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[ from Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
1 December 2009

On Friday 20th November at Can Ricart in Barcelona, the permanent home of Casa de les Llengues (House of Languages) of Linguamón was officially opened by the Vice-President of Catalonia. The site is an old fabric factory (see photos) that is being completely renovated to house both permanent and temporary exhibitions on the nature of language and on linguistic diversity. The new buildings were designed by Italian architect Benedetta Tagliabue, and the building works will cost approximately 18 million euros to complete. Currently an exhibition space of 100 square metres has been set up (featuring things like the United Voices interviews), and events such as music concerts are planned for the Can Ricart location to attract visitors while the building works progress. The boldness of the vision of Director Antoni Mir i Fullana and his team at Linguamón is amazing. Casa de Les Llengues is located in the new 22@ zone in Barcelona which is being developed as a hub for cultural and educational activities, and will include a range of museums and other education spaces.

On the previous day the Linguamón International Scientific Committee (of which I am a member) met and discussed plans for the permanent exhibition that is expected to open in 2011. There will be 10,000 square metres of permanent exhibition space highlighting the nature and use of human languages, both spoken and signed, the history of writing, and the diversity of languages across the world. There will be a special focus celebrating the hundreds of languages spoken by people living in Catalonia, especially those brought in by new settlers. The economic and political value of these languages to Catalonia was emphasised by the Linguamón team (the results of a survey on language and business in Barcelona were presented to the Committee by Isidor Mari, who is Linguamón-UOC Chair in Multilingualism, supported by Linguamón and the Open University of Catalonia), and also by the Vice-President in his public speech. Members of the International Scientific Committee noted that there had been a shift in rhetoric associated with this initiative since we last met two years ago, with less emphasis on the Catalan language and more on the diversity of languages present within Barcelona and Catalonia more generally, especially the significance of these to business, trade, and culture.

Visitors to Barcelona with an interest in language should call in to Can Ricart to see how things are developing.

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The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.

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