Multilingualism and Diversity (MultiDiv) 2022
27th June-15th July 2022, Hybrid
MultiDiv is a specialised and highly intensive summer programme for students and academic/non-academic stakeholders interested in Multilingualism, Diversity and Social Justice pedagogy, policy and research from a Linguistics, Modern Languages and Translation Studies angle. MultiDiv is a unique hub which brings together senior academics as well as UG (undergraduate) /PG (postgraduate) research developed through the formal curriculum and relevant extracurricular activities. It takes the form of an intensive, three-week-long activity and involves workshops, data training and sessions on interpreting research for wider audiences, policy makers and the media most notably. In cross-university teams, students design and carry out an original research project on Multilingualism, typically from a Linguistic Landscape angle. Below, you can read about one of the projects our 2022 students completed, in the form of a blog post.
The linguistically diverse nature of contemporary societies is related to a range of complex phenomena in the areas of:
- language policy and practice
- language contact and change
- translation, interpreting and heritage learning
- public sector translation/interpretation
- translation and human rights
These constitute areas in which Monash and Warwick have an unbroken history of world-leading research. MultiDiv builds on this expertise and aims to push further current knowledge in the field.
MultiDiv and MITN share a commitment to supporting student research and the development of early career researchers. MultiDiv includes all students, undergraduate and postgraduate, as equal participants and is keen to encourage and embed further undergraduate research in the curricula of the two institutions. It aims to become a global hub of excellence for the study of multilingualism and diversity.
MultiDiv is led by the following academics as part of the Monash-Warwick Alliance:
- Professor Jo AngouriLink opens in a new window (Warwick)
- Dr Louisa WilloughbyLink opens in a new window (Monash)
- Professor Kate BurridgeLink opens in a new window (Monash)
Neglected Multilingualism: how can Coventry Central Library deal with the challenges of multilingualism in their leaflet management?
Beibei Song, Harriet Sharp, Yvette Wang
Have you ever paid attention to the leaflets in libraries? You may assume libraries are mainly about book services. But in fact, besides books, libraries, as an important knowledge source in modern societies, are responsible for collecting and providing a wide range of materials to meet the need of local communities (Rubin & Rubin, 2020), including leaflets, for example. It can be believed that the provision of leaflets makes up an important part of library service, as they communicate up-to-date information to the local area (e.g., health and well-being, employability support, and local events), which books cannot provide.
However, the increasing diversity in population composition in modern societies present a huge challenge to libraries. That is, when providing information service, how libraries can meet increasingly variable needs of the population, including whether they manage to respond to the multilingual needs of the local communities (Rubin & Rubin, 2020). If yes, how are those needs being addressed? If no, why not?
In this blog, we take Coventry Central Library as an example. We hope to answer the question: how does the library deal with the multilingual needs in their management of leaflets?
Why Coventry Central Library (CCL)?
We believe CCL should be a good place for us to explore multilingualism, as it is in the centre of Coventry (see the map below), a city with a highly diverse population. According to Coventry City Council, around 33% of the population in Coventry speak languages other than English as their main languages. Also, in recent years Coventry has witnessed an increasing number of refugees from Syria and Ukraine settling in the city (Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, 2019). They are also using the service in CCL, so the diversity of the library users has been further increased. Therefore, we would argue that it is necessary to present information in a multilingual manner on leaflets. But is that the case in the library?
Source: Location of Coventry Central Library, Coventry, UK, Google Maps, 30 August 2022.
What Did We Do?
To explore how CCL deals with multilingualism in their leaflet management, we collected leaflets in CCL and compared this data to Coventry's 2011 census statistics. We also observed the library users’ interaction with leaflets and conducted interviews with the library staff on the management of leaflets. You can find the details of method, data, and its corresponding actions listed in a table in the appendix.
What Did We Find?
How Does CCL Manage Leaflets?
1. Basic Statistics
There were 11 leaflets out of 84 in our sample that featured languages other than English. All of them are health-related, provided by external institutions like the NHS.
Some widely spoken languages (according to the census) were not found in our sample, such as Panjabi and Polish.
Some external leaflets, like NHS leaflets, direct speakers of non-English languages to their website for translated information, or to online translators.
2. Content Management
The health leaflets we looked at were all externally sourced from UK-based charities and organisations. No internal library leaflets were multilingual, even those advertising the English Language courses.
Multilingual leaflets are not updated as frequently as the English versions.
No commercial, political or religious leaflets, which can potentially be printed in multiple languages, are allowed in the library.
3. Spatial Management
There are four leaflet areas as seen in the image above: Health & Wellbeing Zone, outside the library beside the lift, at the entrance, and World Zone. Nearly all the multilingual leaflets were displayed in the World Zone on the second floor, while English ones were available on the first floor.
Separating multilingual and English-language content was considered by the library the “standard practice”, based on their belief that it is easy to direct people looking for non-English resources to one place.
Why Does CCL Manage Leaflets in This Way?
1. Reduced Financial Resources
The funding from Coventry City Council has reduced dramatically, which prompted CCL to reduce the budget for printing leaflets in a range of languages.
2. Decreased Need for Leaflets
The demand for printed leaflets has fallen due to the increased use of digital resources as an information source in the library. Because of this, the CCL staff do not find it important to display physical leaflets in a range of languages as people can easily access information and translation services online.
3. The ‘Problem’ of Linguistic Diversity
Serving an increasingly diverse population in Coventry, the CCL practitioners consider it unpractical to translate all languages, as we hear a key staff in CCL commenting “Where would you start? With the number of languages spoken in Coventry?”. Due to this language belief, the library has not recruited any new language staff in the past decades. Instead, they now resort to the Migration team of the Coventry City Council when there is a demand for translation and interpreting services in the library, for example when giving an introductory tour to the newcoming Ukrainian and Russian refugees recently. They also rely on external leaflet providers to identify language needs, like healthcare organizations, to know which language-ethnic group may be suffering from what disease and so, need information flyers about the disease.
4. Shifted Priority
For staff recruitment: CCL has shifted the focus from language skills to the ability to recognize, understand and communicate people’s needs and experiences, especially those of refugees. This can be seen as the result of their recognition of the ‘superdiversity’ (Vertovec, 2007) of Coventry as a multicultural society that is not just in terms of ethnicity, but also related to many other variables like gender, age, immigration status, migration channels, labour market experience (Blommaert & Dong, 2010).
What is the Potential Problem with the Current Leaflet Management Practices?
It can be believed that CCL’s leaflet management practice reflects and reproduces the dominant language ideology of English versus others, as we see non-English language leaflets provided way less than the English ones, and put in a relatively marginal area of the library (the second floor) (Faulk, 2020). Such practice may have some practical justification. As a library staff member told us, if people need non-English information, they will be directed to the ‘World Zone’ where all the other language leaflets are placed, or to the online websites where free translation services are available. However, this way of thinking creates problems as it places all the responsibility for searching information on library users themselves. It should be noted that people do not necessarily know what kind of information they need if they do not have direct access to the basic information in the first place. This can be especially true for leaflet-related information services. It can usually be the case that people are not aware of, for example, certain health problems until they are provided with relevant leaflets.
Meanwhile, CCL’s practice shows a simplistic understanding of the relationship between the development of information technology and people’s information needs. While it is true that many people now can easily access information online, the library fails to consider people who have not only language barriers but also technological barriers, like some elderly immigrants. As a result, the disparity may be deepened between the disadvantaged minority language-ethnic groups and the dominant language groups who enjoy faster and easier access to information.
What is the Cause of the Problem?
It could be said that the library has not fully responded to the multilingual needs of its users with is leaflets management because they view language support as a less important library service. CCL currently relies on external providers like the Council to provide language support and prioritises creating connection in people’s library experience. The library has rightfully recognised the inadequacy of their original linguistics services for providing information service for an increasingly diverse population, but language support could be better integrated into the current library ethos of supporting minority communities since language experience is essential to meeting people’s information needs and making them feel welcome in Coventry.
In addition, CCL’s concern over the unpracticality to translate all languages shows a simplistic view of multilingualism as merely increased language varieties. However, we would point out that multilingualism also means ‘superdiversity’ (Vertovec, 2007). That is, language, all together with many other factors like immigrant and economic status, affect how well people have access to information and local community. Not at all minority language groups are disadvantaged in the same way so CCL does not need to provide language support to all groups that live in Coventry and translate every language in the leaflets. Instead, they should identify which language groups are the most ‘in need’ and provide relevant language resources for them.
What can CCL Improve?
While it is certainly sensible for CCL to resort to external help because of time and budget constraints, nobody else knows more about library users than the library itself. As the intermediary between library users and information providers, CCL can play a more active role in working with the local language-ethnic communities, understanding their information needs, and communicating the needs to leaflet providers.
Blommaert, J., & Dong, J. K. (2007). Language and movement in space. Working papers in language diversity/Department of Languages, (1).
Coventry City Council. (n.d.). Demographics and communities. https://www.coventry.gov.uk/facts-coventry/coventry-72.
Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (2022). The Bishop of Coventry Welcomes Refugees and Asylum Seekers to His Home. https://www.covrefugee.org/bishop-of-coventry-welcomes-refugees-and-asylum-seekers-to-his-home.
Faulk, Z. (2020). Language Ideologies at Work: Examining the Linguistic Landscape in Public Spaces of Coventry, England. Intercultural Communication Education, 3(1), 4-21.
Google Maps. (n.d.). [Location of Coventry Central Library, Coventry, UK]. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from https://www.google.com/maps/place/Central+Libraryfirstname.lastname@example.org, -1.5137225,445m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x48774ba4ae8799c3:0xf5361ce0e0 b38c67!8m2!3d52.4086961!4d-1.5130466!5m1!1e4.
Rubin, R. E., & Rubin, R. G. (2020). Foundations of library and information science (5th ed.). Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman.
Vertovec, S. (2007). Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6), 1024-1054. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870701599465.
84 leaflets collected on 5th and 7th of July 2022.
Counted the number of each type of leaflets.
30min for each section, on 9th of July (Saturday afternoon), 13:35-16:15.
Described the placement of leaflets in the library.
Described people’s engagement with leaflets.
20-40min in-person or team interview with 4 library staff who are responsible for different departments. Interview questions include:
· Who provides/takes charge of the leaflets;
· Why in this/these language(s);
· The demand and supply of multilingual leaflets in the library;
· The future plan for the management of multilingualism on leaflets.
Documented the basic consideration behind the placement of leaflets;
Documented the overall procedure of the management of the multilingualism in the library.