Language Landscape en Barcelona: III Simposio Internacional de EDiSo ‘Desigualdad y Nuevos Discursos Sociales’

Karolina y Ebany participaron en el III Simposio de Desigualdad y Nuevos Discursos Sociales organizado por EDiSo (Asociación de Estudios sobre Discurso y Sociedad) en la Universitat Pompeu Fabra en Barcelona, del 28 a 30 de Junio 2017. Fue el segundo evento organizado por EDiSo en el que participamos, después del taller ‘Paisajes Lingüísticos de la Migración’ organizado en la Università Sapienza di Roma el 27 y 28 Octubre del año pasado.

Nuestra participación en el Simposio incluyó un taller interactivo que introdujo las características básicas de Language Landscape que permiten utilizar la página web como herramienta de presentación de trabajos de investigación lingüística. Los participantes tuvieron la oportunidad de presentar sus investigaciones utilizando nuestra plataforma. Para ver unos ejemplos visiten el Proyecto de Blanca – ‘Análisis de Interlengua’, un análisis de rótulos hispano-chinos en Valencia, y el Proyecto de Miguel Ángel – ‘Arnado – comunidad de canto y habla’, una investigación del impacto que lo oral tiene en la construcción del universo social de Arnado en Galicia, en el norte de España.
Las actividades de Language Landscape en Barcelona concluyeron con la participación como discursantes en el panel ‘Logros y desafíos del Observatorio del Discurso’, coordinado por Gabriela Prego Vásquez de la Universidad de Santiago de Compostela. Dentro del panel, Gael Carrero Gros de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid ha resumido la trayectoria del Observatorio del Discurso en los años transcurridos desde su fundación. A continuación, los estudiantes de diferentes universidades españolas que participan en las actividades del Observatorio presentaron sus investigaciones sobre los paisajes lingüísticos de Barcelona, Madrid y Galicia. Tuvimos el placer de poder comentar sobre sus trabajos y participar en la estimulante discusión que surgió a base de las investigaciones presentadas.

Esperamos poder seguir colaborando con EDiSo en el futuro y ¡esperamos ver pronto nuevos proyectos en el territorio de España!

Blanca presentando su proyecto de Language Landscape sobre interlengua hispano-china.

Blanca presentando su proyecto de Language Landscape sobre interlengua hispano-china.

Miguel Angel presenta su proyecto de Language Landscape en Arnado.

Miguel Angel presenta su proyecto de Language Landscape en Arnado.

The language-speaker relationship

Dear All,

At Language Landscape, we have decided to re-design our database a bit in 2017. We have recently realised that for all the amazing recordings we have on the website, we actually know very little about how the people who made them and appear in them relate to the languages they speak. At present, when users add recordings to the website, we have no way of knowing – other than listening to them and trying to evaluate their fluency – what their relationship is to the language they chose to record.

We want to include some parameters on the website that would allow us to quantify this in a more precise manner. So far we have thought of three aspects that clarify the speaker-language relationship:

1) The speaker’s relationship to the place where the recording was made (local, tourist, temporary resident,….)

2) language proficiency (fluent, intermediate, beginner,…..)

3) The speaker’s relationship to the language  (mother-tongue, one of multiple mother-tongues, language of education, heritage language, …..)

We really hope to get this right from the start, and that’s why we would like to hear what you think about these categories, and what your thoughts are on any additional categories or choices we should give to our users. The reason for including this extra information is to make the data on the website more transparent, and also easier to use in language-related research.

It would be great to know your thoughts on the relationship of the speaker to the language. We’d also appreciate suggestions for any relevant readings!

Karolina and Samantha at LDLT5

Samantha and Karolina both presented papers last month at the bi-annual Language Documentation and Linguistic Theory conference (LDLT5) hosted at SOAS, University of London, 3rd-4th December 2016. Karolina’s paper was on “Two aspects of common ground management: information structure and epistemic meaning in Tena Kichwa”, which was one of the key topics of her PhD thesis, which was recently passed with minor corrections. Samantha presented (jointly with Miriam Weidl) a talk about methodology titled “Documentation of speakers’ linguistic practices in two sociolinguistically diverse settings in the Casamance, Senegal.” Both talks were warmly received with engaged discussions in the Q&A sessions.


LL in Rome


Karolina and Ebany have headed to beautiful Rome to give a talk at Sapienza Università di Roma at the international conference organized by EDiSo (Asociación de Estudios sobre Discurso y Sociedad) on “Linguistic Landscapes of Migration: Exploring Languages, Theories and Models”, 27th-28th October, 2016.

K. Grzech and E. Dohle presenting at Sapienza Università

K. Grzech and E. Dohle presenting at Sapienza Università

As part of the talks, we have created a new Language Landscape project ‘Language, Identity and Migration‘ where users can upload their own experiences, or with consent, others’ experiences with language and migration. Whether we realize it or not, our personal linguistic repertoir play a role in our geographical mobility. This mobility, or even lack of it, affects the languages that we speak and the way we interact with each other at different levels be they professional, educational, recreational or even personal. Share your experiences with us by answering the following three questions:

1. What languages do you speak?
2. How do these languages tie in to your identity or sense of self?
3. How have the language(s) you speak interacted with where you live today?

As always, you can do this via audio, it’s as easy as recording your voice with a phone, or by uploading a video to YouTube and linking it to our site.

Another project which we have enjoyed adding content to thanks to an exciting new image mapping feature of the site is ‘Linguistic Landscapes‘ a visual exploration of the written word within urban landscapes around the world. Content includes images of multilingual signs, graffiti and stencil art and contributions are very welcome. Help this project grow by adding your favorite multilingual images to the map.

Finally, we have really enjoyed getting to know other mapping projects, in particular the Urban Voices project and their initiative to map, study and analyse violence and racism within graffiti and stencil art in Madrid. The HalloFoto project in Germany is also a great example of how linguistics can offer solutions to overcome fear and other concerns with migration. Click on the links above to find out more.

Many thanks to all who made this conference possible, in particular EDiSo and Sapienza Università di Roma. Download Karolina and Ebany’s talk, K. Grzech and E. Dohle “Language Landscape: An innovative tool for documenting and analysing language use and linguistic landscapes” here.

Enjoyed listening to:

G. Carrero Gros, L. Martín-Rojo, G. Prego (coord.), C. Marimón-Llorca, L. Zas Varela, S. Martínez-Guillem, C. Molina and M. Romera “Reflections on the investigation of violence and resistance in the discourse present in urban spaces”

F. Screti, “El paisaje semiótico anti-inmigración: notas recientes del caso suizo

E. Kubiak “Quechuismos políticos en el espacio público de Cusco”

R. Siebetcheu “L’italiano nei panorami linguistici urbani african”

L. Ferrarotti “The Role of Eglish in the Linguistic Landscape: Some reflections and Case Studies”

A. Moustaoui Srhir “El árabe como lengua diaspórica en el PL de Madrid: entre la re-contextualización sociolingüística y la re-estructuración espacial en un contexto de superdiversidad lingüística”

L. Cámara de la Fuente “Impacto de la comunicación aumentativa y el vocabulario núcleo en el aprendizaje de alemán de adolescentes refugiadas”

January 2015 round up

The days are short and cold in London in January, but our post-holiday blues have been brightened by some great new recordings on Language Landscape. In this new regular feature, we’ll round up some of the materials that have been added to the site in the past month to give you a taste of what’s happening on the map.

First up are some videos of Louisiana Creole French from Michael Gisclair’s YouTube channel. Louisiana Creole French is a group of French dialects spoken in the US state of Lousiana. We have a traditional (and very timely!) New Year’s greeting:

According to the description, this is an expression said every New Year’s Day in certain parts of francophone Louisiana. Traditionally, children would go up to old people and say “Bonne année, grand nez. Fouille dans ta poche et donne-moi de la monnaie.” (roughly translated as: “Happy New Year big nose. Dig in your pocket and give me the money”) It may sound rude, but used in this context, it’s not. The adults would always play along.

We also have a recording of the poem/song ‘Zozo Mokœr’ by Major John Augustin. It was originally published in the New Orleans Times-Democrat and can be found in the book ‘Louisiana Folktales’ by Alcée Fortier (originally published in 1894).

We’re really excited to see the first recordings of an Indo-European language in the United States (yes we know US English has already been added to the map several times, but nowhere in the US yet!) The recordings are mapped in southern Louisiana, the spiritual home of Louisiana French. These aren’t the first recordings added in the US, however – that distinction goes to this recording of Mekeo, followed by this one of New Perce. Like Louisiana French, Nez Perce is mapped where you would expect it, in the northwestern United States, but the recording of Mekeo is mapped many miles from the ancestral home of the language in Papua New Guinea.

These recordings and their locations go to show that the language diversity present in the US remains tantalisingly uncharted in many respects. Dialect variation in US English is fairly well documented, and the distribution of some of the larger minority languages spoken in the US has been mapped, but there is still so much more to find out.

Also added this month is this beguiling video of Frysk from the Praat Mar Frysk YouTube channel. Frysk (or West Frisian) is a West Germanic language spoken in the north of the Netherlands.

The video is an example of ‘surprise poetry’, where a speaker recites a poem in public with no prior warning to their audience. It is part of Praat Mar Frsyk’s programme to encourage more people to use the language in the public sphere. We always welcome positive attempts to raise the status of minority and endangered languages and fully support the aims of this innovative organisation (also have a look at their Frysk-Dutch translation app).

Finally we are excited to announce our very first recording in Colombia! It is of a song in Murui, an indigenous South American language spoken by around 8,000 people in Colombia and Peru. The recording was made in Tabatinga in the far south of Colombia, close to the borders with both Peru and Brazil, by Kasia Wojtylak, a PhD student at James Cook University in Australia. Like Kasia’s recording, many of the recordings of endangered and minority languages on Language Landscape have been added by field linguists and anthropologists who have worked with indigenous communities. It’s great to see so many academics sharing their research in this way.

We hope you enjoyed our round up of some of the new recordings added to Language Landscape in January 2015. Please add your thoughts and comments below. If you’d like the chance to be featured in next month’s round up, please add a recording to the map. You can find lots of hints and tips on making and adding recordings on our Help page. See you next month!


How To video

We’re excited to announce the launch of our new How To video! We wanted to make a video which both promotes Language Landscape and also introduces it to new users. If this is your first time on LL, you can find more information about who we are and why we’re doing this on our About page, our FAQs page and also in this blog post.

The How To video was made possible through a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. We’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone who contributed to the campaign – we hope you’re as happy as we are with the result!

The video went into production in May 2014. Filmmaker Pablo Zanón gathered together some willing volunteers and shot the live action elements – the people talking in the Record Audio and Record Video sections. These shots were digitally manipulated to create the distinctive silhouette style and further augmented with the animated ‘speech streams’ and recording devices by animator and designer extraordinaire Tom Leisz. The thinking behind this visualization of the recording process was to make it easy for speakers of all languages to understand that everyone can contribute to the website as well as exploring and enjoying the existing content.

The rest of the video introduces the principles of adding recordings and creating projects on the website. We wanted to pick out key elements of the process which we felt were most important for new users. This includes our principle of ‘mapping where it’s happening’. We believe this is the best way to represent the geographical spread of languages as a recording of a language really only represents a moment in a person’s – and therefore also a language’s – life. See this post for more about our ideas and motivations for mapping languages in this way. We also wanted to include a section on how to create your own unique map on Language Landscape by grouping together your recordings in a project. This is a quick and easy process, and you can even add other people’s recordings to your project if they’ve ticked the ‘Other people can edit this recording’ button on their recording. The music was then composed and timed to perfection by Samu Csernak. We’d also like to say a big thanks to Tom Castle for creating the babble of voices that you can hear at around 1:56.

We hope you enjoy the video and it inspires you to add your recordings to Language Landscape. We already have recordings of over 190 languages and dialects mapped where they happened all around the world, but we need your help to build a better map of the world’s linguistic diversity. Please sign up for an account and start mapping your languages today!


The Language Landscape Launch

First off, many thanks to all of you who made it to our website launch on the 24th March at the Brunei Gallery in SOAS, University of London. It was really great to see so many new and familiar faces all around us.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, you were missed but not forgotten! Here is a recap of what went down:

18:00 – Guests began arriving and were asked to sign in, select their name badges and buy raffle tickets by our wonderful volunteers Nick Stallman, Marta Poeta, Karin Hedberg, Elizabeth Thaut, Connor Youngberg and Andrew Clark.

Language Landscape welcome banner

Language Landscape welcome banner. Photo credit: Jade Chau

18:30 – With plenty of food and wine to go round, the room really begins to buzz. People have the chance to mingle and interact with Tom Castle’s media installations, Departures, as well as the Language Landscape website.

Participants interacting with the LL website

Participants interacting with the LL website. Photo credit: Jade Chau

19:00 – The members of the Language Landscape  (sans Karolina who unfortunately couldn’t make it on the evening) make some announcements. Ebany and Samantha thank our sponsors and supporters (The Linguistics department at SOAS, SOAS Alumni Friends Fund, UnLtd and HEFCE HEI Initiative/SOAS Student Enterprise Fund, as well as Google Earth Outreach). Despite some minor technical difficulties, Sandy walks us through the new features of the Language Landscape website. Teresa swoops in to save the day with the assistance of Bernard Howard, digital technician of the linguistics department. The crowd is suitably pleased once the minor technical difficulties are solved and the Outreach video is played.

LL Team say their thanks

LL Team say their thanks. Photo credit: Jade Chau

20:15 – Raffle prizes to be won! With the help of a most glamorous assistant by the name of Paul Webley (Director and Principal of SOAS), Charlotte Hemmings announces the winners of the evening’s raffle in the following order:

  • 3rd prize, Rick Stein cook book and Ferrero Rocher chocolates = Lutz Marten
  • 2nd prize, white wine and 4 tickets to the Tower of London = Michelle Barlow
  • 1st prize, champagne and breakfast at Google = Rachel Robertson
Charlotte and her lovely assistant, Paul Webley

Charlotte and her lovely assistant, Paul Webley. Photo Credit: Jade Chau

Thanks again to all who attended the evening! Watch this space for more news.

Do It Video

After successfully launching the 1.0 version of the website, we started looking for new ideas on how to improve Language Landscape. Because of the feedback we were getting about the upload process, we decided we should explain it better. This is how the idea of the Do It Video emerged.

DIV will be a short, animated clip, explaining how to contribute recordings to the website. The use of language will be limited to the minimum, in order to make it accessible to people from all linguistic backgrounds. To make the shooting process simple and cheap, we will record actors’ silhouettes on greenscreen and add effects and animations to that image showing people uploading recordings to the Language Landscape using different types of devices (see picture below). The images will be accompanied by a soundtrack composed specially for the DIV.


The idea is simple, but we still need some resources to make it happen. That is why some time ago we have launched a crowd funding campaign: . So far, we’ve managed to raise almost 50% of our intended goal. This is great, but the campaign will be ending in 5 days, and the other 50% is still missing. Please spread the word about it and support us, and soon you will see Language Landscape getting even better with our great animated DIY. 

Also, a massive thank you to all those who have supported the campaign so far!

Launching a new kind of language map


We’re launching the first public release version of Language Landscape (1.0) in the Brunei Gallery at SOAS, University of London at 6pm on Monday 24 March 2014. This public event will be an opportunity for everyone to hear more about the new features of the website and also to learn about our outreach programmes. If you can’t make it to the launch, you can read about the new features of the website here and about our outreach work here and here. In this post we’ll give you a bit more of a flavour of what will be happening on the night to whet your appetite.

We’ll be doing a live demonstration of some of the new features of the website and talking about our outreach programmes. We’ll also show a video about our outreach projects.

Alongside the live demonstration, you’ll also have the chance to try out the new features on the site. Volunteers will be on hand throughout the evening to answer any questions you might have and help you get set up with an account for the site.

We’re also proud to announce that Tom Castle, an artist and technician in the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS, will be presenting two installations during the event. “Departures” is an installation documenting the prison time given for homosexual activity in different parts of the world. The second is a new piece echoing the qualities and form of Language Landscape which deals with the “Euston Area Plan”: the proposal for the destruction & construction of Euston and surrounding residential areas.

Throughout the evening we’ll also be encouraging attendees to tweet us their favourite word in any language using the #favouriteword hashtag. We’ll also be selling raffle tickets with a very exciting first prize: the winner and a friend will be invited for breakfast at Google’s London offices. The Google Earth Outreach Developer Grant programme funded the development of Language Landscape 1.0 and we’re very happy to be able to offer this chance for someone to gain an insight into one of the web’s biggest companies.

If you would like to attend the launch, please RSVP to If you have any questions about the event or about Language Landscape more generally please get in touch at the same address or via Twitter or Facebook.

We’re looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible and helping you to map your language!

UPDATE: The DJ has now been confirmed as Chemikal Recipe. Listen to their music on Soundcloud

Bow School Outreach Project

- “What’s the best way to learn a foreign language?”

- “Start before the age of seven!”

What can I say? It’s not the most useful piece of advice – at least not if you have already celebrated your eighth birthday. But there is some truth in it. Young children learn languages quickly. Annoyingly quickly. And seemingly without much effort. This may surprise you, though – they can learn about languages just as quickly, and they can have fun whilst they do it.

To find this out, the Language Landscape team embarked upon a project with a school in East London. I think of it as more like an experiment… what happens when you put six incurably passionate linguists in a language class with about twenty children? The answer? Oddly enough, chemistry! No, no, put away your test tubes and Bunsen burner, all I mean is that the kids learnt a lot, we learnt a lot, everyone had a good time and we should do it all again. That doesn’t sound like chemistry to you? Well read on, here’s the formula that made it all work.

We prepared an eight week timetable, going into the school every Tuesday afternoon. This one precious hour every week was all we had with our young participants, so we made the most of it. Every minute was planned with language-related activities. We had achievable learning outcomes for every session, but we also wanted to give them a taste of managing a language project over several weeks. Assembling them into groups, they defined their projects (for example, one project was to record songs in languages other than English from people in the school). Then they divided up responsibilities, and off they went! Each week we made step-by-step progress towards these projects, and it culminated in the groups visiting our university and presenting their work to an audience of academics. You can even hear some of their recordings on the Language Landscape Bow School Project page. To deliver a jam-packed and enjoyable day for them, we also arranged a debate on the topic of endangered languages, which they fully participated in, and even had time for a language taster session (Swahili, in this case) which was very popular.

Judging by how engaged and enthusiastic the schoolboys were on this last day, it can be difficult to remember how far we’d come. When we first arrived at the school, forewarned that over 80% of the school are “Disadvantaged pupils”, we were told not to expect an easy ride. We also didn’t want to expect too much prior knowledge, at least in the specialist field of linguistics. What can I say? We were surprised on both counts.

The whole class won our hearts and minds with the energy they put into every task we put in front of them. Okay, sometimes that energy needed some help to… ahem… redirect to the task at hand, but the groups certainly achieved a great deal, and that’s really down to their hard work. Also, only a fifth of the school’s pupils have English as a first language – many speak another language at home. So there we were, in a room full of bilinguals, the majority of them working on a third or fourth language at school. In their own way, these were veritable language experts!

One of the most important changes I noticed was how attitudes to their home languages were affected. Think about this for a moment – can you imagine speaking another language in addition to English, totally fluently, and consider it a hindrance? That is exactly what we observed in our class. By the end of our workshops, this had turned into recognition of multilingualism as the asset that we at Language Landscape believe it to be. Of course, that was also a great confidence boost for lots of participants, and some were taking a more visible pride in their heritage. Result!

There was a lot going on to make this project work, and if you want to learn more, check out this little video we put together.