Sharon Unsworth is a language scientist at Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, where she researches the language development of bilingual children. She is the Scientific Director of Kletskoppen, an initiative which she set up in 2017 together with colleagues at Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. Sharon feels a strong sense of responsibility to share the insights obtained through scientific research with a broader public, and as a first-generation student herself she is keen to encourage all children to engage with science, no matter their background. Sharon is also the host and maker of the podcast Kletsheads, a spin-off project from Kletskoppen. Kletsheads is a podcast about bilingual children for parents, teachers, and speech language therapists, and is available in both English and Dutch.
Kletskoppen (Chatterboxes) is a child language festival organized by researchers at Radboud University and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Our mission is to educate, inform and entertain.
During the festival, held in the city’s central library, language researchers engage children aged 2 to 12 and their (grand)parents in science-based demonstrations, games, and talks. Kletskoppen shows that you can do serious science with language and that it is both fun and interesting to do so. Our activities also include a series of lessons introducing children to the profession scientist using language science, roadshows in local libraries and community centres, and online games and webinars.
To reach children with limited science capital, we collaborate with educational and social organisations at the local and national level who work with our target audience and include members from the relevant communities. Migrant children feel empowered when their linguistic and cultural expertise is considered an asset rather than a liability, and girls, who are more likely to study languages in school, can see it as a gateway into science. Language is something everyone, young and old, is familiar with. As such, everyone has the potential to become a language scientist.