CANCELLED Creative Multilingualism: New Perspectives on Modern Languages Research

Photo looking up at trees
17 March 2020
10am – 5pm
Jesus College’s Ship Street Centre, Ship Street, OX1 3DA


Cancelled image

This event brings together researchers, PhD students and performers, who have received funding from Creative Multilingualism, to share details of their projects and discuss the future of Modern Languages research.

The day will focus on four key themes:

  • Language Learning
  • AI and Translation 
  • Linguistic Diversity
  • Performance and Arts

Please see the draft programme below for further details. You're welcome to come to the whole day or for individual sessions – please sign up on Eventbrite. The event is free, but booking is required. There will be tea and coffee available but lunch is not included (however, there are plenty of cafes and shops nearby). 


Draft programme

10.30 – 10.45 Katrin Kohl (University of Oxford) introducing CML and Suzanne Graham (University of Reading) – Creativity and language learning

10.45 – 10.55 Anna Tsakalaki (University of Reading) – Transferable vocabulary: exploring linguistic diversity at the interface between arts, literacy and mathematics with EAL and non-EAL students in mainstream education

10.55 – 11.05 Helen Abbott (University of Birmingham) – Sounds French AI app 

11.05 – 11.15 Nick Riches (University of Newcastle) – Embedding translation AI in the L2 secondary school classroom

11.15 – 11.25 Sophie Liggins (University Essex) – Chimini Language Book Project

11.25 – 11.35 Zoë Leigh Gadd, Dance Ahead – The use of dance in MFL/ESOL classroom

11.35 – 11.55 Q&A

11.55 – 12.00 BREAK

12.00 – 12.10 Matthew Reynolds (University of Oxford), Prismatic Translation

12.10 – 12.20 Lucas Nunes Viera (University of Bristol) – Machine Translation and Literary Texts: A Network of Possibilities

12.20 – 12.30 Janet Read (University of Central Lancashire)  – Nepanglish – Prismatic Translation of Children’s Letters to Explore Humour and Linguistic Form

12.30 – 12.40  Mari Carmen Suárez de Figueroa Baonza (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid) – In code blood: Enhancing the accessibility of micro-literature through a semi-automatic computer tool

12.40 – 13.00 Q&A

13.00 – 13.55 BREAK

14.00 – 14.10 Katrin Kohl – The Creative Power of Metaphor

14.10 – 14.20 Sally Zacharias (University of Glasgow) – The moon in narrative, metaphor and reason

14.20 – 14.30 Anne Marie Carty (University of Westminster) – Welsh-language community engagement

14.30 – 14.40 Rachel Adams (Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa) – The Languages of AI in Africa: Promoting Linguistic Diversity in Representations, Histories and Systems of AI

14.40 – 14.50 Elin Arfon, Eira Jepson, and Kaisa Pankakoski (University of Cardiff) – Multilingualism and multi-identities in Wales

14.50 – 15.10 Q&A

15.10 – 15.40 TEA

15.40 – 15.50 Rajinder Dudrah – Slanguages (Birmingham City University) and Daniel Tyler McTighe, MPP

15.50 – 16.00 Eneida, Garcia Villanueva (University of Glasgow) – All the World is Our Stage: primary school pupils never lost in translanguaging

16.00 – 16.10 Lucy Cathcart Froden (University of Glasgow) – Multilingualism in songwriting

16.10 – 16.20 Inma Pedregosa (Roehampton University) – Film Competition: Accessible Plurilingualism

16.20 – 16.30 Alexander Thomas (University of Oxford) – Translation, staging and discussion of Oyub

16.30 – 16.50 Q&A

Read on to find out more about the funded projects which are being presented at the workshop:

Transferable vocabulary: exploring linguistic diversity at the interface between arts, literacy and mathematics with EAL and non-EAL students in mainstream education 

Dr Anna Tsakalaki (University of Reading)

The primary mathematics curriculum in England requires pupils to use specific vocabulary to verbalise understanding and the solving of word-based problems. Emerging research evidence suggests that children who have English as an Additional Language (EAL) may lack specific language knowledge and general language ability, which might result in struggling particularly with word-based problems in everyday maths lessons.

The use of specific vocabulary within a mathematical context will be explored using devised tests, questionnaires and interviews with Key Stage 2 pupils and their teachers in three primary schools in the south-west of England. The study will explore the use of linguistic diversity in everyday teaching of mathematics, propose creative ways of learning vocabulary across subjects and evaluate development of mathematical language ability and of inclusivity of practices over time. A framework of recommendations for teaching practice and whole-school policies will be proposed based on the results.

Sounds French AI app 

Helen Abbott (University of Birmingham)

Sounds French AI app is a pilot project towards enabling beginner / intermediate learners of French (e.g. Key stage 3 level) to enhance their pronunciation skills, developing confidence for performance out loud.

The app uses individual smartphones/tablets for learners to discover how to best shape the sounds. The app will provide instant feedback to each learner. This is enabled by modern AI technology, based around Google’s powerful but easy-to-use Tensor Flow analysis of the audio and video of mouth shape. Sounds French is the first step towards allowing Modern Foreign Language learners in schools to engage proficiently with the creative act of performing French out loud.

Embedding translation AI in the L2 secondary school classroom: creative applications and potential barriers 

Nick Riches (University of Newcastle)

Despite recent advances in linguistic AI, teachers are reticent to use this technology in classrooms. This project firstly explores barriers to technological adoption via a focus group involving teachers in the Newcastle area. The findings feed into the development of a translation app and accompanying pedagogical resources. The app translates between languages, and colours words according to word classes (e.g. Nouns, Verbs). This will help students to visualise language structure, fostering grammatical knowledge without the need for traditional teacher-led approaches such as grammar drills.

The app will be demonstrated at a workshop and feedback sought via a questionnaire. Outcomes will be (a) a greater awareness of barriers to the adoption of AI technology and how to overcome them (b) the translation app and pedagogical resources which can be used for data-driven and translation-based classroom activities in UK secondary MFL classrooms, with the potential to boost grammatical learning.

Chimini language book project

Sophie Liggins (University of Essex)

The project has as its focus the promotion of Chimini language development and maintenance within the Bravanese community in London. Chimini is spoken by people from the costal town of Barawa in Somalia who were heavily persecuted during the civil war and are therefore a language community which is dispersed around the world.

Internationally, a number of community groups have been collaborating to produce books which teach numbers, the alphabet and other basic literacy elements in minority languages. This project will facilitate a group of Bravanese heritage young people to design a series of Chimini language books for heritage language speakers. Weekly sessions will take place over 10 weeks which will include activities to promote Chimini language use and Bravanese culture, and adopt a workshop environment in which the books will be designed and produced by the participants.

Throughout the process, the sessions will be filmed by a member of the group and a short documentary of the process will be available on completion. The books will be made available in PDF format for download and hard copies will be printed and disseminated throughout schools, local libraries and community centres.

Dancing through language learning. The use of dance in MFL/ESOL classroom 

Dobrochna Futro (University of Glasgow), Marta Nitecka Barche (University of Aberdeen), Zoë Leigh Gadd (Dance Ahead) and Bilingualism Matters (University of Edinburgh)

Following on from a one-day workshop in 2018, On the Border of Art and Language Teaching in the Multilingual World, this project will organise two workshop sessions with hands-on activities for children and adult language learners. Both sessions will be led by the professional dancer and choreographer Zoë Leigh Gadd. The workshops will give us an opportunity to investigate the views of language learners on the role and potential of dance and poetry performance in language learning.

In these workshops, we will approach the potential of ‘kinetic reading’ through dance from the perspective of foreign and second language learners. During the workshops, participants will be led through a variety of contemporary dance techniques, textual analyses of poetry in relation to choreographic approaches in both English and other languages spoken in Scotland (incl. indigenous and community languages) and initial responses to choreographic devices.

Machine Translation and Literary Texts: A Network of Possibilities 

Lucas Nunes Vieira (University of Bristol)

For years literary texts have been off limits for machine-translation editing. This is beginning to change, but research on this subject tends to focus on productivity. We know little of what technology does to literary texts. This project will examine how machine-translation editing and the way the text is presented to translators on screen affect literary translations.

The analysis of the translations will focus on two factors: entropy and creativity. Entropy in this context consists of the spread of overlapping renderings – lexical and syntactical – observed in different translations corresponding to the same source text. Creativity will be assessed by expert judges based on a method from creativity studies. With an interdisciplinary team that spans industry and academia, the project will shed new light on how technology affects literary translation. Its outputs include open-access datasets that will allow for future research and have a long-lasting impact on translation studies and beyond.

Nepanglish– Prismatic Translation of Children’s Letters to Explore Humour and Linguistic Form 

Janet Read (University of Central Lancashire)

This project is inspired by Prismatic translation as it applies as a conduit for sustaining cross-cultural conversations. The project will involve a study between children in Nepal and in the UK exploring the prismatic variability of the Google translation service in relation to engaging children and encouraging creative exchanges.

We will use our existing links with schools and existing software chat tool to work concurrently in the 2-hour time frame when both cohorts are in school, and will observe children in both locations along with using the app as a technology probe to gather a detailed dataset. The project will share the date set with other researchers, will analyse the data forms within the data set, will deliver a case study of one on one conversations, and will report on how children engaged, and felt about engagement, with suggestions for future research directions.

In code blood: Enhancing the accessibility of micro-literature though a semi-automatic computer tool 

Paula Pérez Sobrino (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid) and Mari Carmen Suárez de Figueroa Baonza (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid)

Daily tasks such as booking a flight online present difficulties for people with cognitive disabilities. Such difficulty becomes a challenge when it comes to interact with a creative text, such as poetry. In order to enhance the access to creative literature, we propose the development of an online app that makes use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automatically adapt complex poetic texts so that they can be more easily understood.

This project involves exploring difficulties in the comprehension of poetic texts created by aspects such as the vocabulary used (e.g. identifying abstract words and replacing  them for more concrete synonyms) to then develop a computational model that suggest a modification of the text without interfering with the original message. Besides the benefits for the community of people with cognitive disabilities, it can also become a useful educational tool in the foreign language classroom, where students with a limited knowledge of a target language can rely on it to adapt complex literary works.

The moon in narrative, metaphor and reason: A multilinguistic perspective

Sally Zacharias (School of Education, University of Glasgow)

This project sets out to explore how different cultures respond to physical astronomical phenomena through narrative, metaphor and reason. It looks at how speakers of different languages draw on their narrative, metaphorical and explanatory resources to make sense of their astronomical observations. In particular, it will focus on the moon that has been a creative source of inspiration in many cultures; expressed through festivals, religious practices and scientific discoveries.

Despite the moon being a common feature to us all, irrespective of geographical location, different languages and cultures have evolved their own response to it. By drawing on conversations with Mandarin, Arabic, Polish and English speaking families, this study will investigate how people use their linguistic resources to make sense of the moon, a physical phenomenon that is known by, and has been a source of wonder, for us all.

Read a blog post about the project >>

Welsh-language community engagement project

Anne Marie Carty (University of Westminster)

The Welsh-speaking Dyfi Biosphere area in mid-Wales faces a number of long-term changes and loss of languages and culture throught the effects of in and out-migration, and more recently through the potential impacts of Brexit and conservation policies such as “rewilding” on upland sheep farming. This is a critical time for these Welsh-speaking communities, and they feel deeply under-represented. This project will give local farmers and members of the farming community the opportunity to reflect on and discuss these issues.

The project will work with the Farmer’s Union Wales (FUW) to facilitate filmed discussions which will:

  • directly engage around 35 farmers, both male and female; 40 young farmers and 50 members of the farming community
  • act as opportunities for reflection and discussion to articulate issues around Brexit and changes in land-use, increasing social cohesion and possibilities for positive action, and will be a valuable social process for participants;
  • provide important and accessible documentation in the form of video data, with an anticipated further role in community dialogue work to help English-speaking organisations understand the nature, importance and complexity of the indigenous Welsh language and its culture in order to better inform decision-making processes;
  • build on current inter-generational research looking at historical farming practices in the area.

The Languages of Artificial Intelligence in Africa: Promoting Linguistic Diversity in Representations, Histories and Systems of Artificial Intelligence 

Rachel Adams (Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa)

This project seeks to explore the creative potentialities of AI within and for the African context, by promoting existing work and generating new thinking and scholarship on the configuration of AI and local African languages and multilingual dialects.

The project, centred on hosting an interdisciplinary workshop in South Africa and the production of a short film, will bring together scholars, artists, practitioners and computer scientists to explore both the representation of AI and digital technologies in African literature written in local languages and the representation of writing and language-making in AI programmes and applications themselves. Through this analysis and approach, we seek to open up new histories, meanings and potentialities of AI in and for the African region, and ultimately contribute to the advancement of locally designed and developed AI technologies that not only respond to local needs but are embedded within local languages and their corresponding value systems.

Multilingualism and multi-identities in Wales: a creative approach to research and practice

Amlieithrwydd a hunaniaethau lluosog yng Nghymru: dulliau creadigol o edrych ar ymchwil ac arfer

Eira Jepson, Elin Arfon & Kaisa Pankakoski (Cardiff University)

A free one-day interdisciplinary event co-hosted by the School of Modern Languages and the School of Welsh at Cardiff University will bring together researchers and practitioners from within Wales and beyond to discuss the relationship between bilingualism and multilingualism.

This event aims to offer participants the opportunity to network and discuss bilingualism and multilingualism in Wales today. Its anticipated output is twofold: i) it will offer an opportunity for Welsh, English, MFL and Education university departments across Wales to further develop a community of practice and ii) it will offer the opportunity for practitioners and academics in Wales and beyond to discuss theory and practice. As a result, this event will achieve two main outcomes: i) promote interdisciplinary work on multilingualism between university departments and / or universities in Wales and further afield and ii) encourage greater partnership working between universities and schools, mobilising schools as Research Organisations that apply academic work to practice.

Read a blog about the conference >>

All the World is Our Stage: primary school pupils never lost in translanguaging

Eneida Garcia Villanueva (Heriot-Watt University)

This project celebrates linguistic diversity and reflects on the multilingual, multicultural and superdiverse society represented in Glasgow today. This multilingual performance supports the teaching and learning journey of primary schooling in non-affluent areas of the city. Acknowledging that embedding every community language in the curriculum is not feasible, we specifically focus on creating contexts where the languages spoken at home enjoy the same status as those taught at school.

Translanguaging is both design and interaction and as such, pupils work together to choose traditional songs and rhymes and script a multilingual play, which they subsequently perform in a local theatre to main language stakeholders in Scotland, families, MPs, policy makers and also other schools so it can be subsequently emulated. Signposting the pilgrimage towards a lifelong love of languages, childrens’ voices are heard and empowered with the autonomy to design and bring their own project to life.

Read a blog about All the World is Our Stage >>

Multilingualism in songwriting

Lucy Cathcart Froden (University of Glasgow)

This project sets out to bring multilingual creative processes to a wider audience by creating professional studio recordings of a series of original songs written through collaborative, multilingual songwriting processes. The recording process will allow research participants to reflect further on language, creativity and community in this unique context.

The release of these songs will spark dialogue around multilingualism in the creative process and more broadly on the role of music in social integration, within academia and in wider cultural circles. A website/blog will also be created in order to share reflections and foster dialogue as the project progresses.

Performing Multilingualism for Monolingual Audiences: Creative Strategies and Practices in Contemporary European Theatre

Margherita Laera (University of Kent)

This project investigates creative strategies and performative processes at work in multilingual theatre for audiences in predominantly monolingual cultures with a large immigrant population. The aim is to chart, share, and disseminate practices of current multilingual work in European theatre, in the areas of playwriting/dramaturgy and performance-making.

We will facilitate workshops at Central with French director Anne Bérélowitch and Italian playwright Fausto Paravidino. Culminating in public showings, the workshops will also provide opportunities to share practices with invited UK-based theatre-makers working in cognate areas. The work programme includes the organisation of the first dedicated international conference that will bring together academic and artistic researchers in multilingual performance, to discuss and respond to the workshop findings and initiate further conversations with keynote speeches by Greek theatre-maker Anestis Azas and Prof Katharina Pewny (Ghent). The project insights will be disseminated in a book publication edited by the investigators.

Film competition: Accessible Plurilingualism

Inma Pedregosa (University of Roehampton)

Drawing on the creative and linguistic resources of secondary school students, our project is centred on a film competition for schools leading to a film festival taking place in Roehampton where the winner will be announced. Sixth form pupils in the South East of England will be invited to take part in a film competition involving languages other than English. The teams of students will be supported through all stages of film production. They will be instructed on how to script, shoot, edit and subtitle a film. The shortlisted teams will be invited to participate in a Film Festival at Roehampton, where a winner will be announced.

While students will provided with technical assistance, the focus is very much on creativity, languages and accessibility. This aligns directly with our experience working with Routes into Languages. Schools can also take advantage of specially designed learning materials even if they decide not to participate in the competition. These learning packs, provided in Spanish and French, will contain specialist vocabulary and scenarios to develop competence in speaking about watching and making films.

Read a blog post about this project >>

Download teaching resources >>

Translation, staging, and discussion of Oyub, a new Russian documentary play by Zarema Zaudinova

Alexander Thomas (University of Oxford)

Oyub is a new Russian documentary play comprised of verbatim materials from the case of Chechen human rights activist, Oyub Titiev. The harrowingly powerful new play from Zarema Zaudinova dramatically brings to light the story of Titiev from the First Chechen War to the present day, and dynamically gives the uninitiated an extraordinary insight into the calamitous history of modern Chechnya, a region troubled by war and conflict since the end of the Soviet Union nearly thirty years ago.

This project will translate and stage this urgent, unforgettable piece of radical documentary theatre that demonstrates the Russian documentary school at the height of its powers, as artistically complex as it is rich in content. Through translating this play, and presenting it to a non-specialist audience, this project will initiate an important discussion about the nature of cultural transmission, and the role that multilingualism plays in cross-cultural creativity.


Photo by Sirma Krusteva on Unsplash