LLAS News Blog

News articles of interest to higher education LLAS subject fields.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Landscapes, frontiers, transitions and connections: a voyage through the Languages in Higher Education Conference 2002-2012

The journey began in 2000 with the birth of the LLAS Centre (then Subject Centre) as part of the Learning and Teaching Support Network with an explicit mission to support and promote teaching within UK Higher Education. In 2000 we were invited to attend the dissemination conference for the 10 projects developed under the Fund for Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL). From there came the idea to run a biennial conference with UCML, AULC, CILT and SCHML.  Over the years, this conference has become a significant and regular feature of the language conference landscape opening up a space for colleagues for whom teaching is a core or specialist activity and for whom research is a minor or emerging activity.

Over the years, themes have ranged from technology-enhanced learning, to residence abroad, to teacher training. Topics covered are as familiar as translation-teaching, intercultural communication and assessment, and as wide-ranging as laughter, climate-change and apprenticeships in language learning. The conference has also engaged with the sticky issue of employability: every year it will include contributions from employers and has, on a number of occasions, heard from recent language graduates who have made very successful transitions to employment.

Over the years the conference has reflected and discussed the changing fortunes of language teaching in Higher Education and it has weathered the storm of funding changes all due in no small part to everyone who has been involved over the years in organising and supporting the event. Core to this has been the continuing collaboration with UCML, AULC, the Higher Education Academy and the earlier support of CILT and ALL. But its most loyal and valuable partners are the conference participants, some of whom return year after year and more of whom are now travelling in from across the globe. Keeping the languages community connected is really what the conference is all about and as it heads towards the 2012 conference on 6 and 7 July in Edinburgh it promises to be a lively event which will carry on the tradition of stimulating conversation and debate in languages, whatever the future may bring.

Conference timeline:
  • 2002 Setting the agenda: Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies in Higher Education (Manchester)
  • 2004 Languages, linguistics and area studies conference  - navigating the new landscape for languages (London)
  • 2006 Crossing frontiers (Cardiff)
  • 2008 Languages in higher education conference: transitions and connections (York)
  • 2010 Languages in higher education: raising the standard for languages (London)
  • 2012 Language Futures: Languages in Higher Education conference 2012 (Edinburgh)
Alison Dickens
Assistant Director, LLAS

QUIZ: 7 questions on less-spoken languages

 How much do you know about some of the world's less spoken languages?

BBC News

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

SCOTLAND: Language learning to start from P1

Scotland needs a radical change of approach to modern languages in schools, Minister for Learning Alasdair Allan has said.
Responding to recommendations made by the Modern Languages Working Group, Dr Allan announced that the Scottish Government will now explore opportunities for all young people to start learning a second language from P1.
The report’s other key recommendations include advice that learning a third language should start no later than P5 and that primary and secondary schools should work more closely together to ensure better progression in language learning.

Scottish government

Sunday, 20 May 2012

School records 'too crude for super-diverse UK '

Schools should keep detailed records of the languages spoken by ethnic minority pupils, according to a report.
Researchers from London Metropolitan University say simply to record pupils' ethnicity is too imprecise a measure as Britain becomes more diverse.
The study is the first analysis of the achievements of linguistic minorities in English schools. The government said it was developing new ethnicity standards that would help schools collect detailed information.
BBC news

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

ITALY: university switches to English

Politecnico di Milano is going to switch to the English language.
The university has announced that from 2014 most of its degree courses - including all its graduate courses - will be taught and assessed entirely in English rather than Italian.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Study links biodiversity and language loss

The decline of linguistic and cultural diversity is linked to the loss of biodiversity, a study has suggested.
The authors said that 70% of the world's languages were found within the planet's biodiversity hotspots.
Data showed that as these important environmental areas were degraded over time, cultures and languages in the area were also being lost.
The results of the study have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

BBC news

Original article: L. J. Gorenflo, Suzanne Romaine, Russell A. Mittermeier, and Kristen Walker-Painemilla. Co-occurrence of linguistic and biological diversity in biodiversity hotspots and high biodiversity wilderness areas.PNAS, May 7, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1117511109

Friday, 4 May 2012

Attitudes to Irish language revealed

There should be more opportunities for people to learn Irish in Northern Ireland, according to a new survey.

The survey was carried out by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.
Fifty-three per cent agreed that there should be more options available, 20% disagreed and 26% neither agreed nor disagreed.
Eighty-one per cent of respondents believed pupils should be able to choose it as a school subject if they wish.
Eight per cent disagreed and 10% neither agreed nor disagreed.


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Thinking in a Foreign Language Makes Decisions More Rational

To judge a risk more clearly, it may help to consider it in a foreign language.

A series of experiments on more than 300 people from the U.S. and Korea found that thinking in a second language reduced deep-seated, misleading biases that unduly influence how risks and benefits are perceived.


Residence Abroad

As the number of applicants to modern languages degree programmes is causing some concern, the question is inevitably asked, ‘is it the cost of a four year degree programme which is discouraging applicants?’

Most of us are convinced of the immense value of the year abroad, so too are employers and students who return from to university after what many of them describe as ‘the best year of my life’.  Indeed students at the University of Edinburgh have established an award winning student society , Exchange 360 (http://exchange360.org/)  to help them keep their memories of the year abroad alive, to encourage and support those planning a year overseas and to befriend international students studying in Edinburgh. 

The British Academy, working in partnership with the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) and Thirdyearabroad.com, has recently funded a project to gather evidence on the value of the year abroad.  A call for short case studies from graduates who had spent time abroad during their undergraduate studies elicited 600 responses ‘illustrating the academic, cultural, intercultural, linguistic, personal and professional benefits derived from the year abroad’.  To read these, go to  http://www.thirdyearabroad.com/graduates.html  A position statement , Valuing the Year Abroad, has also been produced ( http://www.britac.ac.uk)  articulating these benefits and proposing recommendations to government, to universities, to employers and to students.  In the position statement, the Government is urged to ‘minimise financial disincentives for the small but currently growing number of students who wish to undertake a year abroad’.  We are still awaiting the Government’s response.

LLAS is organising a workshop on the year abroad to explore these issues further. Working with colleagues in Scotland, the workshop will look at how we can effectively articulate the value of residence abroad to students, parents and university managers as well as exploring how we can maximise the benefits of the year abroad experience for students.  The event is being held on 23 May 2012 at Strathclyde University. To register, go to http://www.llas.ac.uk/events/6547.

Liz Hudswell
Assistant Director, LLAS