What does it mean to speak Sylheti in Tower Hamlets? Who speaks Sylheti who doesn’t? What do people think and feel about their languages and is this changing? Do younger people feel differently than older generations and what will the future look like for Sylheti?
If these questions about language interest you, you may want to know more about a new PhD research project taking place in the Osmani Centre. Doctoral researcher Becky Winstanley based at SOAS and Goldsmiths, University of London, will be researching all these questions and her work will be supported by the Osmani Trust. The project will take place over the next four years and she will be trying to understand the language choices people make when speaking to each other. To do this she will be getting involved in some of the activities in the centre and she will also be conducting interviews in order to hear from people directly about their experiences and opinions about speaking Sylheti. She will also be interested in the other languages Sylheti speakers are using, even if that means just a few words, or maybe just being able to understand others when they speak; for example Bengali, Arabic, English, Somali and Italian.
One of her key questions is how the languages we speak can affect our daily lives and identities and how they can impact on the quality of our lives.
This is a very exciting project and we hope many will want to be part of it.
Becky is an experienced researcher in Sociolinguistics who has done a number of other projects related to language in Tower Hamlets and she has also worked as an ESOL teacher in the borough for more than 20 years. She is also learning Sylheti herself. Kamrul will be the link person for this project and will support Becky with her work in the Osmani centre.
If you would like to hear more and get involved or speak to Becky about the project, contact Kamrul or look for regular updates on the Osmani Trust website.