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Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
19 October 2008

In celebration of the International Year of Languages and the diversity of London's languages and cultures, East Gallery in Stratford (home of the 2012 London Olympics) is hosting an exhibition called Living Language.


The exhibition runs from now until 10th January 2009 and features work by local artists, including selections from John Wynne's sound and photographic installation Hearing Voices, calligraphy by Sabah Arbilli, Orkideh Sassouni's photographs on sign language, Fiona Zobole's textile pieces exploring touch, sign and gesture in communication, and Stefanos Pavlakis' prints addressing the role of language in our attempts to integrate into new places. The exhibition curator is Nathalie Palin and sponsorship comes from Axis, a construction and development firm.

Included in the exhibition are a series of panels dealing with Endangered Languages, Sign Languages, and The Languages of London, designed by artist Jen Fraser, who believe it or not, is an Aussie from Brissie (Brisbane, Australia for international readers). The text and images for the Endangered Languages panel comes from materials that we developed at SOAS for the Endangered Voices exhibition held in 2005, while information on The Languages of London was drawn from my recent book 1000 Languages. David Nathan also provided multimedia materials on a range of languages that are set up on computers in the exhibition space for visitors to interact with. CILT, the National Centre for Languages, also supplied supplementary educational materials on language diversity and UK community languages, including a great booklet called Positively Plurilingual (download your own copy here [.pdf]).

The East Gallery is in the spacious foyer (with associated cafe) of the main offices of East Potential, an organisation that:

provides accommodation, training and employment opportunities for young people aged 16-24. We also deliver a range of neighbourhood projects for residents of all ages to improve their quality of life.

The nice thing about the exhibition is that it is in a really accessible location for east London residents and and along with highlighting linguistic diversity encourages community members to contribute, through the interactive multimedia, and other fun activities including a competition called "Language Matters!" and a wall where people can fill in postcards in their own language and put them up to for others to see.

If you happen to be in London before 10th January next year the Living Language exhibition is worth checking out.


I wonder if the Esperanto Association has contacted you about the possible inclusion of this global language?

I ask because UNESCO will meet in Paris, on 15th December, to acknowlege Esperanto, as a living language, in conjunction with the International Year of Languages.

An interesting video can be seen at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670. A glimpse of the language can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

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