‘I don’t do blogs’. This limpid excuse won’t pass muster with our doughty administrator, and so here are some opening words to inaugurate our Institute of Modern Languages Research‘s blog. Blogs are twenty-first century inventions, as is the IMLR. In fact the word is first recorded in 1998, when I was in my mid-forties and still putting pen to paper – hence the reluctance. Apparently ‘blog’ derives from ‘web-log’ or ‘weblog’, logging your movements on the web. Before the mid-1990s it meant nothing – bloke perhaps or, in the plural, Joe Bloggs? And now, this neat little word, so typical of English, has been adopted by most languages: ‘un blog’ in Spanish, where writing them is ‘blogusimo’ and the people who write them ‘blogueros’; ‘discuter de blog’ in French, and a pithier way of saying ‘digitale Netztagebücher’ in German (as ‘app’ a pithier of way of saying ‘Anwendungen für mobile Endgeräte’). But in Arabic (in Roman script) ‘blog’ is ‘mudawwana’. What’s ‘blog’ in your language? Is it easily pronounced? In Spanish it can be assimilated without too much fuss, though there are rather few Spanish words beginning with ‘bl’ + vowel: interestingly, only 15 or so starting with ‘blo’.
Apparently, to write a successful blog you must have one very specific message. So my message is this: the Institute of Modern Languages Research, located in the handsome Senate House of the University of London, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, is open for business. There are not many of us (5.5 academic staff and 2 administrators), but we are government-funded and we are here for you, so use us. What can we offer? Bespoke, personal attention, one-to-one advice, heaps of experience, some space and, above all, potential funding.
Bring us your ideas for conferences, workshops, seminars or public engagement events on any topic to do with research in Modern Languages. We like taking risks, working across languages and disciplines, trying something new. We want to hear from researchers, postgraduates and undergraduates, journalists, publishers, writers, translators, government agencies, the general public – anyone in the UK and beyond who is interested in the serious and rigorous study of the languages, cultures, histories and societies of the non-Anglophone parts of the world which, believe it or not, are still vast and flourishing.
If you are on research leave and would like a London base and access to the Senate House Library, check out our visiting fellowships scheme. This scheme is particularly useful for postdoctoral researchers who have yet to find an academic or related post. A visiting fellowship with a prestigious institution such as the IMLR will allow you to keep up your research profile, turn your thesis into a book, write those articles, organise a conference or workshop and make key contacts. You may be stacking shelves at Tesco to keep the wolf from the door, but this makes no difference – you can still keep up your research and build up your CV. We will support and encourage you in every way. This is what we are here for.
Catherine Davies, Professor of Hispanic and Latin American Studies
Director, Institute of Modern Languages Research