Festivals, Cultural and City Events

Science Festival Interview with Dr Thomas Bak

Dr Thomas Bak of the University's School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences is helping bring a pub quiz with a difference to this year’s Science Festival.

Dr Thomas Bak

Trivia and teaser questions will feature in Who Wants to be Multilingual?, which takes place at the Summerhall Anatomy Lecture Theatre at 8pm on Tuesday 29 March.


Why have you opted for a pub quiz format for your event?

Many people associate unfortunately language learning with hard work, painful effort and frustration; for me, language learning is a lot of fun and excitement; so I thought the format of the pub quiz would be more appropriate.


What can people coming along to your event expect to experience?

I hope they will have fun and feel well entertained; and they might be surprised about some things they learn.


What do you hope participants can get out of coming along?

I hope they might learn some interesting things and maybe even lose some old prejudices and reservations that surround language learning.


Why is this event timely?

Interest in languages is increasing and this for many good reasons – we will discuss some of them at the event.


Why is taking part in the science festival important to you?

I love communicating with a range of people; and communicating is for me always a two-way street: I hope I can teach them something interesting but I can also learn a lot myself.


Why is it important that the University takes part in the science festival?

To explain what we are doing in our research, why and how, and above all, why it matters.


Does engaging with the public challenge you, and if so how?

It is a fascinating challenge, like climbing a Munro; I like to think how to formulate my results to be understandable for everybody and particularly how to explain their everyday relevance.


What impact does your work have on society?

I hope it will encourage a lot of people of all ages either to learn a new language or to practice or revive one that they already know a little; also, I hope it will encourage parents to teach their children the languages they know.


How does your work with non-scientists affect how you carry out your day-to-day role?

Thinking how best to convey my results makes me think better about them and hence understand them better; and often people from other specialties will know things I am not aware of and can give me very good advice.