The European Day of Languages is celebrated on 26th September each year. It is a time to celebrate the wealth of languages spoken all around the world and to promote language learning.
However, of the approximately 6-7,000 languages spoken around the planet, a large number are in danger of ceasing to be spoken within this century. The Department of Linguistics at SOAS University of London is an internationally recognised centre for research and teaching on endangered languages across the world.
Its MA programme in Language Documentation and Description aims to train a new generation of linguists to document and support endangered languages.
The Department of Linguistics at SOAS was founded in 1932 as the first department of general linguistics in Great Britain. The variety of languages studied in the department is not comparable to any other linguistics department in the world. It is a centre for anyone fascinated by languages.
This expertise in languages is extended by the SOAS World Languages Institute (SWLI). The Institute brings together a wide range of affiliated scholars and research students to support world-leading language-based research and outreach that makes the expertise of its members more widely available to the wider world.
The SWLI recognised the European Day of Languages by collaborating with the language learning company Memrise to provide new students with a language taster session. SOAS students were able to board the Membus, a vintage double decker bus, which has travelled across Europe filming thousands of native speakers of various languages, and so capturing a vast spectrum of accents, personalities, gestures, colloquialisms, and cultural quirks.
The SWLI have captured the diversity of SOAS in 100 linguistic varieties on video.
SOAS has the largest concentration in Europe of academic staff concerned with Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and unparalleled expertise in a wide range of non-European languages. In addition, the SOAS Language Centre offers an unsurpassed breadth of lesser-taught languages for a wide public audience.
The Language Centre at SOAS offers short vocational language courses, as well as certificate and diploma courses, which can lead onto an undergraduate programme. Languages taught in the Language Centre include Modern Standard Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Persian, Kurdish, Mongolian, Sanskrit, Afrikaans, Amharic, Swahili, Twi, Hindi, Nepali, Tamil, Urdu, Burmese, Indonesian, Tagalog, Thai, not forgetting European languages such as French, Russian and Spanish.
Additionally, the Language Centre runs postgraduate Teacher Training programmes on Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language and Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, which open up rewarding careers opportunities worldwide.
Even for students not directly enrolled on a language programme, SOAS offers the opportunity to gain a basic working knowledge of at least one of the languages from its curriculum.
Under the SOAS Language Entitlement Programme (LEP) current undergraduate and postgraduate students, regardless of their department or degree, are entitled to register for one language course for free.
It is to be hoped that this wide provision of language opportunities will go some way to protect the rich diversity of languages around the globe.