Cambridge Festival of Ideas - Different languages, different perspectives: understanding our multilingual world

28 October 2017, 13:00 - 17:00
Cambridge campus

Cambridge Festival of Ideas logo

We all use language, or perhaps many different languages, to interact with each other on a daily basis. What more can there be to learn about them, right? 

Well, we think there are many fascinating truths to unearth about our multilingual world. Whether a classic literary tome, or a tweet of 140 characters; whether a lengthy political debate, or a quick phone call: the languages we use, the way we use them, and the different ways we perceive truth in language, say something important about who we are. 

Come and share your own beliefs about and experiences with languages - and perhaps learn something new about them, too! We hope to help you to do this in two ways.

  1. Through a series of drop-in interactive games and activities (see below for examples), you can engage with and question various aspects of languages that you likely encounter every day. 
  2. Through a series of short, interactive talks by experts in the field (see schedule below for timings and full titles), on many different challenges and possibilities posed by languages and multilingualism. We hope the themes raised in these talks will be relevant and familiar to many of you. 

By helping you to consider languages in more depth, from the different angles represented by the wide array of activities and talks, we hope you might think about languages and multilingualism in new and exciting ways in your everyday life.

Drop-in activities – Room LAB 107 

Come and explore the following activities, and more, at any time throughout the day.

  • Just write it…right?
  • Are spoken and written language the same thing? Why/why not? Come and find out…
  • Guess who!
  • What judgements do we make about people based on how they speak? What associations/assumptions do we make when we hear different accents/words/grammar? Do some people speak 'better' than others?
  • ‘The macho ninja eats pizza in the café’.
  • How can we recognise words which have come from other languages? Is a language ever ‘pure’? And where do ‘borrowed words’ from other languages come into play?
  • The difficulty of learning languages: busting some myths…
  • Are some languages easier to learn than others? Are children really better at learning languages than adults? Why or why not? 

Forever lost in translation…?

  • Can a translation ever be perfect? In popular culture (for example books and films), how can we translate things like idioms, names, and accents?
  • All in our heads.
  • What does our brain do to process/store language? How do we actually learn another language? What techniques do we use to ‘break the code’?
  • Going, going, gone!
  • How many languages are there in the world? Are there some that are in danger of dying out? Why might that be? 

Short talks – Room LAB 109

The talk topics, and their times, are as follows (no need to book – just turn up a few minutes before it is due to start).  

  • 1.30pm: Languages beyond Language: Seeing, Touching and Tasting Barcelona. Professor Brad Epps.
  • 2pm: Rule making and rule breaking in language: What is 'standard' language? Professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett.
  • 2.30pm: Making friends through language: Language, identity, diversity and social cohesion. Professor Mícháel Ó Mainnín.
  • 3pm: Who am I? What do I speak? What do I learn? Being multilingual, and foreign language learning. Dr Linda Fisher.
  • 3.30pm: Language learning across the lifespan. Dr Henriette Hendriks.
  • 4pm: Keep learning and carry on! Languages and implications for motivation, health and well-being. Dr Jenny Gibson.

This event is part of Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

Event Details

28 October 2017, 13:00 - 17:00
Cambridge campus