Hail a taxi in New York, or hop on a Melbourne tram, and you could encounter any of hundreds of different languages. These cities are famous for being melting pots for different cultures and languages. But you might be surprised to know that Manchester is one of the world’s most linguistically diverse cities, despite its smaller size.
According to research by Manchester University, the city boasts at least 153 languages- and this number is growing. Furthermore, an impressive two thirds of children in city schools are bilingual.
The university’s Professor Yaron Matras said that Manchester is likely to be top of the list of linguistically diverse cities in Europe, when size is taken into account. He estimates only London and Paris have more speakers of different languages. At half a million, Manchester’s population is much smaller than London’s 8 million.
Prof Matras believes previous data has underestimated the number of different mother tongues. The census only asked for a “main language”. Many bilingual residents will list English, since they use it at work or college, but will speak another native language at home.
Some of the rare languages spoken in the city include Chitrali from northern Pakistan, Konkani from western India, Dagaare from Ghana, and Uyghur from north-western China.
The university’s project, Multilingual Manchester, aims to raise awareness of the city’s linguistic and cultural diversity, and identify and respond to language needs. This includes providing English and foreign language courses, and working with the NHS and city council to provide multilingual information.
They’ve also documented some of the smaller minority languages used in the city. They’ve developed an interactive map, asking users to pinpoint their location and tell them which language(s) they speak.
Of course, we knew Manchester was a very multilingual city when we set up our latest translation hub in the area. But we were surprised to learn just how diverse the city is. And of course, we’re looking forward to seeing the latest results from this fascinating project.
While multilingualism can present challenges (such as making sure information is translated into relevant languages) it also creates opportunities. Businesses in Manchester can stand out from the competition by catering to widely spoken minority languages. And speaking more than one language can help give you a step up the career ladder – and could even benefit your brain, according to recent research.