If you read Structo you will know that we publish writing from all over the world, as well as translated poetry, usually alongside the original verse. But there can be loss in this translation. Simply hearing someone read the original can bring new understanding and depth. It was shortly after discussing this fact at one of our translation events that we learned about the website Language Landscape. We talked to co-director Ebany Dohle about the project.
What is the aim of the Language Landscape project?
The aim of Language Landscape is to raise awareness of language diversity at both global and local levels. On a global level, we promote language diversity by representing where languages are actually spoken via an interactive web-based map. On a local level we run outreach projects with schools around London, talking to children and teens about languages and language diversity in London and around the world.
How did the project come to be?
All the core members of Language Landscape are linguists who are students and alumni of SOAS, University of London. Linguistics at SOAS has a branch which specializes on Endangered Languages, and every year it celebrates Endangered Language Week. In order to get involved, one year the Linguistics students put together a project to map as many favourite words in as many languages as possible. The idea was to ask students, academics, staff and visitors of SOAS to contribute to the map by asking their favourite words either by writing these on post-it notes and placing it on a large printed map which was on display, or by contributing recordings of their favourite sayings, poems, songs or stories. This was so successful that the group of students decided to apply for funding in order to continue the project.
How many people are on the team?
There are currently six of us on the board of directors. We are the ones who take on the administrative duties of running the website and outreach projects. We also have a team of 10 volunteers who are involved in running the outreach projects, plus all of the contributors who have uploaded recordings to the website.
How did you go about securing funding?
We initially applied for funding from SOAS Alumni and Friends fund to create the beta version of the website. The new version of the Language Landscape website has been developed with the kind support of Google Earth Outreach, the SOAS Alumni Fund, and the UnLtd and HEFCE HEI Initiative/SOAS Student Enterprise Fund which supports student-led social enterprise.
What has been your experience with the site since launch?
Overall the site has been used to create more individual projects especially within schools and universities. As a team we are also engaging with it even more and getting to know all the ins and outs of the new features. It has been really enjoyable to discover and use the new site. The next step is to encourage more members of the public to engage with it as much as we do, and in order to achieve this we are in the process of creating an animated ‘Do it Video’ which will hopefully be ready in a months time.
If that sounds good, you might be interested in a project we just opened on Language Landscape, imaginatively titled the ‘Structo World Literature Project‘. We are looking for you to record your original or public domain literature from all over the world. If you would like to get involved, or find out more information, head to the project page on Language Landscape.