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Learn about our projects

The OWRI projects completed their substantial research in June 2020, the details below provide information on their aims and research activities.

Find out more about a specific OWRI research programme below by selecting a link from the quick link list below.

Creative Multilingualism
Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies
Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community
Language Acts and Worldmaking

Creative Multilingualism


Creative Multilingualism investigates the interconnection between linguistic diversity and creativity. This research programme, led by Professor Katrin Kohl at the University of Oxford with co-Investigators at:

  • Birmingham City University
  • SOAS University of London
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Reading

will put the spotlight on the value of modern languages, while using creativity as the focus for rethinking that value.

The programme will focus in particular on the following questions:

  • How does multilingualism stimulate creativity?
  • What kinds of creativity are involved in multilingualism?
  • How do these kinds of creativity manifest themselves in multilingual processes?

Languages are our key medium for self-expression, and as such they are at the heart of individual and collective cultural identity. This gives them immense creative potential which is fundamental to our lives as human beings and an invaluable resource in their own right.

There are seven strands to their research:

For more information, visit the Creative Multilingualism website or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS)

Linguistic competence in more than one language, being multilingual, sits at the heart of the study of modern languages and literatures, distinguishing it from related disciplines. Through six interlocking research strands, Professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett at the University of Cambridge with co-Investigators at:

  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Nottingham
  • Queens University Belfast

will investigate how the insights gained from stepping outside of a single language, culture and mode of thought are vital to individuals and societies.


The project will analyse situations that give rise to multilingualism and the relationship between languages, cultures, identities, norms and standards. They will also explore ways of maximising motivation and achievement in language learning as a life-long activity.

MEITS objectives:

  • Create new knowledge about the opportunities and challenges of multilingualism for individuals, communities and nations
  • Change attitudes towards multilingualism in the general public and among key stakeholders and policymakers
  • Develop new interdisciplinary research paradigms and methodologies
  • Demonstrate how an innovative interdisciplinary project can integrate language-led research with literary-cultural studies, thereby address key issues of our times

Transformative impact will be achieved through creating new synergies across a range of disciplines, through collaboration with international partners, and, crucially, through exchanging ideas and insights with non-HEI partners.

For more information visit the MEITS website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Read our popular The History of Modern Foreign Language Teaching feature and read about the work of the current OWRI Deputy Principal Investigator, Professor Nicola McClelland from Nottingham University, on an earlier project looking at the the history of Modern Foreign Language teaching in the UK and its future in education. This has led to further research network on the topic and provides insight into the evolution of MFL teaching in the UK.

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Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community

This multi-disciplinary programme led by Professor Stephen Hutchings at the University of Manchester with Co-Investigators from the University of Manchester, University of Durham and University of London, aims to develop new modern languages research paradigms capable of re-conceptualising the relationship between language and community for the benefit of a more open world.


The project will identify three intersecting community configurations attributing different roles to language, and attracting distinct methodologies: the multilingual (urban communities whose identity is shaped by language diversity), the transnational (sharing a single language but dispersed across nation states) and the translingual (formed through cultural creativity across language boundaries).

In each case, it investigates ties and disjunctions between language and nationhood, and the dynamic of top-down institutional and grassroots networking dimensions of community-building. Tackling these issues across all three configurations, with each corresponding to a research strand, the project aims to recast modern languages agendas; reshape adjacent disciplinary priorities, offer insights to policymakers, and invest the civic university with new purpose.

Our main languages represent some of the world's largest language communities. They have the capacity to traverse the strands: Arabic, Chinese, German, Russian, and Spanish, which are at once community languages, the glue binding transnational networks, and a medium through which language communities embrace translingual values.

Find out more information on the Cross-Language Dynamics webpages, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

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Language Acts and Worldmaking

Led by Professor Catherine Boyle at King's College London with Co-Investigators at Open University, University of Westminster and Queen Mary University London, Language Acts and Worldmaking examines language as a material and historical force which acts as the means by which individuals construct their personal, local, transnational and spiritual identitiesa process we call ‘worldmaking’. Learning a language means recognising that the terms, concepts, beliefs and practices that are embedded in it possess a history, and that that history is shaped by encounters with other cultures and languages.


This project realises this potential by breaking down the standard disciplinary approaches that constrain Spanish and Portuguese within the boundaries of national literary and cultural traditions. Our case study is Iberia; its global empires and contact zones, which stretch across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

This vast multilingual and multicultural terrain dramatically illustrates the potential of modern language learning to understand and shape the world we live in. The project’s research and partnerships demonstrate the indispensable value of language learning for understanding how societies are structured and governed and for empowering culturally aware and self-reflective citizens.

Find out more information on the website or keep up to date with all the latest news and updates on Facebook and Twitter.

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