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sound - Languages of London

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The many languages of London

Nín hǎo, as-salam alaykum and bongiorno! There are many ways of saying hello in London, home to almost eight million people who speak about three hundred languages.

What you have just heard in the slideshow above is 11 of these languages. It is a sample of what you might hear when walking five minutes from Oxford Circus to Bond Street in central London.

London is a multilingual melting pot of different nationalities and cultures. And event though the city houses the grandeur of places like Buckingham Palace and the British Museum, it is the multiculturalism in London that really makes the city what it is.  

I believe that this is the main reason why so many people move to London. They say, just like I did before I moved here from Sweden: “I want to be in an international environment; a place where I can step out of my house in the morning and meet the whole world just within a few blocks from my home;” “I want to be in London because I want to become a citizen of the world.”

There are not many cities part from London, where people can come and apply for a job using their native language as a merit. It is not unusual to find offices in London that employ people from over ten different nationalities, just to be able to perform its function. 

The sounds of different languages are heard everywhere. If you go to a crowded place, close your eyes and listen carefully, the music of languages emerges through the rumbling traffic.

London multiculturalism

It always surprises me how a human mouth can form such a variety of sounds with so many different meanings.  In a sense, this is what is so intriguing about exploring the multicultural London.

Each language brings with it new ways interpreting, expressing and understanding things. And even though you might know only one or two out of all the spoken tongues, the language of London expands with each new culture that exists within its realm. 

There were ten people at the last dinner party I went to here in London, and in that party alone, we had a congregation of 15 nationalities. We all spoke English, but each and every one of us did that with our own cultural luggage, embedded in our way of using the English language.

All of these languages were merged into a unique but shared way of understanding each other. It is experiences like this that makes London into a whole world of its own.  

 

Words, Images & Sound by Michel Kolijn

More articles by the author:

Human touch in Trafalgar Square

A sensory journey of smell in Kew Gardens

 

 

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