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Public events

Festival of Ideas 2015

Below is a selection of language-related talks and events. To view the full Festival programme visit


Saturday 17 October

The MML Annual Lecture: Learning languages - the Premier League


Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick sSte, Sidgwick Avenue, CB3 9DA

Football is a world that crosses borders and unites others. Come and find out how Arsenal Double Club is working with schools in North London to bring together two powerful forces for change, football and languages.


Thursday 22 October

Multilingual poetry slam and Mother Tongue Other Tongue celebration  Routes into Languages logo


Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, CB1 1PT

Routes into Languages East present a multilingual poetry slam workshop on identity and culture with poet, award-winning playwright and author Joelle Taylor. Culminating in a performance and slam event as part of the Mother Tongue Other Tongue celebration from 4.30pm to 7pm.


Saturday 24 October 

The youths on the wheel: the power of youth languages in Uganda


Faculty of Law, LG17, 10 West Road, CB3 9DZ

Saudah Namyalo and Jenneke van der Wal discuss the 'youth language' of Makerere University students. Hear about the different linguistic strategies speakers of this variety of English use to expand their lexicon in a constant process of quick reinventions, and have a go at analysing some of their speech.

The secret life of languages and cultures


Alison Richard Building, S2, Sidgwick Site, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Many of the 7,000 languages of the world can be classified as endangered. Around 2,100 of them have fewer than 50,000 speakers. Join us on an interactive trip around the world to explore the stories of some of the most endangered languages of the world and the cultures associated with them.

Reveal the French superhero in you


Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, Lecturers' Common Room, Sidgwick Avenue, CB3 9DZ

Like SamSam in France, become a superhero with l'Alliance Française! This workshop mixes words, photos, videos, drawings, group games and much more. Try out our winning combination for learning French: education, entertainment and fun. Enjoy a lovely afternoon with a French goûter. Mastering several languages is a real superpower!

Did language matter? Local versus imperial languages in classical antiquity


Museum of Classical Archaeology, Room 1.02, Sidgwick Avenue, CB3 9DA

How did ancient peoples under pressure to assimilate react when their languages were threatened by the spread of Greek and Latin? This talk with Professor Geoff Horrocks, Faculty of Classics, explores how attitudes to language and identity – both personal and national – have shifted over two and a half millennia.


Tuesday 27 October

Born communicators? Linguistics, pragmatics and child development


Faculty of English, GR05, 9 West Road, CB3 9DP

How do children come to grasp irony, metaphor, implicated meaning and more besides? Elspeth Wilson, an experimental pragmatician, explores what we know about how children learn to communicate.


Friday 30 October



Alliance Française, 60 Hills Road, CB2 1LA

Join us for a screening of Alejandro Iñárritu’s Babel – told through four interlocking stories, this movie explores the complex and sometimes tragic pictures of human lives around the globe. It suggests that, in the end, we are not all that different and highlights the relevance of languages to mutual understanding.


Saturday 31 October

The great British dialects quiz


Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, CB1 1PT

How good are you are at recognising British accents? Find out what the least- or most-preferred dialects are as well as why we speak the way we do.

Growing up with more than one language CBNlogo


Faculty of English, GR06/07, 9 West Road, CB3 9DP

Many children grow up in a rich and complex language context: parents who speak different languages, a home language different from the school and the society language. What are bilinguals capable of? Talks, discussion and refreshments.

Bookings will open at 10.30 am on Monday 21 September. Contact Dr Teresa Parodi,, 01223 767387 


Festival of Ideas 2014

These are just two of the language-related talks at last year's Festival of Ideas


Professor Usha Goswami (Centre for Neuroscience in Education) presents her latest research findings on dyslexia (starts 26 minutes in).



Dr Claire Dembry of Cambridge University Press and Robbie Love (Lancaster University) present fascinating insights from a new project to compile a publicly-accessible database of spoken British English. How has British English changed since the last time a similar project was carried out in the 1990s?  Find out how you can get involved by contributing recordings to the project.




For more audio recordings from this year's Festival, visit 



Now Hear This!

Cambridge Science Centre, March 2014

Dr Matt Davis and Professor Sarah Hawkins were among the researchers taking part in this public event at the Cambridge Science Centre on the science of hearing.