Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Manchester home to 153 languages: researchers

The Guardian, LONDON

It boasts two football teams — Manchester City and Manchester United — long running television soap opera Coronation Street, world renowned bands and famously inclement weather. Now, Manchester has another claim to fame: The city is arguably the most ethnically diverse in Europe and, possibly, second in the world after New York.

Linguists at the University of Manchester have discovered that their city boasts a population that speaks at least 153 languages, making it one of the world’s most linguistically diverse places.

Research conducted by Yaron Matras, a professor with the University of Manchester’s Multilingual Manchester project, suggests the true figure could be even higher.

“Manchester’s language diversity is higher than many countries,’” Matras said. “It is very likely to be top of the list in Europe. As immigration and the arrival of overseas students to the city continues, it’s fair to say that this already large list is set to grow.”

With a population of half a million, Manchester is a fraction of the size of London, which has about 8 million inhabitants and also scores highly in terms of linguistic diversity. Yet it appears Manchester punches far above its weight in terms of the number of languages spoken by its inhabitants.

“We know that around two-thirds of Mancunian schoolchildren are bilingual — a huge figure, which indicates just how precious its linguistic culture is,” Matras said.

Rare languages spoken in the city include Chitrali from northern Pakistan, Konkani from western India, Dagaare from Ghana and Burkina Faso, and Uyghur from northwestern China.

The city also attracts an increasingly large number of European citizens who have broadened its linguistic base since EU enlargement in the middle of the past decade.

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