The 2015 Language Awareness Flashmob at Leeds Railway Station
This year was the first time that I had actively taken part in celebrating International Translation Day, and what a way to do it! The whole event, right from planning and organising through to actually doing it was a joy and I had so much fun.
What we may have lacked in quantity, we more than made up for in quality as our “flashmobbers” were enthusiastic, patient and resilient when interacting with the busy Leeds commuters. As a student of Portuguese, I thought it would be a great opportunity to practice my speaking skills during the flashmob by asking people if they knew where the University was. The first couple of people I asked didn’t have a clue as to what I was saying and shrugged apologetically. However, my third unknowing participant responded in a lovely Brazilian accent! He proceeded to walk me out of the station and show me the road I needed to take to get to university whilst explaining that was from Chile and his wife was Brazilian. I thought to myself, what were the odds of actually asking someone that speaks Portuguese at the Leeds Railway Station? Just goes to show how multilingual Leeds is!
I proceeded to do a lap of the station (since I couldn't just follow the helpful Chilean man back inside when he had gone to such lengths to show me where to go) and I thought I would ask just once more. Outside the Queen’s hotel were two men waiting for a taxi. It turned out that they were two Scots who were visiting Leeds and suggested I ask the hotel’s Doorman, as they didn't know the area at all. The Doorman was brilliant; overly helpful with giving me very thorough directions and he even tried to learn a bit of Portuguese!
As I piece together the footage to create a short video, I witness over and over again the receptiveness and tolerance of Leeds commuters and general public, and I am inspired by how multilingual the Leeds community is. I was also encouraged by the universal desire to help and to engage with one another, regardless of any ‘language barriers’ and I think fellow flashmobber Juan hit the nail on the head when he said “languages are to unite, not to separate”.
The final video will be published very soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t seen it yet, watch the teaser video here.