Linguamania – crowdsourcing languages

How many languages are spoken in an Oxford museum on a dark Friday night in January?  

That may seem like an odd question to ask, but it makes more sense when put into the context of the Ashmolean Museum ‘Linguamania’ event. ‘LinguaMania’ is one of the themed evening events arranged at the museum as part of their LiveFriday series. With the aim to “to bring alive the museum’s multicultural world through the art and science of language, this particular event featured a variety of language-related activities and exhibits.

One of the activities on the night was run by the Language Landscape project which is crowdsourcing samples of language. Anyone who wants can make a recording and add it to the Language Landscape map at http://languagelandscape.org/. The recording may be of someone speaking their native language or a language they have learned, and the topic can be anything they choose to share.

A busy event at the Ashmolean Museum

What makes Language Landscape different to many other language recording projects is that it is mapping where the recording was made, not where the language is from or where the speaker was born. This means that the collection shows the use and variety of languages – not only across different countries or regions but also in one place, possibly even at one time (like at the LinguaMania event). This offers a small, but important, insight into language diversity and illustrates the richness of our current cultural landscape.

To return to the question at the top: it may not be possible to give an exact number, but the Language Landscape recording activity at the LinguaMania event resulted in 68 recordings which feature at least 40 different languages/dialects/varieties (some of which are the first on the Language Landscape map!).

To explore the recordings made on the night, and many, many more, please visit the Language Landscape website http://languagelandscape.org/. And do make and add your own recordings!

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