Language diversity offers key to London's future

May 10, 2012 at 4:40 PM
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LONDON, May 10 (UPI) -- Understanding the linguistic diversity found among London's schoolchildren is a key factor in assuring the city's future as a "global player," researchers say.

A study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council mapped the distribution of languages spoken by London school pupils and combined the language spoken with ethnicity to reveal patterns of educational inequality.

"London's increasing language diversity attracts much interest and debate among public service providers, educationalists and the public," researcher Dick Wiggins of the University of London said.

"Yet little was known about the numbers of people who speak different languages, and the implications of this dimension of population structure and change," he said.

Data on the language spoken by students in the home, gathered in the 2008 Annual School Census, was analyzed, researchers said.

"This shows that 60 percent of London pupils record English as their first language and nearly 40 percent a minority language," Wiggins said in an ESRC release Thursday.

"There are over 40 languages spoken by more than 1,000 pupils."

Bengali, Urdu and Somali are the top languages spoken, he said.

"The language we speak often says more about us than our broad ethnic group; it gives researchers clues about where people come from and their likely socio-economic position, religion and culture," he said.

"But having all these cultures represented in one city is also a source of cultural and creative enrichment. We benefit from the cross fertilization of ideas and it means we live in a more dynamic, multi-faceted society. And global cities attract global companies so it's good for inward investment and tourism."

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