Street languages: the collective landscapes of the languages around us

As we walk through the streets of the city, we tend not to notice the wealth of announcements, fliers, stickers, graffiti, street art, etc. with which other people address us. However, these signs create an urban landscape in which several processes become evident: 

  • social, cultural and demographic processes, such as the increase of inter/national 

mobility or the internationalization of higher education;

  • urban processes, such as the commodification and privatization of public space, gentrification, touristification or ghettoization;
  • the forms of coexistence (assimilation, segregation, interculturality, etc.) between social groups and languages that occur, and how they are reflected in our daily landscape; 
  • the sociolinguistic order: which languages are present, and which are not; how their use is regulated; the hierarchies and values assigned to them (for instance, the value of English versus Berber languages, or the invisibility of Spanish co-official languages in the universities of Madrid);
  • the linguistic/social policies at play: how institutions (city hall, university) regulate this coexistence with rules and usage.

Second-year undergraduates of the BA degree in Modern Languages, Culture and Communication at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid got involved in this activity, walking the streets of the city to identify, locate, photograph, and analyze signs in the public space, and to make proposals to transform the space and the underlying language policies, to achieve linguistic justice for all inhabitants. 

The result of the activity is now shown on this page: a collective landscape of neighborhoods and institutions in Madrid that make up a mosaic of groups, languages and realities showing the complexity and richness of our environment, and our chances to become agents of change. 

Visit the landscapes that the student teams agreed to disseminate

FACULTAD FyL UAM (Yael Cimas, Sofía Gómez, Natalia Marcos, Cristina Partida): 

BARRIO DE SALAMANCA (Laura Pellegrino, María Sánchez, Maïta Pallu, Laurine Graveleau, Ivan Paredes): 

BARRIO DE LAVAPIÉS (Aída Cajaravile, Elena González, Jasmín Soto, Raquel Oviedol): 

BARRIO DE ALUCHE (Emma Herrero, Javiera Inostroza, Ana Monforte):

BARRIO DE USERA (Sara Gómez, Constantino Settino, Lidia Sola, Lucía Villegas, Edward Wills): 

COLMENAR VIEJO (Lucía de León, Maria Moll, Laura Marino, María García, Ana Rosales):

BARRIO DE CHAMARTÍN-TETUÁN (Alba Otárola, Mario Zapata, Luna Fonseca, Marta Gimeno, Ana Sánchez):

BARRIO DE MALASAÑA (Andrea Pérez, Celia Moreno, Carlota Martinez, June Lacoste): 

CASCO ANTIGUO DE TOLEDO (Amalia Leo, Lorena Martínez, Maria Fuerte): 

We designed this Linguistic Landscape activity to observe and collectively reflect on how neighbors and institutions create the urban landscape.