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Languages and linguistics research

We adopt a broad and interdisciplinary approach to research investigating the nature and functions of language and communication. Our academic staff, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows research key issues related to multilingualism and multiculturalism, language teaching and learning, language policy, identity, migration and diaspora, linguistic landscapes and the neurological and psychological basis of language and thought.

Our approach to research is both innovative and creative, and is characterised by its interdisciplinary approaches and an understanding of language and text - both verbal and visual - as cultural phenomena. We work across the French-, German-, Italian-, Japanese-, Portuguese-, and Spanish-speaking worlds, maintaining a wide variety of disciplinary orientations and interdisciplinary practices, including literature, word and image studies, political, intellectual, military and cultural history, critical theory, philosophy, theology, gender studies, film, urban studies, art history, cultural geography, visual culture and environmental humanities.

Our academics and students come together to share ideas and create synergies in our research centres and networks, which include the Centre for French, Francophone and Comparative Studies (CFFCS) and the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS).

We seek to engage with and learn from stakeholders in various fields and diverse communities in order to co-produce knowledge that will bring about change. We are particularly committed to addressing issues of multilingualism and multiculturalism. An example of this is our recent impact case studies where we have addressed the experiences of psychotherapeutic dialogue between multilingual clients and counsellors and the issues around multilingualism and language policy at the United Nations.

We support a large postgraduate community, with a portfolio of specialist MA and MRes degrees and an MPhil/PhD programme. Postgraduate study is energised by innovative doctoral training events, courses and internship opportunities.


Our academics and researchers work together via a wide range of networks, groups and societies. These cut across schools, subjects and areas of expertise, to encourage and enable innovative, interdisciplinary research.


Key partners that we have worked with recently are the Red T and Colleagues without Borders charities supporting interpreters and translators in conflict areas, the Compass Project supporting London asylum seekers, the Bloomsbury Festival, The Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show, and The Queen Square Archives and Museum.

We have formed a number of other partnerships to support our research, including collaborations between British and Japanese institutions for the project Japanese Documentary Filmmaker Haneda Sumiko. BIMI, Japan Research Centre (SOAS) in the UK, and Meiji Gakuin and Waseda University in Japan were all involved. 

We have collaborated with Waseda University in Tokyo and Université Libre de Bruxelles for the organisation of the symposium National and Transnational Cinemas.

For seminars on Transnationality in Japanese Screen Image: People, Culture, Society, we have partnered with Nagoya University.

Our research centre, Birkbeck Research in Aesthetics of Kinship and Community, has worked closely with Crisis and Communitas at the University of Zürich and Communauté des Chercheurs sur la Communauté.

Our ongoing collaborative research programme with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on connecting scientific and indigenous communities of knowledge in Amazonia involves partners in the UK, Brazil and Germany, including the Santo Domingo Centre of Excellence for Latin American Research at the British Museum, the Instituto Socioambiental - ISAthe Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, the Federação das Organizações Indígenas do Alto Rio Negro and the Berlin Ethnologishes Museum.

The Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies, in collaboration with Birkbeck Knowledge Lab, has worked with the Instituto de Lengua y Cultura Aymara (ILCA), in La Paz, Bolivia, in partnership with museums in the UK, Bolivia, Peru and Chile in the research project Weaving Communities of Practice. In addition, CILAVS' members are collaborating with the Museu Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.