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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Kathleen McCarthy launches new project: Bridging the Gap


One of new faculty members, Kathleen McCarthy, is doing some great public engagement work in the local community. ‘Bridging the gap’ is a collaboration between Kathleen McCarthy, the Mile End Community Project, Mahera Ruby, and Special Education Needs Coordinators in East London primary schools. The project is funded by Queen Mary’s Centre for Public Engagement.

The project, currently underway, will create a series of short films and illustrated narratives that aim to promote heritage language use, as well as reconnect and increase cultural awareness across generations within the London Bangladeshi community. A major motivation for this project comes from McCarthy and Ruby’s research as well as the Special Education Needs Coordinators’ teaching experience, which has shown a decline in heritage language use by young children in the community, and in turn reduced engagement with elder members who primarily speak Sylheti. This is in part due to changes in the immediate family network, i.e. less traditional inter-generational living, and also local government cuts in mother tongue language classes. This language gap results in communication breakdown between the youngest and eldest members of the community. This impacts on two major aspects of development:

  • acquisition of heritage languages
  • loss of cultural heritage, where the elder members are a wealth of knowledge.

The films created in this project will be based on inter-generational workshops, where the project will create a ‘barrier free’ communication platform for the transfer of narratives from grandparents to their primary school-aged grandchildren, tapping into a key aspect of early language development. The project will capture historical events and folk tales that are considered to be a key part of Bangladeshi heritage, identity and cultural history.

Some first images from the project have been tweeted by QMUL Public Engagement.