London Language Show presentation now online

I recently presented at the London Language Show on behalf of Routes into Languages with Irena Holdsworth from Routes South West and Sarah Schechter from Routes East. Our presentation: What Routes into Languages can do for you and your school focused on exciting projects that help to take languages out of the classroom and is now online.



Language Show Live October 2012

I went to the Language Show Live on Sunday. I was working on the Routes into Languages exhibition stand together with Sarah Schechter from Routes East. We had a really interesting day chatting to MFL teachers (including some of the Twitterati), language students and other visitors who came by to talk to us and to find out what Routes is all about. There was considerable interest in Routes into Languages activities and resources. The Language Factor Song Competition  run by Routes London seemed to inspire many teachers as did the World Festivals Wall Planner from the LLAS team and an A-level German resource, die Mauer about the Berlin Wall which has been produced by Routes Yorkshire and the Humber. Although many of the visitors to our stand were familiar with Routes into Languages, there were lots of new faces too.

I also managed to take a look around at other exhibitors – there were some excellent resources on display and in particular, the EU stand opposite us was buzzing with excitement. Towards the end of the day, I attended a fascinating session run by Jenny Turner on making apps. All in all it was definitely a worthwhile day.

Reflections on the Language Futures Conference and the Welsh multilingual Spelling Bee final

I attended the first day of the LLAS Higher Education Language Futures Conference in Edinburgh recently. It was a really inspiring day with so much interesting input about what is going on in languages in HE and, as always, it was great to meet up with old friends.

I chaired a couple of sessions – firstly Liz Andersen and Nick Johnston from the Routes into Languages North East team talked about the development of the student language ambassador module at Newcastle University and then Sarah Schechter and Mary Brittain from Routes into Languages East and East Midlands presented findings from a sustainability audit, which covered a range of themes, including the contribution of Routes into Languages to the student experience and employability in languages and the role of Routes in widening participation and fair access (the full sustainability report is available here – The second session I chaired involved Fiona Graham from the European Commission who drew attention to the role of, and demand for, translators in the Commission. Fiona was followed by Anne Marie Graham who reported on research she has been doing for Routes into Languages examining public service interpreting and translating provision in English HE. She also presented a new website, which will be a repository and community of practice for teaching and learning materials in PSIT –

Afternoon plenary sessions included Ros Mitchell from Southampton University who spoke about residence abroad for languages students in a globalised world – she was referring to an ongoing research study, which looks as though it has fascinating findings about linguistic progress and the use of the target language in different settings. The day’s proceedings finished with a really informative presentation on language policy in Scotland by Sarah Breslin, Director of Scottish CILT. The languages picture in Scotland is looking optimistic at the moment with the new 2+1 policy for primary schools.

All good stuff – I was only sorry not to be able to stay for the second day. Conference presentations will appear here soon:

Onto the Wales national final of the languages Spelling Bee…

Last week I set off on a long train journey to Aberystwyth with my colleague, Claire Wilkins for the Welsh Spelling Bee final. As it was graduation week at Aberystwyth Uni, we couldn’t get accommodation there so ended up staying in Welshpool, which was lovely and very scenic. We continued by train to Aberystwyth the next day and had a conversation with a teacher who was taking one of her pupils to the Spelling Bee! The venue for the final was the superb National Library of Wales. The event kicked off with the 4 year 7 finalists in Spanish, followed by Welsh second language, French and finally German. Performances were really impressive – the standard of spelling was very high throughout. Afterwards I did a bit of sightseeing in Aberystwyth …..

I was then joined by my husband and we spent the weekend walking in the very beautiful Elan Valley….

Researching university outreach with schools in modern and community languages – 10 useful sources

Languages outreach activities usually have two main aims: to motivate young people to continue with their language learning and to broaden the social profile of language students. The following is a selection of reports, conference papers and research publications, which cover UK-based languages outreach involving universities and schools in modern and community languages (it’s not an exhaustive list). This is a small but growing field, which is largely practical rather than theoretical.

Numbers 1-8 are openly accessible online.

1     Outreach in Modern Languages: A Dfes funded report mapping cross-sector collaboration  – Davis (2006)

Davis surveyed the field of cross-sector collaboration between universities and schools on behalf of the then Department for Children, Schools and Families, following the recommendations of the Footitt Report (2005) on the National Languages Strategy in Higher Education. Davis’ findings are based on the results of a questionnaire study of schools and universities, case study interviews and web-based research. She found evidence of considerable cross-sector collaboration, much of which was aimed at promoting languages. Initial teacher training was reported to be the most frequent reason for collaborating. However, Davis concluded that outreach activities were ‘ad hoc, uncoordinated and dependent upon enthusiastic staff and students’ (p. 4).

2       Cross-sector collaborative activities to promote modern languages in Scotland – Doughty (2008)

The Davis report was replicated in Scotland on behalf of the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies. Doughty (2008) set out to identify good practice in cross-sector activities in Scottish schools, universities and FE colleges. Information was collected from questionnaire surveys, interviews and web-based research. As in England, promoting languages was found to be the most common aim of outreach activities. Presentations to school students were the most frequent example of universities working with schools. Doughty also reported that outreach was dependent on the good will of individuals and that lack of time acted as a significant barrier.

3        Routes into Languages: Report on Teacher and Pupil Attitude Surveys  Canning, Gallagher-Brett, Tartarini & McGuinness (2010)

This report presents findings from a questionnaire survey with teachers and two pupil questionnaires in 54 schools in England, which have participated in Routes into Languages activities. Routes is a national outreach programme in England and Wales which aims to increase participation in language learning through collaboration between universities and schools. The questionnaires sought to find out about pupils’ attitudes to language learning; teachers’ perceptions of their pupils’ attitudes and their views on the impact of Routes into Languages. Teachers were overwhelmingly positive about the impact of Routes. In particular, they stressed that it had increased pupil motivation and uptake of languages, improved teaching and learning in specific areas and raised the profile of languages in their schools. Pupils were found to have largely favourable attitudes to languages and there were indications of positive attitudinal change between the first and second questionnaires (following engagement with Routes into Languages activities).

4       Promoting the study of languages in the South East through school and university partnerships: the Aim Higher Kent and Medway Languages Project – Gallardo (2008)

This paper describes a project, which brought together two universities, eleven schools and an FE college, local authorities, children’s services and Aim Higher (sadly no longer with us) in the Medway area of Kent.

The project set out to promote language learning and intercultural awareness and to raise aspirations of progression into higher education among students aged 14-19 in schools in an area of socio-economic deprivation. A wide range of project activities were designed, including workshops delivered by undergraduate student language ambassadors and sixth form mentors. Evaluation of the project showed a positive impact on students’ attitudes as well as favourable feedback from teachers.

5    University of Southampton’s Score in French Project: Football-related materials and pupil motivation    – McCall (2009)

Score in French is a Routes into Languages South outreach project, which aims to motivate year 8 students through the use of football resources and an inter-school tournament. Participating teachers were provided with a resource pack, including activities designed to increase integrative motivation. Local French players from Southampton Football Club also got involved. Post-project questionnaires revealed that Score in French was enjoyed by both boys and girls and teachers perceived that it had helped improve pupil motivation.

There is a more detailed write-up of the project in the Language Learning Journal, 39 (1), 5-18, which discusses project outcomes in the light of language learning motivation research.

6     Promoting less-widely-taught languages: The outreach experience of the Foreign Languages Awareness Group for Schools   – Polisca (2007)

Polisca describes a project at the University of Manchester, which aimed to promote languages of the wider world and to enhance links between the university and schools and colleges in the locality. The idea was for student ambassadors to go into schools and deliver taster sessions in Italian, Portuguese and Russian and a careers presentation to sixth formers. Ambassadors then continued to mentor the sixth formers by means of WebCT. Feedback from the project was encouraging and there were indications that it had the potential to increase uptake. Polisca discusses a range of problems that arose and also highlights the transferability of the project to other contexts.

7       Widening Participation: A case studyWatts (2006)

Watts reports on a small case study involving language studies students from the University of Brighton and pupils from a South London secondary school. The university students hosted two exploratory visits for the school pupils, all of whom had English as an Additional Language and refugee status. The visits were aimed at making the school pupils more familiar with the university environment and at providing the undergraduates with experience of working with EAL learners.

The project was considered to be successful for all parties. The school students enjoyed visiting the university facilities and commented on the usefulness of the information they received. This then led to the establishment of a series of widening participation projects across the University.

8     Keep Talking  – Wyburd & Chadha (2006)

Keep Talking was a University of Manchester outreach project, which was aimed at motivating learners in KS3. It started out as a collaboration between the University and those local schools, which were finding it difficult to persuade their students to take languages at GCSE.

The project had three strands and involved sending student language ambassadors into schools, providing workshops for KS3 learners and organising mini-conferences for teachers. Outcomes of the project were found to be encouraging for both learners and teachers. In particular, participants reported having a more positive view of the University.

9       Promoting community language learning in the UK – Handley (2011) Language Learning Journal, 39 (2), 149-162

This article reports on the work of the COLT Project (Routes into Languages North West), which provides outreach activities for schools, which specifically aim to promote community language learning. The project team has organised Language Enrichment Events for school pupils in Arabic, Chinese, Italian and Urdu at the five partner universities in North-West England. They also developed a teacher education module for teachers alongside. Pupils were surveyed by questionnaire before and after events and then they also subsequently completed a longer-term tracking questionnaire. Findings showed an improvement in attitudes towards these languages, which was sustained over the longer term.

10     My UniSpace: applying e-mentoring to language learning – McCall (2011) Language Learning Journal 39 (3), 313-328

This article describes a project in which a group of university language students provided online mentoring to school students in years 10 – 13 (aged between 14 and 18 years). The aims of the project were to help young learners (the mentees) develop their language learning skills and to boost the employability of the university mentors.

Most mentors and mentees were found to benefit from the programme although this was not universally the case as a few of them did not work well together, especially if the school student was in year 10. However, overall findings were encouraging.

Routes into Languages: Working together for languages conference

The Routes into Languages team (of which I am a member) at the LLAS Centre for languages, linguistics and area studies held a very successful conference in collaboration with Routes partners at BMA House, London on 13 June 2012. The conference marked the achievements of the Routes programme across England and Wales and also looked to the future. Keynote speakers in the morning were followed by presentations from the 10 Routes consortia and 2 networks for translating and interpreting in the afternoon and finally, journalist and broadcaster, Rosie Goldsmith in the evening.

We had a really great day. I’ve collected the tweets from the day on Storify:

Conference presentations will be available on the Routes into Languages website soon:

Pupil attitudes to languages survey report

A report on a survey into pupil attitudes to languages which was conducted by the Routes into Languages team at the University of Southampton is now available online from the Routes website. It includes findings from an initial questionnaire of learners in Key Stage 3, follow-up case studies and a survey of teachers’ beliefs about their pupils’ attitudes. The research for the report was carried out by myself and colleagues, John Canning, Fabio Tartarini and Heather McGuinness.