The research carried out by our Modern Languages community in the realms of culture, policy and civil society aims to have a real-world impact locally, nationally and internationally
Janice’s role as Arts and Humanities Priority Area Leadership Fellow for Modern Languages incorporates a major research project on Language Policy in the UK as well as collaboration with government, policy makers and stakeholders to promote the value of languages and to address challenging issues. The underpinning research, in collaboration with postdocs Leanne Henderson and Anik Nandi, has shown stark social inequalities in access to language learning, barriers to uptake including questions of difficulty and grading, and undervaluing of the skills of ‘newcomer’ bilingual children.
Impact has included Policy Workshops and Briefings with senior civil servants across government (in partnership with Ayres-Bennett, Cambridge), collaboration with the DE in NI and Ofqual to address the question of grading, and leadership on a mentoring scheme which will be supported in non-selective schools by the DE through NICILT from 2021. Janice was a member of the authorship team of Towards a National Languages Strategy for the UK (2020) and is now taking the recommendations forward as a member of the steering group.
This project is concerned to bring the methods, insights and anxieties of translation, as a writing and performance practice as well as a key mode of cultural transmission, to the attention of practitioners –directors, writers and actors – and audiences. Translation is presented as a mode for exploring new potentials within scripts, for opening up the script to multiplicity of interpretation and representation, and for understanding connections across linguistic and cultural boundaries. In that way the project seeks to have a transformative effect on the way practitioners think about translation as a key extension of their work as well as enriching the experience of theatre-goers. It is led by Professor David Johnston who, in addition to his theoretical writings, is a multi-award winning translator for the stage. Partners include the Royal Shakespeare Company, BBC radio drama, the Spanish Society of Authors, and the Wuzhen Theatre Festival (China). For further information on the AHRC-funded research from which this project derives, see http://www.outofthewings.org
Tori Holmes’s research interests relating to contemporary Brazil have led to her participation in two cultural engagement activities which seek to raise public awareness of pressing social and political issues in the country. Other Registers is a sound installation based on data about police violence in Rio de Janeiro, developed collaboratively by a group of Brazil and UK based artists and researchers in 2015-2016 as part of the Creative Lab on Social Change through Creativity and Culture – Brazil, coordinated by People’s Palace Projects and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Newton Fund. Following two initial stagings in Rio de Janeiro (here and here), the group has continued to develop and show the installation (in Belfast, London, and Sydney).
The Belfast Brazilian CineClub, as its name suggests, is an initiative set up by Tori to screen Brazilian documentaries in Belfast, and provide opportunities to engage in reflection and discussion which go beyond the perspectives available via the mainstream media. It has organised sessions in partnership with a film club, local cinemas, activist groups, and festivals as well as hosting a mini-residency by Brazilian documentary filmmaker Maria Augusta Ramos in 2017.
The current phase of the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project is funded by government; Land and Property Services (the provider of the mapping for www.placenamesni.org) is located in the NI Department of Finance. The primary concern for this phase in terms of impact is the provision of authenticated Irish language forms of names for dual-language street signage where there is a public desire for that. This also involves the provision of guidelines and strategies for translation of names in bilingual contexts (and this is of relevance to both Irish and Ulster-Scots). Public engagement continues to be maximised through our twitter account (@placenamesni) and our weekly column in the Irish News: Dinnseanchas.
Professor Greg Toner is PI of the Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language (eDIL), a historical dictionary of Irish from about 700-1600 AD. Medieval Irish writers produced a huge corpus of literature and learning in the Gaelic language and the Dictionary is the key to unlocking their meaning. The eDIL project is mining previously neglected sources in order to produce the most authoritative and up-to-date tool for the study of the historical language which is used by scholars and students around the world. The dictionary also captures a fascinating picture of medieval life in Ireland, the story of which is told in a separate book by the editors, A History of Ireland in 100 Words (shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards 2019).