Ever wondered how many languages there are in the world? Interested in how dolphins communicate? Nick Bloom tells us more…
Ever wondered how many languages there are in the world? Interested in how dolphins communicate? Intrigued by the mysteries of Wolof? Concerned by the threat of global unilingualism? Desperate to discover the similarities between Finnish and Hungarian? Or simply keen to mug up on the French you learnt at school all those years ago?
Welcome to Mundolingua: a languages, language and linguistics museum…Mundolingua is truly the only one of its kind in the world.
Welcome to Mundolingua: a languages, language and linguistics museum in Paris’ 6th arrondissement, and a stone’s throw away from L’Église Saint-Sulpice. Founded in October 2013 by Mark Oremland – a languages enthusiast and voracious traveller – Mundolingua is truly the only one of its kind in the world.
Covering a range of topics including phonetics, language death, etymology and linguistic imperialism, the museum displays 40 interactive alcoves, all translated into the six languages of the United Nations and adorned with maps, puzzles, quizzes, games and academic journals. The museum has even conducted research into the impact of alcohol on the brain’s capacity to interpret and process foreign languages, something I’m sure all Bristol Year Abroaders can relate to!
Mundolingua is also a treasure-trove of relics and artefacts,
Like any good museum, Mundolingua is also a treasure-trove of relics and artefacts, including radios and telephones dating back to the 1920s, an exact replica of the Rosetta Stone (the original can be found at the British Museum), and the Declaration of Human Rights translated into hundreds of different languages. Descend the mythic Tower of Babel and lose yourself in the past, present and future of languages; it’s no wonder that David Crystal – the renowned British linguist, academic and author – came to speak at the museum last year.
Since I have been working at Mundolingua as an intern, I have been able to chat to an Esperantist about the virtues of constructed languages, attend a conference on Bulgarian languages, debate the dominance of English in the European Union, explore the intricacies of whistled languages and investigate the ancient myths of language creation. Every week I marvel at my colleagues’ ability to speak several complicated languages and at the linguistic diversity of the people that come through our doors.
my primary focus is to spread the word.
However, fascinating all of this may be, my primary focus is to spread the word. In such a tiny, niche marketplace, the museum’s greatest challenge is to harness its unique selling point, expand its consumer base and strengthen the visibility of its brand image.
That’s why we have recently modernised the Mundolingua website, revitalising our Facebook page and launching an Instagram account in an attempt to kick-start a consolidated media plan and drive engagement online. On Thursday 20th April, we will be hosting an event on Ludwik Zamenhof, who devised Esperanto in 1887, as part of our series of monthly conferences.
I am also hoping to launch my own project this summer, creating a ‘Polyglot Club’ in a bar nearby the museum, whereby Mundolingua devotees – “Les Amis de Mundolingua” – would participate in a language exchange in a relaxed, sociable environment. This idea is based on the principle that the most efficient and rewarding method to master foreign languages is through conversation with a native speaker, stepping out of your comfort zone and making frequent mistakes rather than pouring over a grammar book.
We firmly believe that Mundolingua can be a practical asset to all language learners, as well as an inspiration to linguists all over the world. So next time you’re off on a city break to Paris, I urge you, linguist or not, to pop your head in and see for yourself!
Where have your travels taken you? Let us know at @e2travel