World of Languages

The diversity of languages

Language and communication surround us all, everywhere in the world, quite naturally and mostly unconsciously. At the Humboldt-Forum Berlin – which is dedicated to the dialogue of cultures – an exhibition was to be created that focuses on the diversity of languages. Together with the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin, we have developed a playground for linguistic communication, a humanities science centre where visitors can interactively contribute their own language and culture.

Language Experimental Field

Language doesn’t work without us and an exhibition about it doesn’t work either. Language is changeable, alive, it cannot be touched and can only be viewed to a limited extent. The exhibition is about bringing the richness of language to life: what we carry within us, what makes up our and other linguistic and cultural identities, what perspectives we and others take on. The interactive exhibits provide an opportunity to explore language as an experimental field, to become active oneself, to contribute our linguistic and cultural wealth of experience and to learn from others.

Exhibits for the world of languages

In cooperation with the ZLB, we have developed a total of 30 interactive and participative exhibits for the world of languages, which enable visitors to experience a wealth of linguistic phenomena. They show intercultural opportunities and obstacles and encourage dialogue. The Language Sound Memory was exemplarily realised and exhibited in the Humboldt Box in 2015.

Space of Vowels – Visitors can explore the sound of vowels in the space of vowels. Depending on their position, they hear the vowels mixed differently: which ones sound familiar and which ones are completely strange? Vowels that are typical for a language are recognizable in a graphic on the floor.
Compulsion to speak – For example, the three articles 'der, die, das' in German or other languages draw our attention in a certain direction to the description of the nature of an object (round, elongated, solid, soft). Visitors can try this out on the exhibit.
Hearing things – Depending on the point of view, a thing is described differently by several people. Our perception is shaped by our cultural experiences and knowledge.
Room semantics – How do we describe where things are? In Europe we orient ourselves egocentrically or deictically: left, right, up, down. Other cultures orientate themselves absolutely or intrinsically: the rice bowl is handed in the direction of sunrise, a child lies its head 'uphill'. The figures in the playing field describe the same places very differently.
Experience Language - "The true home is actually the language", Wilhelm von Humboldt stated. Here people from Berlin tell their personal experiences with language. Touch the 3D figurines to start the videos.
Body images – Let's take a heart or walk around 'headless'. Visitors learn which body metaphors apply in different cultures by selecting language and body part on the screen.
Language and colours – red like love, yellow with envy and Mondays can be blue – colours and their meaning run through our language, but not the same everywhere. In the spatial presentation one can discover which colour associations are similar or very different in the cultures.
Distance space – How close do we get when speaking? In this interactive game on body communication, visitors try out what distance they feel is right in different linguistic and cultural areas. Once you have found this distance, you will hear the greeting in the appropriate language.


Conception and scenography

  • Positioning and thematization
  • Development of visit dramaturgy and Main Idea
  • Content development and exhibition concept
  • Media conception
  • Development of interactive exhibits

Design and planning

  • Basic design for exhibition
  • Scenographic design

Project information

  • Client: Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin (ZLB)
  • Execution period: 07/2014 – 02/2015

Contact person

Bernhard Kehrer

Executive Management