Professor Hilary Footitt, University of Reading


The University of Reading, with the University of Portsmouth and the International NGO Training and Research Centre (INTRAC), Oxford, have received funding from the AHRC for a major three-year project (2015-2018) on The Listening Zones of NGOs: languages and cultural knowledge in development programmes.

Language issues do not tend to have a high profile within NGOs. Discussions at previous workshops, held at the University of Reading and at Aston University, brought together academics and NGO practitioners and have highlighted the challenges the sector faces in using foreign languages in their work. Foreign language policies are often not in place, and funding for translation and interpreting needs tends to be limited. Moreover, evaluative processes usually omit references to languages.

The Listening Zones project aims to explore the role that languages and cultural knowledge play in the policies and practices of development NGOs. It focuses on some of the key issues highlighted by NGO practitioners at the Reading and Aston workshops, including:

  • languages and power relations in the development process
  • organisational awareness of languages and language policies
  • language provision, including working with translators and interpreters
  • communicating with key audiences and partners

The project aims to raise the profile and importance of foreign languages and cultural knowledge in development and to produce practical outputs which are of use to the NGO sector, language practitioners, and academics in International Relations, Development Studies, and languages and translation research.

The Listening Zones of NGOs is designed as an active partnership between academic disciplines and practitioners and aims to increase collaboration and discussion between these groups. Workshops, seminars, and an international conference will be organised to discuss results of the project, present suggestions and receive feedback. Updates on these events will be posted under News and events section on the project website (link below).


Professor Hilary Footitt

Project Website