Learning resource: mmm…linguistic diversity

Mmm…Linguistic Diversity


In this workshop we explore “linguistic diversity” – which celebrates all the different languages that surround us every day.


A download of this learning resource will be available soon.


Print out the Girona Manifesto on Linguistic Rights in English but also in any language you like and that’s relevant to your group. You can download these from the PEN International website. Have enough copies available for everyone in the group but also print up each right large onto a separate sheet of paper – A4 or even A3.

Introduction activity

Begin the session by asking the group what they think Linguistic Diversity might be? Then hand out the copies of the Girona Manifesto to everyone – as this comes up in the video and it might help to follow it.

Watch the video

Enquiries & Activities

1. 4.5%   Mazin says that only 4.5% of books sold in the UK are in translation. Is that a good or bad thing? Why? Run a group enquiry around this.

2. Mazin’s question   So Mazin asks – is it better to have loads of languages around the place or just one or two? What do you think? Separate into smaller groups and give each group a large sheet of paper. Ask them to write down: the languages everyone speaks; the languages everyone uses in their homes and with their families; the languages everyone uses at school or work; the way (rather than the language) people speak to older people like parents and teachers; the way people speak to people the same age as them; write down loads of slang words they use. Now get them to discuss this idea: is it better that there are lots of languages – AKA linguistic diversity – or should we just have one or two big ones (like just English, say). Get them to come up with at least three reasons in favour of linguistic diversity and three reasons against.  Each smaller group should then present back to the rest of the group.

3. The Girona Manifesto on Linguistic Rights   This is possibly one of the most exciting documents in the whole world – but it’s quite difficult, in a funny kind of way, to understand! Certainly in such a short space of time. But it’s well worth a good read. So… Divide the separate pages you’ve prepared so that each group has two or three of the linguistic rights to work on. Their job is to re-write the linguistic right in plain language in their own words. Give them plenty of time to do this and then have a big stand up session at the end where you read out the re-written Girona Manifesto in your own words. An additional task here, if you have time, is to get a person to hold up their right – so you have ten people in a row standing up at the front – and then get them to move around in the order that you all as a group want them to be in. In other words, if 1 is most important and 10 least important – what order should they now be in?

4. Number 6   Number six of the Girona Manifesto says: “School instruction must contribute to the prestige of the language spoken by the linguistic community of the territory.” Given lots of young people will engage with this video and this workshop in a school, spend a moment focusing on what this means through a group enquiry. What responsibilities do schools play in “contributing to the prestige of the language”? Why do schools have this responsibility? Connect this up to a wider enquiry in general into free speech in schools and the role of language in the school you are in.

5.  Linguistic Diversity v Translation   Is translation at odds with linguistic diversity? What does that mean? Well – if we’re celebrating linguistic diversity so much, isn’t translating into English an activity that’s against the beautiful multiplicity of languages? Translation is saying, surely, that everything should be in English!  Or is it?  Is translation trying to rob us of linguistic diversity or celebrate it? Have a debate!

In your own time

Investigate your local community. Research the number of languages spoken there – European, non-European and community languages (what is a “community language” and why is this distinction made? Do you agree with it?). Go for a walk and take photos of all the signs you see with multiple languages. Share your photos on a blog or on Facebook or in a scrapbook.


This learning resource was written by Philip Cowell. Mmm…Linguistic Diversity is part of a series of five learning resources called Brave New Voices, funded by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The word animation was created by Valgas Moore and directed by Azhur Saleem. Thanks to Emma Cleave from English PEN for reading out the Girona Manifesto!




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