The Linguist

The Linguist 56,4 – August/September 2017

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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22 The Linguist Vol/56 No/4 2017 FEATURES Janice Carruthers considers the impact of an unprecedented £16m languages research programme, launched last year I n 2016, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) invested an unprecedented £16 million in modern languages, launching four major research projects with the ambitious goal of re-invigorating the discipline in Higher Education and beyond. Modern languages are a strategic priority area for the AHRC, hence my appointment in 2017 as Priority Area Leadership Fellow, with a key part of my brief centred on close collaboration with the four Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) projects. The OWRI programmes are designed not only to be innovative research projects but also, just as importantly, to help to re-energise what we teach in our universities; influence policy; work in partnership with schools; and demonstrate the value of modern languages to the wider public. This ambitious series of objectives is, of course, set against a backdrop of falling numbers of students taking languages degrees, with German and French suffering the most significant decline. So why do modern languages matter, and why an investment on this scale at this point in time? We now have a wealth of evidence for the importance of languages across a range of domains. A series of significant reports, position statements and briefings in the last eight years have provided high- quality data, arguments and case studies to show that the UK has a clear need for graduates with the type of skills that modern languages students can offer. 1 These include communication skills more broadly, survival skills in unfamiliar environments, and a deep cultural understanding of societies beyond our own: European, postcolonial, 'global'. These reports have shown, beyond dispute, that a sustained flow of graduates with this type of profile is crucial for cultural relations, business, diplomacy, soft power, international relations, health and security. However, as researchers and educators in modern languages, we have not yet managed to get this message across convincingly to a number of important decision-makers, such as school pupils, careers teachers, parents, university management and government. COLLABORATIVE APPROACH The vision for the Open World Research projects is that they are collaborative, interdisciplinary and intersectoral (i.e. they have core partnerships outside the university sector). Fifteen UK universities are involved in the four projects as full partners, with another eight as satellites, in addition to several international partners in Europe, North America and Asia. But the idea is that through multiple conferences and 'flexible funding', the benefits of the OWRI investment will be felt in the UK well beyond the four funded projects. The centre of gravity of all the projects is firmly in modern languages (ML), involving literary studies, drama, film, translation studies, linguistics and applied linguistics. A vast range of languages is embraced, including those found in many ML units across the UK (e.g. French, German and Russian); other important global languages (e.g Arabic and Mandarin); a range of heritage languages (e.g. Punjabi, Urdu and Bengali); and minority languages found both in the UK (Irish, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic) and around the world (Catalan, Breton and South American indigenous languages). The interdisciplinary partnerships are designed to forge new directions where languages can contribute something distinctive to research in other disciplines, and where collaboration with other disciplines can enable ML researchers to approach major issues from innovative perspectives. The intersectoral partnerships are vital in helping the projects to shape research questions. They also participate in the research process, and facilitate the level of societal impact envisaged by OWRI. They are extremely varied and include collaborations with cultural bodies such as museums, grassroots groups such as community fora, charities, artists, schools and examination bodies, policymakers and civic bodies such as local councils. Some partnerships are centred in the creative arts. 'Cross Language Dynamics', for example, working with Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Royal Opera, has commissioned two operas inspired by the aspiration to transcend language difference through music. 'Creative Multilingualism' is exploring, through case studies with partners such as Punch Records, the relationship between languages in the performing arts and the creativity this can generate in popular music, classical music and theatre. Elsewhere, social and political questions are at the fore. Within 'Cross Language INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

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