Happy Birthday, MULL!

by Andrew Kirkpatrick

Happy time
Happy time by Ratanaporn Bright – CC BY 4.0

Time has flown by since the Facebook Group, Map of the Urban Linguistic Landscape (or MULL as it is known), was started by Damian Williams and Stephen Greene, a year in fact.

Some of you may have been lucky enough to have seen Damian’s talk at IATEFL in Manchester earlier this year, also given at International House recently, where he talked about the Linguistic Landscapes in greater detail.

It seems that the language around us is constantly changing, evolving and often mixed with other languages, be it on shop signs, t-shirts, vehicle livery, notices, menus, the list quite simply goes on. Sometimes the results are clever, sometimes funny and other times a failure.

Fechado closet
Closet by Jess Andrews – CC BY 4.0

Damian and Stephen would take photographs of language wherever they were, often to the frustration of their family.  The group was created to capture the images of Linguistic Landscapes, discuss the use of the language and allow others to use images for learning and teaching. The Flickr page is used to supplement, categorise and map the locations of the pictures, nearly 1,800 at the moment from Europe (22 countries), Asia and Southeast Asia (15 countries), South America (6 countries), Middle East (6 countries), North and Central America (5 countries), Africa (3 countries) and Australasia (2 countries), with more being added frequently. In addition there is also a blog, where there is talk of a forthcoming book by Messrs Greene and Williams, which should be an interesting read.

Now after a full year of the group, there are nearly 2,600 members and the number keeps growing.  From the group, a community has developed, with regular contributions, combined with healthy and sometimes very lively debate regarding the messages and meanings of images posted within the group.  It is probably fair to say that MULL has inspired many members to look at the landscape in an entirely different way and learn from it.  I know it has inspired me! I am certain that it has become an obsession of many members, or Mullers as perhaps we should be called.

Sew much fun
Sew Much Fun by Vicky Saumell – CC BY 4.0

Being part of MULL is indeed fun, educational and not only opens one’s mind to Linguistic Landscapes, but also opens one’s eyes to the wider Urban Landscape while looking for that next image to post.  Whether it serves to provide you with material for your classroom or just pure entertainment, being part of the group brings a feeling of belonging to a diverse, interesting, knowledgeable and humorous community.

I for one sincerely hope that the group continues growing in numbers and thank it for introducing me to the variety of language used right outside our front doors. I look forward to many more interesting and often amusing posts from its committed members (some of whom perhaps should be?).

To finish, I would like to extend a big thanks to members of this fabulous group, especially the founders, Damian Williams, Stephen Greene.  Happy birthday and here’s to many more years to come.  Happy MULLing and be sure to check out the winner of the recent competition, the Annual MULLars, which is to be announced shortly.

To err is urban
To Err is Urban by Ilá Coimbra – CC BY 4.0

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