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I am a head of Department at an all-boys inner-city state school in xxxx, and have absolutely no idea if there are any 'languages boxes' around at all.

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Presentation on theme: "I am a head of Department at an all-boys inner-city state school in xxxx, and have absolutely no idea if there are any 'languages boxes' around at all."— Presentation transcript:

1 I am a head of Department at an all-boys inner-city state school in xxxx, and have absolutely no idea if there are any 'languages boxes' around at all - as we went to optional GCSE French and German last year, we are desperate for something to persuade pupils to opt for languages at KS4, particularly because we are just teaching boys - we can see our subject slipping away!!


3 700 Reasons for Studying Languages Angela Gallagher-Brett email:

4 Project Aims  Detailed list of possible reasons for language learning  Academic literature  Policy documents  Language learners (16 to 19s and undergraduates)  Creation of searchable online collection of more than 700 reasons for language learning,  Tool to promote language study and inform course design

5 Justification  Repeated calls for reasons for language learning to be investigated  “Rationales for studying languages should be collected and classified” (Kelly and Jones, 2003: 35)  Concern about utilitarian rationales in schools (Mitchell, 2003; Starkey, 2000)  Importance for motivation of understanding why learners are studying (Oxford and Shearin, 1994)  Learners unaware of the benefits of language learning

6 Methodology  Literature review  Fieldwork phase  Questionnaire (16 to 19s and undergraduates)  Focus Group interviews (undergraduates)  Consultation with higher education advisory panel

7 Findings: Literature Review  Several hundred reasons for studying languages  Diverse themes, including:  Business, Citizenship, Communication, Economic, Social and Political Dimension,Employability, Environmental Sustainability, Equal Opportunities, Globalisation, Health, Intercultural Competence, International Dimension, Key Skills, Language Awareness, Mobility/Travel, Multilingualism, Personal Development of the Individual, Values

8 Findings: Questionnaires  212 questionnaires from 16 to 19s and 62 undergraduate questionnaires  Strong agreement with rating scale statements – languages beneficial for communication, employability, skills development, cultural understanding, language awareness, international relations  Strong agreement that languages are enjoyable  More uncertainty about importance of languages for UK economy, UK national security, EU citizenship

9 Findings: Questionnaires  Multiple personal reasons for studying languages  Majority (about 60%) studying for reasons of personal satisfaction, “because I enjoy it”  Employability cited as the second most common reason for studying  Personal and Social Development of the Individual  Mobility (work and pleasure)  Communication  Other reasons (culture, skills, success, meeting people, contrast with other subjects, values, improving English use, future study, uniqueness)

10 Findings: Focus Groups 11 language undergraduates (10 female, 1 male) Multiple personal reasons for studying languages –Personal Satisfaction 9 –Mobility/Travel 7 –Employability 5 –Desire to continue language study 4 –Communication3 –Previous success 3 –Cultural reasons 2 –Meet people 2 –Read literature 1

11 Findings: Focus Groups  What is most enjoyable aspect of university study  Study of history, geography and politics along with the language  Study of literature  Speaking  What is special about university language study?  Values, e.g open-mindedness  Year abroad  Employment mobility

12 What they said…  “Languages enable you to travel to other countries and feel part of the culture, respect the people living there by making an effort to communicate and not feel like a tourist” (Yr12/13)  “A language expands your range of thinking” (Yr12/13);  “Another language helps you to realise that there is a world around you” (Yr12/13)  “It’s fun and not too difficult” (Yr12/13)  “Language learning helps to develop communication skills which are really vital if you're applying for a job or just in daily life, you need to be able to communicate (UG)  “Languages can provide opportunities nowadays here in the UK even if you don't want to go and work abroad because of the multicultural society we live in” (UG)

13 What they said…  “If you do a degree in a language, you get to study the history and politics of the country as well as the language and it all gives you a good background and helps you to understand the nature of the country a lot better” (UG)  “The situations that language undergraduates have encountered in their studies train their minds to always be on the lookout for solutions or other ways of expressing things” (UG)  “The sorts of skills that a language student develops encompass a far wider range than perhaps more limited degrees. Language students have above average IT skills in comparison with the rest of the population, they can work to deadlines and be flexible and adaptable in dynamic situations” (UG)  “When you do a language degree, you develop a much more sophisticated knowledge of English grammar than other people” (UG)

14 Construction of Taxonomy  Learners reasons for studying added to existing list  More than 700 reasons for studying languages  Allocation of 70 keywords – areas in which languages count  Series of themes (e.g. Critical Thinking, Democracy)  Aspects of language learning (e.g. Literature)  Educational sectors (e.g. Higher Education, Secondary Sector)  Specific types of programme (e.g. IWLPs)  Social and political entities (e.g. UK, EU)


16 Key Issues  Language learners value the personal benefits of language learning  Language learning is enjoyable  Language learners acknowledge the possibility of employability gains but this is not the main reason for studying languages  Language learners believe that languages promote better relationships with others (individuals and countries)  Language learners are uncertain about the strategic benefits of language learning for the UK and EU  Language learners are interested in learning about culture  Some language learners are motivated because they experience success and find languages easy, while others are motivated by the perceived difficulty of languages

17 Contact us Angela Gallagher-Brett email:

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