The Linguist

The Linguist 53,2

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Vol/53 No/2 2014 APRIL/MAY The Linguist 17 FEATURES Cologne's Trümmerfrauen ('rubble women') of the Second World War. Conversing with these brave old ladies in German was essential for the story – and very humbling. In the past five years, after leaving the BBC to become a freelance journalist, my zealous enthusiasm for the arts, languages, literature and talking has exposed me to new opportunities. I had always felt a need to make a difference, so I joined the Free Word Centre, Index On Censorship, English PEN, the Association of Language Learning (ALL), the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages and many more – my head was bursting, my pockets usually empty. As well as continuing my BBC commitments (my first true love), I started working for the British Council, various cultural organisations and the European Commission, and I met with the Southbank Centre and the Arts Council. Each organisation expressed the need for internationally-minded, linguistically- able, media- and PR-savvy Brits who could help bridge their (often-misunderstood and always under-publicised) worlds with the sceptical and intransigent British public. I discovered a new minority, the 'Bridge- Brits' – a group of modest, extraordinarily talented and indefatigable colleagues, from politicians to lobbyists, publishers to translators, academics to students, whose aim was to overcome the ignorance and arrogance of the majority of people in this country towards 'anything foreign'. And I found a new drum to bang: the promotion of international literature and translation in the UK, and the opportunity to combine all my interests and to put them to good purpose. At the literature festivals I chaired, I was dismayed how rarely foreign fiction featured. Even in major multicultural cities, such as London, Liverpool and Edinburgh, people read pitiful amounts of translated literature but, increasingly, more fiction is being translated and published. So I'm back on my soapbox. The festivals are responding well. The linguist-campaigners I was long in awe of – David Crystal, Baroness Coussins, Richard Hardie, Bernardette Holmes, Linda Parker, Teresa Tinsley, Angelique Petrits, Daniel Hahn, Sarah Ardizzone, Rose Fenton, Amanda Hopkinson (and oh so many more) – are now my colleagues. They are the backroom boys and girls of a linguistic revolution in the UK (well, in our dreams). The crisis over the Euro and membership of the European Union (EU) has further fuelled my revolutionary zeal. I work closely with key figures in the European Commission to help counteract Britain's shameful lack of knowledge about Europe, its history, literature and languages. Five years ago, in London, I helped to launch a new national venture to celebrate contemporary European fiction in English, entitled European Literature Night (ELN). I chair the selection panel and the annual ELN event at the British Library. ELN is now a popular 'literary brand' in the UK and I've taken Polish crime writing and Hungarian vampire fiction round the country. I also run the independent European Literature Network. It's a first, it's free and it's a real networking hub for translators, publishers, writers, festival directors and arts leaders. Last year, I created the festival 'High Impact: Literature from the Low Countries' to celebrate Dutch writing in English, and I toured English cities with six top Dutch writers. To create 'High Impact' is now my mantra in drawing attention to the UK's problems with foreign literature and language. In October 2013, I was Artistic Director of 'Greece is the Word' at the Southbank Centre, with the ambition of helping writers and performers from Greece to become better known here. It was a sell-out and spawned a week of events. I've received occasional injections of generous funding but what I do is rarely remunerated. I am driven. I now talk (some would say 'preach') about the necessity of language learning at conferences, schools, universities and Westminster; I write articles, bombard Facebook, Twitter, my BBC colleagues and passing celebrities to get their support in promoting languages. The reason I do it is because languages have, for me, been a great gift that keeps on giving. I am lucky – and I am angry and afraid that we are losing a major asset in our education system. Of course languages can be hard – so are maths and physics – but they should all be compulsory. It is proven in business, trade, diplomacy, the economy, culturally, socially – and every way – that knowing languages is an asset. They can make us cleverer and richer. And, with your help, I won't stop preaching about it. I wrote to Roy Hodgson to ask for his support – I'm still waiting for his reply. And I'm sure Nick Clegg's national reputation would be restored if he simply 'came out' as a linguist. Let's tear down the barricades! March on Westminster! And let's enlist 'celebrity linguists', like Nick Clegg, Eddie Izzard, Rory Bremner, Kristin Scott Thomas and Roy Hodgson, to lead the vanguard. Rosie Goldsmith was awarded IoLET's David Crystal Trophy for fostering the study of languages, in November 2013. BREAKING BARRIERS Rosie at the Berlin Wall in 1989 for the BBC (left); and at a European Literature Night at the British Library (above)

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