Multilingual and multicultural communities are now recognised as complex norms posing challenges and opportunities for integration; and the multimodality of communication challenges how we learn, teach and negotiate language and culture.
Multilingualism is an established norm in many communities. Our research in this area addresses the challenges of, and opportunities offered by, an increasingly multilingual society on education; inter-lingual/cultural modes of accommodation in state-controlled and diasporic public spaces; the expression of identity and belonging through multilingual oral histories; and communication across unscripted languages within a traditionally multilingual society.
Recent focus on multimodality stems from the acknowledgement that language and communication go beyond written and spoken utterances and codes. We not only speak we also gesture, gaze and shift our bodies when we communicate. Communication in the broader sense goes beyond the aural, visual and gestural aspects of language, exploiting non-linguistic resources for making meaning, such as sound, image, or touch. The orchestration of the modalities allows us to understand how language and communication are produced, comprehended and learned. The study of multimodal communication not only applies to in-person communication but also to other forms of communication, such as websites and social media. The availability of cheap digital technology has had the additional effect of increasing multimodal communication across the globe.
Whether we are trying to document an endangered language, to understand how children learn meanings or to investigate emerging forms of digital communication, we need to understand the nature of multimodality and master the technology available to further our research.