On Friday I learned that Translanguaging is a term for communication that involves slipping between languages both verbal and visual. On Friday in an outhouse of Aston Hall I joined artists from a range of disciplines to learn about a research project investigating Translanguaging conducted by academics from a number of British Universities. Each academic had just 15 minutes to share with us a sample of their research. We watched a video of a butcher at Birmingham indoor market engaging with a customer who wants to buy some pork belly. We studied a short transcript of a consultation in which a Polish(?) speaker is helped through an application for disability benefit. We listened to an audio recording of a football coach run through a warm up routine with some young children and another recording of someone explaining their plans to start up a Polish Cafe in Leeds(?). Finally we conducted a textural analysis of a text message conversation that switches between Chinese and English.

In the afternoon the artists took over with half hour long sessions – from a menu of options I selected to learn about Clare Patey and her Empathy Museum, then to hear more from Mohammed Ali MBE about his Knights of the Raj exhibition.

You may ask what was I doing there, how did I earn my coffee and cold buffet lunch? Officially I was there to see if there were any connections between the research and Stan’s Cafe’s art but I don’t think I earned my lunch. Of course any research exploring the limitations of language, it’s slippery nature is going to connect with or performances, we’re big into being playful with language – throwing ugly phrases like ‘big into’ into the mix Etc. Be Proud of Me was largely about this, tourist phrasebooks supplying us with 50% of the show’s text. We regularly abandon verbal language entirely to let visuals speak.

It was interesting to see how these Linguists/Sociologists work, though I would have liked to have been able to stay ‘after hours’ a bit to interrogate the academics on their ambitions for the overall research. As an ignorant bystander it seemed like a lot of effort was going into recording and theorizing things those of us who live in multi-lingual environments – or who go on holidays to places were we don’t speak the local language – feel we know anyway. Presumably this is exactly the befuddled critique that drives them bananas.

My biggest take home idea? Well the transcripts they have made of the interactions they have recorded would make fun scripts to play with them because of course no one would ever dream of writing (or staging) them.

My take home work? I enjoyed hearing about Caroline Tagg’s PhD thesis from March 2009 about the language of text messages – so I’ve downloaded that to read.

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