works closely with Queen Mary University of London on projects relating to film, media, and community concerns.