The University of Manchester partners with Manchester City Council to map diversity of Manchester’s languages

Manchester residents are being invited to contribute to new research around public signage in the city and share their experience of multilingualism.


The city is home to over 150 languages including Urdu, Arabic, Chinese and Polish. This remarkable diversity is to be highlighted in a wide-ranging new research partnership between The University of Manchester and Manchester City Council, after the council’s library service won funding from the Engaging Libraries Programme.

The programme, which is run by The Carnegie UK Trust, the Wellcome Trust, and the Wolfson Foundation, brings 14 vital research projects at universities into the heart of local communities, using libraries to encourage and share learning.

The Manchester initiative will use an app to build up a multilingual landscape map of the city, finding hotspots where more than one language is in common use through photographs of public signage taken by the community. The project will engage the public through workshops, debates, art activities and exhibitions, and create a website documenting residents’ experiences of language use in the family and across generations.

“Language diversity is about who we are and what kind of society we live in,” said Professor Yaron Matras, who leads the University’s Multilingual Manchester unit. “In the current climate of increasing polarisation of the political debate surrounding immigration, identity, and our relations with other nations, we need to raise awareness of multilingualism as a way to build bridges and restore confidence.”

As a British Academy Wolfson Professorial Fellow, I’m delighted to be undertaking this research, and I hope that the work raises public awareness of linguistic diversity in our city, as well as strengthening its multilingual offer.
Professor Yaron Matras

“Many of the Manchester residents who enjoy using our citywide network of libraries speak multiple languages, making them the ideal places to help pursue this important research into language diversity,” said Neil MacInnes OBE, Head of Libraries, Galleries and Culture at Manchester City Council. “Through this project, we look forward to further developing our already strong relationship with the Multilingual Manchester team at The University of Manchester.”

“Engaging Libraries is all about giving people the opportunity to access, use and respond to research,” said Sarah Davidson, CEO of the Carnegie UK Trust. “Libraries have a unique position as trusted, safe spaces at the heart of our communities, and this programme is designed to help people explore new ideas and even play a role in influencing research. The process will also give university researchers a great opportunity to make connections between their ideas, research findings and the knowledge and experiences of local communities. “

“These are important and intriguing projects, with a wonderful regional spread and tackling some complex, challenging, crucial issues for society,” said Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation. “We hope that these projects will act as exemplars for how public libraries and research institutions can work together.”

For more information on this project, visit The University of Manchester website or member page.