Bonjour! Hola! Guten Tag! Multilingual Manchester now language capital of UK with 30% rise in new tongues

By Steven Roberts

A 30% increase in the amount of languages spoken in Manchester has catapulted the city into linguistics capital of the UK, according to researchers at The University of Manchester.

The previous figure of 153 languages spoken by long-term residents in the Greater Manchester area has been increased to a whopping 200 with 40% of Manchester’s young population and up to 50% of the adult population now likely to be multilingual.

In 2012, the report shows that 3000 pupils from state schools in Manchester sat GCSE exams in foreign languages with libraries holding 20,000 non-English books and other media.

Professor Yaron Matras, who coordinates the researching team which included undergraduate students, said: “Multilingual Manchester is the only project type anywhere in the world, so comparisons are going to be hard with other cities and local authority areas.

“But we do know Manchester has the densest multilingual population for its size in the UK and the highest population growth rate in England over the past decade.

“It’s rare to find Mancunians who cannot speak English at all with a massive 80% of Manchester residents whose first language is not English reporting they speak English well or very well.”

The research shows that Urdu, Arabic, Chinese, Bengali, Polish, Panjabi and Somali are the community languages with the largest number of speakers.

Out of these most spoken languages, Urdu is the most popular language: with 10,005 Urdu books, and 6497 Urdu speaking pupils.

Based at The University’s Multilingual Manchester, the team has been working closely with local authorities, the NHS and schools to advise on the language necessities of the city.

“Jobs asking for knowledge of Arabic, Cantonese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Panjabi, and other languages were offered at a salary range of £16,000 to £35,000,” Professor Matras said.

“Manchester is very likely to be the most linguistically diverse city in Europe, certainly when compared to other cities of its size, perhaps only outflanked by London and Paris.”

Alex Robertson, a former linguistics student at the University and now a researcher involved in the project, said: “Manchester’s language diversity is an incredible asset and I am delighted to have been part of a project that highlights this.

“After working closely with schoolchildren and services in the city, I can confidently say that our numerous languages are not a barrier, but a rich resource which holds powerful potential on a local and global scale.”

A digest compiled by the team is to be published online and launched at an event tomorrow

This special event will be attended by representatives of Manchester’s local agencies and public services, including Manchester City council, police, fire, local hospitals and school services.

If members of the public wish to contact Multilingual Manchester, email [email protected]

Picture courtesy of nofrills via Flickr, with thanks.

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