The research team conducted detailed linguistic ethnographic investigations in superdiverse wards in each of four cities in England and Wales: Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, and London. A linguistic ethnographic approach enabled us to understand the role of translation and translanguaging as resources where multiple repertoires are in play in multilingual cities. The research was conducted in each ward, across domains of business and entrepreneurship, sport, libraries and museums, and legal advice. We interrogated and extended current understandings of existing conceptual tools such as ‘translation’, ‘translanguaging’, and ‘superdiversity’.
We took as a starting-point multilingual interactions in which speakers deploy diverse signs for communication and meaning-making. Such interactions occur in translation zones where speakers make use of whatever linguistic resources are at their disposal. As yet not enough is understood about interactions in these zones of critical and creative engagement where translation is the key to the creation of meaningful spaces of contact and civic participation. This project focused on communication between and across diverse cultures in translation zones in changing urban communities.
When people ‘translanguage’ they make meaning through linguistic signs accessed from diverse sources. Translanguaging leads us away from a focus on ‘languages’ as distinct codes to a focus on the agency of individuals engaged in creating, deploying, and interpreting signs for communication. Translanguaging includes the full range of linguistic performances of multilingual speakers, beyond the simple alternation between languages, or ‘code-switching’. A focus on translanguaging enables us to see how everyday practices and identities are rooted in the trajectories of the multiple communities to which individuals belong, and how they develop and transform.
Over the past decade or so changing immigration patterns and variables have altered the composition, distribution, and status of immigrant communities in Britain, Europe, and elsewhere. The term ‘superdiversity’ has been coined to refer to the meshing and interweaving of diversities, in which not only ‘ethnicity’, but other variables intersect and influence the highly differential composition, social location and trajectories of various immigrant and post-immigration groups in the twenty-first century.