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Modern Languages Research

Modern Language research was identified as a strategic priority area by the AHRC in its 2011–2015 delivery plan. This commitment was reiterated in the AHRC Strategy 2013–2018 (PDF, 3.6MB), which emphasised our continued commitment to enhanced working partnerships with related organisations and bodies. It was in this collaborative context that the programmes of funding opportunities were formulated.

We define Modern Languages as any language currently in use in the world today, including sign languages. As a discipline, it is the AHRC's vision to reposition Modern Languages away from the perception that it is solely concerned with the acquisition and training of language skills, towards more mature forms of research that are methodologically innovative, ambitious and interdisciplinary. There is much concern within the sector that the uptake of Modern Languages is in decline, which is in direct opposition to the increasing levels of multilingualism and cultural diversity that is apparent throughout society, both nationally and globally. It is in this context that much of our support of modern languages sits.

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Professor Janice Carruthers - Leadership Fellow in Modern Languages

To ensure our aims and vision for Modern Languages are realised, Professor Janice Carruthers was appointed in 2017 as the AHRC Leadership Fellow for Modern Languages.
Her remit includes:

  • Addressing the major challenges that currently face Modern Languages
  • Ensuring that Modern Languages grow as a vital as part of the AHRC’s overall research portfolio.

Priority research areas and themes for Modern Languages

Our commitment to Modern Languages is reflected in a number of recent large investments and research themes:

The Open World Research Initiative (OWRI)

OWRI was conceived to have a transformational impact on Modern Languages research in the UK and inspire the future generation of researchers. Through OWRI, the AHRC  funded ambitious, multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary research programmes that demonstrate the strategic importance of language-led research and enhanced language expertise across the arts and humanities, and beyond. For more information visit: ahrc.ukri.org/owri.

Language-Based Area Studies (LBAS)

LBAS centres were originally supported from 2006–11 through funding from the AHRC, ESRC, HEFCE and SFC. Subsequent activity for the centres has been funded by the AHRC and British Academy until 2016. The five centres were established with the aim of creating a world-class cadre of researchers with the necessary language skills to undertake contextually informed research in the Arabic speaking world; China; Japan; and Eastern Europe, including areas of the former Soviet Union. For more information visit: ahrc.ukri.org/research/fundedthemesandprogrammes/languagebasedareastudies.

Translating Cultures

Led by Theme Leadership Fellow Professor Charles Forsdick, Translating Cultures is one of the AHRC's four research themes. Through Translating Cultures the AHRC has funded a variety of work, including three Large Grants, with a total portfolio that numbers around 90 separate awards. Broadly conceived, Translating Cultures embeds modern languages research within wider conceptions of 'translation' that encompass the transmission, interpretation, transformation and sharing of languages, values, beliefs, histories and narratives. For more information visit: ahrc.ukri.org/research/fundedthemesandprogrammes/themes/translatingcultures.

Current funding opportunities

The AHRC welcomes Modern Languages related submissions to its funding schemes.

We also run and participate in numerous time-limited strategic calls that provide opportunities for Modern Languages researchers.

Details of these can be found on the current funding opportunities page.

Past projects and case studies


AHRC History, Heritage, Languages and Literature
Head of History, Heritage, Languages and Literature – Katherine Warren
Email: HHLL@ahrc.ukri.org