How can aid agencies effectively support communities and ‘listen to their needs’ if their staff don’t speak the local language? In an article written for The Conversation, Professor Hilary Footitt and Dr Wine Tesseur tell us about their research which sheds light on the issues and identifies ways to address them.
Reproduced under Creative Commons licence
After the Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal in Haiti hit the headlines earlier this year, 22 aid agencies published an open letter declaring that they would “take every step to right our wrongs and eradicate abuse in our industry”. They made a commitment to “listen and take action”.
There is nothing new about NGOs claiming that they “listen” to communities and act on their feedback. A cursory glance at NGO publicity materials reveals that they typically claim that they empower communities by listening and involving them in decisions about aid projects.
It is therefore reasonable to assume that aid workers share the same language as local communities (or at least that they use good interpreters). Otherwise, how could aid providers and aid recipients communicate with one another effectively? You might also assume that it is relatively easy to translate basic development terms into local languages. Development NGOs promote common goals, such as gender equality and human rights. Surely organisations must use common interpretations of these words when interacting with the people that they aim to help?
But our research suggests that this is typically not the case. We conducted a three-year project to explore the role of languages in international development, in conjunction with UK-based NGO INTRAC. We interviewed dozens of NGOs, officials from the UK’s Department of International Development (DfID), and conducted field research in developing countries. Our data led us to arrive at three startling conclusions.
A joint session for Heritage & Creativity and Prosperity & Resilience on the topic of Early Career (Independent Post-doctoral) Fellowship Schemes. This session will introduce the range of schemes and the support provided by the University to develop applications. You will hear from current post-doctoral fellows and their mentors on what makes a successful application.
Tuesday 26th June 13.00 – 14.30
- Introduction and welcome
- Overview of fellowship schemes
- Experience of a mentor
- Experience of a fellow
If you would like to attend please email Nicola Flynn to book a place (firstname.lastname@example.org). Location will be confirmed in due course.
An MQ-9 Reaper drone on a runway
By Dr Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne,
Associate Professor in Public International Law, University of Reading
A recent BBC news article reported on the development of a new, smaller type of armed drone that is able to aim and fire at targets in mid-flight, close to the ground. The drone is available for private sale, and the article notes the concern that such weapons technology could fall into the ‘wrong hands’ and be employed by terrorist organisations to target civilians. Indeed, it has been reported that Islamic State now uses low-cost drones in lethal ways by attaching explosives to them.
It is right to ask what happens if these weapons fall into the ‘wrong hands’. But whose, then, are the ‘right hands’? The assumption here, of course, is that States will use drones in a more reasonable, limited and law-abiding way. But we must not lose sight of the dangers potentially posed by drones in the hands of States.
This free event organised by the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM) will bring together researchers and practitioners from France, the UK, and the USA who work with bilingual children with language impairment. The workshop will address the challenge of identifying language impairment in bilingual children. It will illustrate assessment material for bilingual children, explore the use of parent and teacher interviews, standardized tests, and narrative language sampling to support clinical decision making regarding diagnosis and intervention processes. Attendees will interpret standardized test data and use assessment protocols for making decisions based on language sampling that can be employed in everyday practice with bilingual children.
Maximum number of attendees: 40
This free event will look into contemporary suggestions about the neuroprotective effects of bi-/multilingualism against brain decline in healthy and patient populations. It will bring together early career and established researchers in the fields of second language acquisition and cognitive/clinical neuroscience, and will comprise a state-of-the-art snapshot in the field, as well as discuss potential future directions for research.
Professor Rhona Stainthorp will be giving a public lecture about multilingual literacy development. The event, hosted by the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM), aims to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities multilingual children face when they learn how to read and write in more than one language.
Successful reading and writing involves coordinating word reading and spelling processes with language comprehension processes including vocabulary knowledge. Multilingual literacy involves coordinating these processes in at least two languages and two writing systems. We need to understand how the writing systems work to appreciate the challenges and opportunities faced by young literacy learners.
The public lecture will be followed by a roundtable discussion with Q&A with Professor Rhona Stainthorp, Professor Ludovica Serratrice, Dr Naomi Flynn, and education practitioners. Before the public lecture, guests can attend our art exhibition titled ‘Point of Entry’ by Duncan Swann.
Admission is free, but booking is required.
My name is Penélope, I am an architect activist/researcher from Venezuela, and part of the academic team of new School of Architecture.
Caracas, where I grew up, is a beautiful and exciting city, with great architecture, lively cultural scene, friendly people, delicious food, and the beautiful mountain Cerro Ávila. Sadly, in the last decade, Venezuela has become extremely politically polarised while Caracas is now one of the most violent cities in the world. The fear of being a victim of violence has compelled most people to entrench themselves in their homes. But this creates a vicious cycle, because the less we inhabit our streets and public spaces the more dangerous they become, and with time they fade from our mental, emotional and cultural map of the city.
I had always admired the work of Candy Chang, Rebar Group, Maya Lin, FLIX and the urban artivism collective Ser Urbano (of which I was an active member). I realised that as an architect I not only had the creativity and skills to design and make buildings but also to positively transform how the city is perceived, occupied and inhabited, even through small but significant interventions in urban space. So I decided to take action.
‘Fine-grained patterns of language use contribute to variance in bilingual language processing.’
Joanna John, University of Reading
‘Effect of socio-economic status on cognitive control in non-literate bilingual speakers.’
Dr Vishnu Kaleeckal Krishnankutty Nair, Flinders University, Australia
4.15 – 5.30pm
‘How do you read a language you can’t hear? Insights into literacy from children who are deaf.’
Mairead McSweeney, University College London
The Fate of the West
The Decline and Revival of the World’s Most Successful Political Idea
Bill Emmott, former editor of the Economist
Free entry. No reservation necessary.
The idea of ‘the West’ has underpinned our prosperity and security for over seven decades. It stands for democratic institutions and values, a rules-based system of steadily freer trade, and a common European and Atlantic defence through NATO. Now it is under threat from within, as national-populists from Budapest to Washington seek not more democracy but authoritarian rule, not freer trade but protectionism, not common security but narrow national interest.
This is the alarming context in which the UK general election is taking place. Few people are better placed to analyse it than Bill Emmott, who presents his new book The Fate of the West at the University of Reading’s Van Emden Theatre on Tuesday 9 May at 7PM. Bill Emmott was editor of the Economist for thirteen years, has dissected the malaise of countries as distant as Japan and Italy, and is currently an independent writer and consultant, contributing to a wide range of publications and blogs including In Facts. He is joint founder of the Wake Up Foundation, a charity dedicated to using film, text and data for public education about the decline of Western societies. But The Fate of the West is not a cry of despair; rather, it is a tool kit for those of us who want to see Western values revive and prevail.