Research


Research

ECML Think tank - Language learning pathways

13 September 2017 (ECML)

The aim of the new ECML think tanks is to create a network of expertise from across ECML member states and beyond which can advise the ECML secretariat on how to address a range of key priorities in language education.

The first step in the think tank process is the development of an online questionnaire for each theme which is then disseminated as widely as possible so that a picture of the current state-of-play emerges, revealing both success stories as well as challenges. 

You are invited to share your views and experiences on language learning pathways in the online survey by midnight (CET), Sunday 1 October 2017, and you might be selected to participate in the think tank meeting in January 2018.

Visit the ECML website to find out more about the think tanks.

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How Exercise Could Help You Learn a New Language

16 August 2017 (New York Times)

Learning a second language as an adult is difficult. But the process may be eased if you exercise while learning.

A new study reports that working out during a language class amplifies people’s ability to memorize, retain and understand new vocabulary. The findings provide more evidence that to engage our minds, we should move our bodies.

In recent years, a wealth of studies in both animals and people have shown that we learn differently if we also exercise. Lab rodents given access to running wheels create and maintain memories better than animals that are sedentary, for instance. And students consistently perform better on academic tests if they participate in some kind of physical activity during the school day.

Many scientists suspect that exercise alters the biology of the brain in ways that make it more malleable and receptive to new information, a process that scientists refer to as plasticity.

But many questions have remained unanswered about movement and learning, including whether exercise is most beneficial before, during or after instruction and how much and what types of exercise might be best.

So for the new study, which was published recently in PLOS One, researchers in China and Italy decided to home in on language learning and the adult brain.

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Shy holiday Britons 'point at menus' to avoid foreign words

4 August 2017 (BBC)

Over half of Britons who holiday abroad say they have pointed at a restaurant menu to avoid having to pronounce non-English words, a survey suggests.

And almost half said they were embarrassed at not being able to speak the local language while away.

But 80% of more than 1,700 people questioned for the British Council felt it was important to learn some phrases.

"Trying out a few words is the perfect way to get started," said Vicky Gough, British Council schools advisor.

The Populus survey found 37% of British holidaymakers always tried to speak a few words in the local language but 29% said they were too scared to try.

It also found that 36% felt guilty at asking locals to speak English, while:
  • 56% resorted to pointing at menus
  • 45% relied on the assumption that all locals would speak English
  • 42% spoke English more slowly and loudly
  • 15% even tried speaking English in a foreign accent
A minority (15%) admitted to being so unwilling to try pronouncing words from other languages that they would only eat in British or fast food restaurants while overseas, rather than sampling local cuisine.

A similar number said they preferred staying in self-contained resorts to avoid local culture.

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From Brexit to Scandi-noir: The Importance of Modern Foreign Languages

31 July 2017 (AHRC)

Many of us will be familiar with the sight of groups of young language students in UK cities over the summer months. Their excitement at being abroad away from their parents often for the first time is obvious. In 2016, he International Association of Language Centres (IALC) reported that there were 2.28 million language students travelling abroad each year, with English language travel making up around 61% of this market.

Whilst these language-learners only represented 0.25% of second language learners across the entire globe, most travelled to English-speaking countries to learn English. If the motivation for learning English in our increasing globalised world is clear, the British often struggle to appreciate the reasons for learning another language.

“The headline news for Modern Languages recently has not been good, with decreasing numbers of entrants at A-level and a number of university departments under threat of closure or severe contraction", said Wendy Ayres-Bennett, Professor of French Philology and Linguistics from the University of Cambridge.

In response to this national concern and its global implications, the AHRC has committed £16m to research in modern foreign languages (MFL) in its Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) project. Its aim is to explore and understand the language learning landscape of the UK, and how it might be transformed.

As part of OWRI, the AHRC has invested in four major research programmes, one of which is Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS). Alongside her responsibilities at Cambridge, Prof Ayres-Bennett is Principal Investigator for the MEITS project.

“I think that in the current political climate of Brexit and of extensive migration, the need to learn modern foreign languages has arguably never been more important", says Prof Ayres-Bennett.

“I believe that there are huge benefits from being able to step outside a single language, culture and mode of thought", explains Prof Ayres-Bennett. "It enables you to see the world through other people’s eyes".

Prof Ayres-Bennett argues that the ability to speak another language is valuable to many different areas of society. "Whether we think of international relations, diplomacy, security and defence, or areas such as conflict-resolution and peace-building, or, crucially today, business, international trade, and social cohesion, all of these have languages at their heart."

Linguists are needed to provide vital translation and interpreting services. However, the need for direct communication between parties was well demonstrated by the experience of the British military in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Prof Ayres-Bennett also thinks that through reading literature in the language in which it was written, we can begin to see the world through the linguistic categories and worldview of its speakers.

"The gradual opening up of new worlds and the move from incomprehension to being able to make sense of another language and culture can be truly magical ”, says Prof Ayres-Bennett.

Scandi noir dramas have become very popular and one of the biggest hits of the year has been the Spanish language song 'Despacito'. Many young people in Europe improve their English through listening to music and watching films in English so that they no longer need to depend on subtitles.“TV and the internet increasingly provide opportunities for people to view foreign language material and to learn about other cultures.”

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Babies can distinguish between familiar and foreign languages while still in the womb

18 July 2017 (Daily Mail)

Fetuses can distinguish between someone speaking to them in English and Japanese one month before they are born, researchers have found.

Fetuses can hear things in the womb, including speech - although it's muffled.

But they can still perceive the rhythm of a language, and the study suggests that fetuses discriminate between different types of language based on rhythmic patterns.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center, has implications for fetal research in other fields, says the lead author.

'Research suggests that human language development may start really early - a few days after birth,' said Dr Utako Minai, associate professor of linguistics and the team leader on the study.

'Babies a few days old have been shown to be sensitive to the rhythmic differences between languages.

'Previous studies have demonstrated this by measuring changes in babies' behavior; for example, by measuring whether babies change the rate of sucking on a pacifier when the speech changes from one language to a different language with different rhythmic properties.

'This early discrimination led us to wonder when children's sensitivity to the rhythmic properties of language emerges, including whether it may in fact emerge before birth.

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SLR Issue 32 online

16 June 2017 (SCILT)

A must read! Two teachers write about their efforts of raising the status of languages in their school, with quite different outcomes. We also hear about an exciting new UK-wide initiative for languages, a mindset-changing dual-language immersion programme in the USA and a group of Edinburgh University students tell us about the impact of working with refugees in Germany. Do check out the other sections of the SLR as well – Selected publications – eg summaries of recent research on L2 impact, Selected articles (from other journals) e.g. those from the new ‘Languages, Society and Policy’ journal, and Selected events e.g. Scotland-EU Relations as Brexit Talks Unfold with Fiona Hyslop MSP.

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Language learning gap widens between North and South of England

16 June 2017 (British Council)

The language learning gap between the North and South of England is widening, according to a new report from the British Council.

Analysis of examination statistics in the Language Trends Survey 2017 – now in its fifteenth year – highlights that in summer 2016, 65 per cent of pupils in Inner London took a language GCSE compared to just 43 per cent in the North East. More than that, participation rates over the last three years indicate that London is the only part of the country where the percentage of pupils taking languages to GCSE is currently increasing.

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Transnationalizing Languages: Heritage and languages in education

24 May 2017 (Transnationalizing Modern Languages )

Transnationalizing Modern Languages (TML) is research partnership project involving the University of Bristol, Cardiff University, the University of Namibia (UNAM), the University of St Andrews (Scotland) and Warwick University, which explores the place, value and development of languages and multilingualism in Scotland, Wales and in Namibia. As part of the educational research, a survey is being carried out of schools across Scotland to gather views on multilingualism and heritage languages in education. This research will be replicated in Namibia and will feed into a final paper looking at the parallels, findings, solutions and support resources.

If you could take 5 minutes of your time to complete this survey, it would be much appreciated – the more feedback, the better! Please also feel free to share with colleagues from across different stages and subject areas.

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Bad language: why being bilingual makes swearing easier

27 March 2017 (The Guardian)

Many bilinguals report “feeling less” in their second language; it does not bear the same emotional weight as your native language. Feeling less emotionally connected to your second language might make it easier to use highly emotional vocabulary, which is precisely what I was experiencing with my ease of swearing and talking about sensitive topics in English. The scientific term for this is reduced emotional resonance of language. It is a fairly well-established phenomenon, but many specific questions still remain unanswered. For example, what exactly makes one’s second language less emotional? How does this affect different immigrant communities? My research project aims to address these questions by looking into the reasons and implications of reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ second language.

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ECML online questionnaire "Language in subjects"

27 March 2017 (ECML)

This online questionnaire is part of an ECML project called "Developing language awareness in subject classes". It targets subject teachers (mathematics, history, science, physical education etc.) and teacher trainers who:
  • are experienced in teaching students at the age of 12/13 with a different language background, and/or
  • take an interest in developing their students’ academic, subject specific language.
It takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Visit the ECML website to access the questionnaire.

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Language teachers sought for PhD study

16 March 2017 (Glyn Jones)

Language teachers are invited to take part in this study which aims to replicate that undertaken by Brian North and Günther Schneider in the course of developing the CEFR descriptors.

Participants can be teaching adult or secondary school learners at any level and are asked to:
  • Rate two of their students using CAN DO descriptors
  • Supply samples of written work by the same two students
  • Rate some samples of written work supplied by other participants, again using CAN DO descriptors

For more information about the study and to register to take part, please visit the website.

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Brain Fitness - Learn a New Language

15 March 2017 (Huffington Post)

Research has shown that it’s important to “exercise” your brain and language learning is one of the most effective and practical ways to do this. Speaking and learning a foreign language gives your brain a good workout, keeps your mind sharp, and defends your brain against aging.

Surprisingly, being bilingual wasn’t always seen as a good thing. Some educators and scientists thought that learning a foreign language, especially from a young age, had a negative effect on brain development and caused confusion. They also claimed being bilingual would hinder academic performance. We now know that exactly the opposite is true. Science now shows that learning a second language helps strengthen the brain.

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Related Links

Learning a second language can add years to your life (Lee's Summit Journal, 14 March 2017)

The teaching of Arabic language and cultures in UK schools

7 March 2017 (British Council / Alcantara Communications)

This report was commissioned by the British Council in March 2016 as part of its Arabic Language and Culture programme, which is now in its fourth year. It builds on previous research undertaken by Alcantara Communications and published as The teaching of Arabic Language and Culture in UK Schools. As a result of this initial research, the British Council developed and tailored its programme, continued to build its contacts with stakeholders in the field, and commissioned further in-depth research into key themes identified. These were contracted as separate strands, since they required different types of expertise. This report covers Strand 2 of the research: ‘Review of the teaching of Arabic language and culture in UK schools’.

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Language learning aids attention, study says

19 January 2017 (Knowridge Science Report)

Mental agility can be boosted by even a short period of learning a language, a study suggests.

Tests carried out on students of all ages suggest that acquiring a new language improves a person’s attention, after only a week of study.

Researchers also found that these benefits could be maintained with regular practice.

A team from the University assessed different aspects of mental alertness in a group of 33 students aged 18 to 78 who had taken part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course.

Researchers tracked people’s attention levels with a series of listening tests including the ability to concentrate on certain sounds and switch the attention to filter relevant information.

They compared the results with those of people who had completed a one week course – but not involving learning a new language – and with a group who had not completed any course.

After one week, improvements in attention were found in both groups participating in intensive courses, but only those learning a second language were significantly better than those not involved in any courses.

This improvement was found for all ages, from 18 to 78 years, which researchers say demonstrates the benefits of language learning also in later life.

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Babies remember their birth language - scientists

18 January 2017 (BBC News)

Babies build knowledge about the language they hear even in the first few months of life, research shows.

If you move countries and forget your birth language, you retain this hidden ability, according to a study.

Dutch-speaking adults adopted from South Korea exceeded expectations at Korean pronunciation when retrained after losing their birth language.

Scientists say parents should talk to babies as much as possible in early life.

Dr Jiyoun Choi of Hanyang University in Seoul led the research.

The study is the first to show that the early experience of adopted children in their birth language gives them an advantage decades later even if they think it is forgotten, she said.

''This finding indicates that useful language knowledge is laid down in [the] very early months of life, which can be retained without further input of the language and revealed via re-learning,'' she told BBC News.

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Related Links

Adoptees advantaged by birth language memory (Science Daily, 18 January 2017)

Report shows progress in promoting modern foreign languages in Welsh schools

14 December 2016 (Welsh Government)

The number of pupils learning Mandarin has more than doubled according to a new report on a drive to increase the use of modern foreign languages in Welsh schools (Weds 14th Dec).

In October 2015 the Welsh Government published Global Futures, a plan to improve and promote modern foreign languages in Wales and today a new report on the progress made has been published.

It comes as the Education Secretary will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Spanish Government to improve and promote the teaching and learning of the Spanish language in Wales.

The MOU builds on a range of activity being carried out in Wales by the Spanish Embassy Education Office.

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European Language Gazette N° 34

13 December 2016 (ECML)

The latest edition of the European Language Gazette has just been published.

The ECML's e-newsletter provides up-to-date news about the ECML (events, projects, resources) and other relevant sectors of the Council of Europe, as well as our partners. It focuses on national developments in the field of language education in the member states and beyond.

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Ofsted annual report: Primary emphasis on spelling and grammar risks narrowing the curriculum

1 December 2016 (TES)

Report also warns that secondary heads do not realise that the primary curriculum has changed and still think that pupils' progress is measured in levels
The emphasis on reading, writing, spelling and grammar at primary school risks narrowing the curriculum, today's Ofsted annual report states.

This means that subjects such as science and modern foreign languages can suffer as a result.

The report says: “The underlying importance of literacy means that reading, writing, spelling and grammar remain of the utmost importance in the primary curriculum.

“However, this clear emphasis, which has been embraced successfully by the vast majority of primary schools, can create a risk that the curriculum becomes narrowed.”

Evidence from inspections shows that science and foreign languages end up suffering, because not enough time is available for in-depth study, the report stated.

Foreign languages were particularly affected. None of the primary schools inspected this year spent more than two hours a week on language study. The majority – more than two thirds – spent less than an hour on foreign languages.

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Which languages should be taught in schools and why?

29 November 2016 (The Guardian)

The Polish prime minister Beata Szydło has called on Theresa May to introduce Polish classes for children in English schools.

It raises interesting questions about what languages we teach in schools and why. Szydło also called for more support for the 831,000 Poles living in Britain. Introducing the language could help communities feel more integrated.

In the past language choices have been for different reasons. In 2010 the government decided to train 1,000 Mandarin teachers to work in secondary schools in England due to China’s increasing influence on the global economy. Those in favour of the move said the next generation would need to understand Chinese culture and use its language.

Which languages do you think children should learn and why? Should an emphasis be put on how useful that language may be in the future? Or should the decision be made based on the needs of the local community?

Which languages have been most or least helpful to you? Which one did you enjoy learning and why? Did you grow up speaking another language at home? How would you have felt if your fellow pupils had studied it in school? Share your views with us.

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Related Links

The importance of Polish lessons in a post-Brexit world (The Guardian, 29 November 2016)

How human brains do language: One system, two channels

8 November 2016 (Science Daily)

Currently there is a debate as to what role sign language has played in language evolution, and whether the structure of sign language share similarities with spoken language. New research shows that our brain detects some deep similarities between speech and sign language.

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Bilingualism, Autism and the Brain

7 November 2016 (DART, University of Edinburgh)

A new PhD research project will shortly be starting to explore whether bilingualism could also help autistic people to improve social cognition abilities.

Visit the University of Edinburgh's DART website to find out more and to see how you can participate in the study.

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Survey on perceived benefits of langauge learning

21 October 2016 (British Academy)

As part of a British Academy special project exploring the (mis)match between perceived and evidenced benefits of language learning, British Academy would like to invite you to participate in a short online questionnaire survey.

British Academy is interested in hearing your language learning experiences, and your thoughts and attitudes towards language learning. It doesn't matter if you can speak only one language or many.

There are 40 questions in total, and will take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

Child questionnaire

Adult questionnaire

Your feedback is important. Thank you for your support.

£3.9 million modern languages research project launched in Manchester

11 October 2016 (University of Manchester)

A consortium led by The University of Manchester has launched a four-year language research project which aims to demonstrate the UK’s critical need for modern languages research and teaching. The project will collaborate with schools and universities to develop curriculum innovations, and strengthen university commitments to local community heritage.

The launch of ‘Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community’, which is funded by an AHRC Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) grant, took place at The University of Manchester. They are leading a consortium which includes 11 other universities, city councils, the Royal Opera House, Tyneside Cinema, political think tank Chatham House, and a sixth-form college known for its strengths in modern languages.

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How mentoring can improve modern languages uptake in schools

6 October 2016 (The Conversation)

For some time, there have been many stories told of the “crisis” in modern languages in secondary schools and universities. There is hard evidence to support this. Even though there have been upsurges in modern languages provision – following the introduction of the English Baccalaureate for example – pupil numbers continue to fall.

In Wales, where modern languages are still an optional choice at GCSE, research shows that the number of pupils studying a foreign language declined by 44% between 2002 and 2015. The number of pupils taking French in 2015 was less than half those who took it in 2002.

But why are pupils put off taking a language at GCSE level, and how can we improve attitudes to the subjects? As a bilingual country, it seems counter-intuitive that Welsh pupils cannot see the benefits of studying languages. However, research from an engagement project we have recently been running suggests a range of things are influencing pupils’ decisions not to study a language.

The mentoring project saw undergraduate modern language students from four Welsh universities trained to work with year eight and nine pupils (aged 13 and 14) in 28 schools. The students helped the pupils to practice their language, build confidence and knowledge, and teach them how modern languages can aid personal and professional development.

Our work was part of a push by the Welsh government, to arrest and reverse the decline in modern languages study by 2020.

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Infants pay more attention to native language cues: study

6 October 2016 (Free Press Journal)

Nearly from the moment of birth, human beings possess the capacity to distinguish between speakers of their native language and other language, reports IANS. Thus, they pay more attention to native language cues in deciding where to place their focus as well as adopt to the native speakers’ cultural behaviour, a study has found.

“The study reveals the great importance of cultural and linguistic similarity in how infants choose to direct their attention,” said Hanna Marno from the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

The findings show how infants and young children are tuned to quickly acquire the knowledge of their society and adapt to their cultural environment, Marno added. In the study, the researchers determined to know whether young babies would selectively pay attention to different speakers in their environment, even when they do not understand the meaning of the words.

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Multilingualism: Empowering individuals, transforming societies

26 September 2016 (MEITS)

MEITS is a major interdisciplinary research project funded under the AHRC Open World Research Initiative. Linguistic competence in more than one language – being multilingual – sits at the heart of the study of modern languages and literatures, distinguishing it from cognate disciplines. Through six interlocking research strands we investigate how the insights gained from stepping outside a single language, culture and mode of thought are vital to individuals and societies.

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How morality changes in a foreign language

14 September 2016 (Scientific American)

What defines who we are? Our habits? Our aesthetic tastes? Our memories? If pressed, I would answer that if there is any part of me that sits at my core, that is an essential part of who I am, then surely it must be my moral center, my deep-seated sense of right and wrong.

And yet, like many other people who speak more than one language, I often have the sense that I’m a slightly different person in each of my languages—more assertive in English, more relaxed in French, more sentimental in Czech. Is it possible that, along with these differences, my moral compass also points in somewhat different directions depending on the language I’m using at the time?

Psychologists who study moral judgments have become very interested in this question. Several recent studies have focused on how people think about ethics in a non-native language—as might take place, for example, among a group of delegates at the United Nations using a lingua franca to hash out a resolution. The findings suggest that when people are confronted with moral dilemmas, they do indeed respond differently when considering them in a foreign language than when using their native tongue.

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Evidence Rebuts Chomsky's Theory of Language Learning

7 September 2016 (Scientific American)

The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.

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Turbulent Times: Skills for a Global World

26 July 2016 (Think Global)

If recent events have proven anything, it’s that the world in which our young people are growing up is turbulent and unpredictable. Over the past 12 months, Think Global has been working together with OCR to look more closely at questions about the skills young people really need to live and work in such a world.

Focusing on the views and understandings of employers, who can play a crucial role in supporting young people to learn and practise skills for a global world, we surveyed 500 business leaders from across the country and across sectors to build an up-to-date picture of whether or to what extent our young people are prepared to thrive both today and in the future.

Notable in the global context which informs this research, was the finding that over a quarter (28%) of employers were affected by a lack of workers with foreign language skills; a figure rising to almost half (44%) in London.

The full report can be accessed on the Think Global website.

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Study uses patterns of resting-state brain waves to identify quick language learners

1 July 2016 (News Medical)

Ever wonder why some people seem to learn new languages faster? The secret might lie in the brain activity they generate while relaxing.

New findings by scientists at the University of Washington demonstrate that a five-minute measurement of resting-state brain activity predicted how quickly adults picked up a second language. The study, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is the first to use patterns of resting-state brain waves to determine subsequent language learning rate.

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The unsteady future of the multilingual city

12 May 2016 (Citylab)

When you arrive by air in Dublin, you might think from all the Irish signs in the airport that you’ve landed in a bilingual city: not just a city in an officially bilingual country, but a city where you might hear some Irish.

In fact, Irish isn’t very visible nor audible there, despite its protected status. Nonetheless, Dublin is being transformed into a more linguistically diverse place by immigrants from Poland, Romania, China, and elsewhere. In 2010, a full 11 percent of Dubliners reported speaking languages other than Irish or English at home—but none of these appear on signs at the airport.

From observations such as these, what can be said about the vitality of any city’s multilingualism?

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Some people really DO have a flair for languages: Brain patterns predict how quickly someone will learn a foreign tongue

11 May 2016 (Daily Mail)

For some, picking up a foreign language almost comes as second nature while others stumble over the jumble of unfamiliar words and phrases.

A study has revealed the secret that may lie behind these differences in the ability to learn a new language - the rhythm of electrical activity in their brain.

Scientists at the University of Washington found people who were better at acquiring a second language had higher activity in key parts of their brain when resting than those who struggled.

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Benefits of Bilingualism - Part One

9 May 2016 (BBC World Service)

In this first episode on the BBC World Service Discovery channel, Gaia Vince explores the research that shows the benefits of bilingualism, focusing on learning languages in childhood.

In the second episode of the series, to be broadcast on 16 May, she will explore the benefits of being bilingual in older people.

Listen to the first episode now on the BBC website.

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Research participants wanted: Italian-English bilinguals

2 May 2016 (Bilingualism Matters)

Scientists working on the EU funded AThEME project are looking to recruit Italian-English bilingual adults for their research into how people process multiple languages.

If you're a native Italian speaker aged between 18-40 and would like to take part, visit the Bilingualism Matters website for more information and to register interest.

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Age no barrier to learning a new language, say Edinburgh University experts

28 April 2016 (The Herald)

Learning another language boosts brain power, no matter how old you are, according to new research.

Tests carried out on students suggest that acquiring a new language improves a person’s attention after only a week of study.

Researchers also found that the benefits for mental agility could be maintained with regular practice.

Edinburgh University researchers assessed different aspects of mental alertness in a group of 33 students aged 18 to 78 who had taken part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course.

They compared the results with those of people who had completed a one week course but not involving learning a new language and with a group who had not completed any course.

After one week, improvements in attention were found in both groups participating in intensive courses, but only those learning a second language were significantly better than those not involved in any courses.

Read more...

The Languages Trends Survey 2016

18 April 2016 (British Council / Education Development Trust)

Teachers have expressed 'deep concerns' about the current state of language learning in schools in England, according to a new report from the British Council and Education Development Trust.

The Language Trends Survey 2016 - now in its fourteenth year - identifies numerous challenges currently facing language teaching in England and highlights that teachers and school leaders see the exam system as one of the principal barriers preventing its successful development.

[...]The Language Trends Survey 2015/16 is the 14th in a series of annual research exercises, charting the state of language teaching and learning in schools in England. The research is based on an online survey completed by teachers in 492 state secondary schools, 556 state primary schools and 132 independent secondary schools across the country. This year, case studies from both primary and secondary schools have been included to provide a more detailed picture of what is happening on the ground.

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Born Global evidence published by the British Academy

31 March 2016 (British Academy)

Born Global is a resource for the languages community to use to help make the case for the importance and value of studying languages.

Born Global consists of quantitative and qualitative data on the complex relationship between language learning and employability. Each data set is accompanied by a booklet with background information and a summary of key findings. The data is open and free to use, it is available on the British Academy website.

The British Academy has used this evidence in a new publication Born Global: Implications for Higher Education. It offers reflections on the current state of play for languages at university, and can be downloaded from the British Academy website.

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Stem and languages specialists 'more likely to go to top universities'

29 March 2016 (TES)

A level students focusing on science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects or languages are more likely to go to Russell Group institutions, according to research.

And the study finds that students who specialised in "applied" or "expressive" subjects – such as accounting, law, music and performing arts – were more likely to go on to study at less prestigious newer universities.

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Cambridge to explore benefits of multilingualism with new AHRC research project

22 March 2016 (University of Cambridge)

The University of Cambridge is to launch a major new research project to study the benefits of multilingualism to individuals and society, and transform attitudes to languages in the UK, as part of the AHRC’s Open World Research Initiative.

At a time when more than half the world’s population speaks more than one language in their daily lives, and almost one in five UK primary school pupils have a first language other than English, what does it really mean to be multilingual, and what are the opportunities and challenges of multilingualism for individuals and society?

These questions are amongst those to be answered by a new research project at the University of Cambridge, thanks to an unprecedented £4million grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The project, called Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Society, aims to not only understand people’s experiences of speaking more than one language, but also to change attitudes towards multilingualism and multiculturalism throughout society and amongst key policy-makers.

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UWS Research Project on 1+2

15 March 2016 (UWS)

We are seeking to make contact with primaries who would want to take part into our 1+2 Team Research Project.

We are investigating Primary School practitioners' perception of issues associated with the implementation of the 1+2 Language policy in terms of management (recommendations and related issues), staff engagement, pedagogy and methodologies. Other possible aspects to be considered could be the perceived impact on pupils' engagement and attainment. We have started to work with local primaries but we need more to participate in this project!

If interested, please contact: Laurence.Giraud-Johnstone@uws.ac.uk

Let’s talk about wider cultural dialogue

25 February 2016 (THE)

In the very near future, the Arts and Humanities Research Council will announce the large projects that it will finance over the next four years as part of its Open World Research Initiative.

The scheme seeks to provide “a new and exciting vision for languages research in response to the challenges and opportunities presented by a globalized research environment”. While the individual projects will no doubt be excellent, they will also address a range of broader issues at the heart of the study of modern languages today.

In common with any other subject, modern languages needs to articulate a strong sense of what it stands for (especially considering the national decline in its provision) and why it is important. Equally, in an age that is increasingly defined as post-national and mobile, all research and teaching must confront the reality of globalisation. If one works on a European culture – and I write as an Italianist – then one has, more and more, to explain its relevance in global terms.

Read more...

Gaelic 'should be preserved' to benefit the brain

15 February 2016 (The Herald)

Languages on the brink of dying out should be preserved in light of evidence that shows juggling different tongues is good for the brain, claims a British expert.

Professor Antonella Sorace, founder of the Bilingualism Matters Centre at the University of Edinburgh, is investigating the potential benefits of studying minority languages such as Sardinian and Scottish Gaelic.

Previous research has already shown that being multilingual can improve thinking and learning ability, and may reduce mental decline with age.

Read more...

Parents can help, but children take a DIY approach to learning language

17 January 2016 (The Conversation)

Parents can help children develop their language. But when it comes to building the linguistic structure that undergirds the language, new research shows that children would rather do it themselves.

Perhaps one of the oldest debates in the cognitive sciences centres on whether children have an inborn faculty of language. This faculty makes it possible for children to learn the language of their community.

Evidence for its existence comes from the richness of the system that language users come to have as compared to the finite set of sentences that any one learner is exposed to.

Read more...

Languages Baccalaureate

15 November 2016 (Largs Academy)

A student at Largs Academy would appreciate it if teachers in Scotland would answer a survey on language teaching in Scotland and pass on to pupils a survey on language learning. The topic for his research is focused on the differences between how the UK teaches languages in comparison to schools abroad.

Does the rise of English mean losing knowledge?

14 January 2016 (BBC News)

Are we "losing knowledge" because of the growing dominance of English as the language of higher education and research?

Attend any international academic conference and the discussion is likely to be conducted in English. For anyone wanting to share research, English has become the medium for study, writing and teaching.

That might make it easier for people speaking different languages to collaborate. But is there something else being lost? Is non-English research being marginalised?

A campaign among German academics says science benefits from being approached through different languages.

Read more...

Scottish Languages Review Issue 30

5 January 2015 (SCILT)

The winter edition of the Scottish Languages Review and Digest is out! You can access individual articles or download the complete issue, which includes summaries of (and links to) recent language publications, articles from other journals and upcoming language conferences.

In this edition we have responses and updates to articles from earlier editions. Dombrowski et al respond to the article by Scott on language statistics in Scottish schools in Issue 29 and Lindner et al continue the story of the Chaoyang English Project, first written about in Issue 25. McColl revisits her own reflections on the Scottish Government’s 1+2 language policy from Issue 24 and looks more concretely into target language use in the classroom. McCrossan reports on how the creative practices she described in Issue 26 have been developed further and applied in a number of early years classes across her local authority. Finally, ‘newcomer’ Price provides an account of how she introduced self and peer-assessment practices into her secondary school language department.

The Scottish Languages Review is THE electronic journal for language practitioners in Scotland. It is published twice a year by SCILT.

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Study abroad interest ‘tied to cultural experiences at school’

12 December 2015 (THE)

Students who had an opportunity to learn a foreign language more likely to want to study abroad, research reveals.

Read more...

Govan dementia language project launched

12 December 2015 (BBC)

A new scheme is being launched which helps elderly and vulnerable adults battle dementia by learning foreign languages.

Lingo Flamingo was founded by Robbie Norval who was inspired by his grandmother, who had dementia.

Research has indicated that speaking several languages can delay the onset of dementia, as well as other forms of brain ageing and mental illness. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to help launch the project.

Read more...

How Learning A New Language Changes Your Brain And Your Perception

24 November 2015 (Medical Daily)

Learning a foreign language opens us up to new experiences, work opportunities, and allows us to meet people we may never have otherwise. More than that, research has shown learning a language can also physically change brain structure and adjust perception.

When we learn a language, we create new neural pathways in our brain, which can lead to noticeable changes. The left hemisphere is generally believed to be the logical part of the brain and is where many of our language skills originate. However, a 2012 Swiss study observed that learning a foreign language later in life is associated with thickening of the cerebral cortex — a layer of neurons specifically responsible for memory, thought, consciousness and, of course, language. This increased thickness can lead to better memory and sharper thinking later in life.

Read more...

Language Trends 2014-2015

5 November 2015 (SCILT)

We have conducted a brief analysis of published SQA language statistics at SCQF levels 4-7 in 2014 and 2015.

See the 'Language Trends in Scotland 2014-15' report on our website.

Read more...

Scotland’s Census 2011 : Gaelic report (part 2)

29 October 2015 (National Records of Scotland)

This National Statistics publication for Scotland details the use of Gaelic by a variety of categories and sectors in Scotland.

See the report online.

Read more...

Language Assistants in the UK - Survey 2015

22 October 2015 (British Council)

As a cultural relations organisation, the British Council believes that competence in and use of several languages is an essential tool to ensure better understanding and cohesion between and within societies. We are currently reviewing all of the work we do to support the teaching and learning of languages in the United Kingdom, and would greatly appreciate the views of serving language teachers in Scotland. You are invited to share your thoughts to help inform our work by completing a short survey.

Read more...

What is Modern Languages Research? Podcasts Now Online

23 September 2015 (Institute of Modern Languages Research)

Podcasts from the pilot workshop held on 15 July are now available.

Organised in conjunction with the AHRC-sponsored project ‘Translating Cultures’, the event aimed to establish what constitutes Modern Languages as a disciplinary field and to identify the defining features of Modern Languages research as practised in the UK.

The workshop engaged with the strategic objectives of several studies, reports and initiatives, and provided a framework for informed discussion between the 50-60 academics and experts representing Modern Languages researchers based in the UK, researchers from other European countries, and researchers from cognate disciplines such as English, history, and linguistics.

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The 10 second languages UK employers most want their staff to speak

15 September 2015 (i100/The Independent)

French is the most useful language British employers look for on CVs, according to a recent study.

Adequate foreign language skills were one of the most highly rated concerns for employees looking to hire, the Confederation of British Industry study found.

Read more...

Student Perspectives on Going International

10 September 2015 (Go International)

The UK Higher Education International Unit’s Go International programme and the British Council published a report today on student perspectives of the benefits of and barriers to spending time abroad as part of a UK undergraduate degree. The research aims to provide evidence for UK higher education institutions and policy makers who are developing and implementing initiatives to increase the number of UK-domiciled students accessing international opportunities.

See the key findings on the Go International website where you can also find a link to the full report.

Read more...

Related Links

Short-term overseas study ‘as valuable’ as year abroad (THE, 10  September 2015)

Social interaction, identity and language learning during residence abroad

3 September 2015 (EuroSLA)

Study and residence abroad are significant contexts for second language learning and development, which are known to promote oral skills, fluency and sociopragmatic competence in particular, alongside broader intercultural competence. However learner achievements during residence abroad are variable and cannot be fully understood without attention to the social settings in which learners engage, and the social networks they develop.

This edited collection sets out to explore the relationship between sociocultural experience, identity and second language learning among student sojourners abroad.

Read more...

Modern languages ‘sold short by REF’

26 August 2015 (THE)

Modern languages studies may have been harshly treated in the research excellence framework (REF) because it was assessed in the same subpanel as linguistics, academics have claimed.

With language departments already under pressure from declining student numbers, some scholars have complained that the structure of the panel used to judge their research has done little to help the subject area.

Under new arrangements adopted for the 2014 REF, modern languages research was included alongside linguistics in subpanel 28, rather than being assessed separately in seven smaller subject units, as in the 2008 research assessment exercise (RAE).

Read more...

Scottish accent changing with rolled ‘R’ at risk

20 July 2015 (The Scotsman)

The recognisable rolling ‘R’ in the Scottish accent could die out, with younger Scots altering the way the letter is pronounced, according to experts.

Language researchers have found that younger generations are softening words such as car, bar and fur, with experts at Glasgow University and Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University believing a natural change is occurring.

Read more...

People who speak two languages ‘have better brains’

16 July 2015 (The Scotsman)

People who speak two or more languages have better functioning brains, a study found.

Being bilingual increased the size of the part of the brain responsible for processing thoughts than those that speak their mother tongue, researchers found.

Read more...

Collins Language Learning Survey

5 June 2015 (SALT)

Collins Language Learning Team are very interested in your views and thoughts on the learning and teaching of languages in Scottish schools.

To express their gratitude for your time in completing their questionnaire, you will be entered in a draw to win dictionaries for your school!

Read more...

How can more UK students be encouraged to study abroad?

1 June 2015 (British Council)

The UK doesn’t send out nearly as many students abroad as it welcomes. How can the UK encourage its students to travel further afield to study? Zainab Malik explains the British Council's latest research on the subject.

[..] In our Broadening Horizons report this year (June 2015), we surveyed nearly 7,500 UK and US students to understand their motivations for and apprehensions towards overseas study.

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Do you see what I see? Children exposed to several languages are better at seeing through others’ eyes

30 May 2015 (The Economist)

Human beings are not born with the knowledge that others possess minds with different contents. Children develop such a “theory of mind” gradually, and even adults have it only imperfectly. But a study by Samantha Fan and Zoe Liberman at the University of Chicago, published in Psychological Science, finds that bilingual children, and also those simply exposed to another language on a regular basis, have an edge at the business of getting inside others’ minds.

Read more...

British Academy calls for evidence for new interdisciplinarity project

12 May 2015 (British Academy)

The British Academy has launched its call for evidence for a new project on interdisciplinarity in research and higher education.

The call for evidence will ask individual academics, university management, funders and publishers about their experiences of engaging with interdisciplinarity, the success stories and the challenges.

The project will investigate:

  • how interdisciplinary research is carried out 
  • the demand for interdisciplinary research and research skills 
  • how academics can forge interdisciplinary careers 
  • whether the right structures are in place to support interdisciplinarity across the research and higher education system

While the focus is on research, it will also investigate the relation between interdisciplinarity in teaching and research, from the undergraduate level up. And while the focus is on universities, the project will be concerned with the relation between interdisciplinarity in universities and in the wider economy.

The deadline for submitting evidence is 26 June 2015.   See the British Academy website for more information.

Read more...

Launch of AILA Research Network in Early Language Learning

7 May 2015 (BAAL)

We are pleased to announce the launch of the ELL Network – newly accepted as an AILA Research Network for the three-year period January 2015-December 2017. With the launch of this international network we hope to raise the profile of research in early languages learning (including foreign, second and minority languages), contributing to the growth of national and regional research groups and stimulating new research on a range of themes in the field. Over the three-year period our principal aims are:

  1. To create synergies across research areas concerned with young children learning additional languages in school and pre-school contexts worldwide; 
  2. To set out a comprehensive agenda for research in the field of early language learning.

Do visit our Network to learn more. Active researchers in the field of Early Language Learning (ages 3-12 years) are most welcome to join the group, contribute to planned events/publications and help to build our aims.

For any queries please contact Janet Enever - ELL-REN convenor by email at janet.enever@umu.se or by telephone on +46 (0)90 786 56 74.

Read more...

Who in the world wants to learn German?

22 April 2015 (Deutsche Welle)

German as a foreign language is booming in emerging countries like India, Brazil or China. In Europe, it remains particularly attractive in Poland, but may be imperiled in France, where schools are cutting down on German classes. Find out where in the world people are learning German and why in our interactive graphic.

Read more...

Related Links

The German Language (This Week in Germany, 26 April 2015) - Why do people learn German? Is the language difficult to learn? Journalist Jonas Schönfelder speaks to German learners on the streets of Berlin to find out more. Listen to the podcast from 02:40.

German as a foreign language – “We’ve reversed the trend”

21 April 2015 (Goethe-Institut)

Interest in German as a foreign language remains very high according to a new study. There is even an upward trend in China, India and Brazil. Johannes Ebert, the secretary-general of the Goethe-Institut, and Heike Uhlig, director of the Language Department, explain why.

Read more...

The seven big language learning issues facing the UK

14 April 2015 (Guardian)

The Guardian and the British Academy launched the Case for Language Learning to investigate the reasons behind the UK’s shortage of foreign language skills, discussing the importance and value of learning a foreign tongue. The Living Languages report highlights many of the debates and thinking generated by the two-year project, and brings together some of the dominant themes.

Read more...

Stories Bring It Home

13 March 2015 (Language Magazine)

Kate Nguyen and Nile Stanley research resilience in language learners and its relationship to storytelling.

Read more...

LSE Research in Mandarin

12 March 2015 (LSE Language Centre)

A new series of short videos discussing LSE research in Mandarin Chinese has been launched.

Discussing and sharing their research and ideas in Mandarin with English subtitles, LSE scholars are able to engage wider academic and non-academic users in all Mandarin speaking countries and regions. The LSE Language Centre Mandarin team aims to develop teaching materials based on the content of these videos so that a range of new Mandarin courses for Academic Purposes will be offered.

Read more...

Good news for language learning: UCML and AULC publish the annual report on take-up of Institution Wide Language Programmes

2 March 2015 (UCML/AULC)

Each year the Association of University Language Centres in the UK and Ireland conduct a survey to explore the take up of Institution-Wide Language Programmes (for credit and not for credit) in UK universities.

UCML co-publishes this report with AULC and support from the Higher Education Academy. The report from this year's survey (conducted in autumn 2014) is now published.

It includes analysis of various trends (by language, by balance of credit and not etc) across the sector.

It is clear from this report that the trend continues to be for increasing demand for language learning in HE alongside the study of other disciplines.

Read more...

New Study: Language Training is Critical to Development of Global-Ready Workforce and Millennial Business Leaders

12 February 2015 (Market Watch)

(Thomson Reuters ONE via COMTEX) - New Study: Language Training is Critical to Development of Global-Ready Workforce and Millennial Business Leaders.
Majority of workers say company-provided language training makes them more effective, loyal employees

Arlington, VA (February 12, 2014)--Rosetta Stone Inc. RST, +2.84% the world's leader in technology-based learning solutions, today announced the release of a new study showing the definitive impact business leaders can have on employees and the overall success of their business by providing language training and the skills needed to be competitive in today's global economy.

Rosetta Stone's 2015 Business Language Impact Study, which surveyed nearly 1,900 employees from more than 300 companies across six continents, shows that employers who offer language-training tools to employees are seizing an opportunity to develop a business fueled by highly productive, high-performing workers who have the tools and confidence to thrive in a global marketplace.

Read more...

Gestures and pictures 'boost foreign language learning'

9 February 2015 (Medical News Today)

A new study reinforces the multisensory theory of learning that says people learn more easily when several senses are activated at the same time. Using an artificial language they developed for research, scientists ran experiments to show people memorize foreign language terms more easily when - as well as reading and listening - they see pictures and express their meaning with gestures.

Read more...

Bilingualism changes children's beliefs

13 January 2015 (Science Daily)

Most young children are essentialists: They believe that human and animal characteristics are innate. That kind of reasoning can lead them to think that traits like native language and clothing preference are intrinsic rather than acquired. But a new study suggests that certain bilingual kids are more likely to understand that it's what one learns, rather than what one is born with, that makes up a person's psychological attributes.

Read more...

Related Links

Give Your Child the Gift of Bilingualism (Bilingualism Matters blog, 14 January 2015)

An Infant’s Brain Maps Language From Birth, Study Says

19 November 2014 (Time)

The infant's brain retains language that it hears at birth and recognizes it years later, even if the child no longer speaks that language.

A new study reveals that an infant’s brain may remember a language, even if the child has no idea how to speak a word of it.

The finding comes from a new study performed by a team of researchers from McGill University’s Department of Psychology and Montreal’s Neurological Institute who are working to understand how the brain learns language.

Read more...

Learn the lingo and live longer: Foreign languages makes for more brain cells

16 November 2014 (The Independent)

"Ik spreek goed Nederlands" (I speak good Dutch); that's the phrase which brought the house down during a recent visit to my Dutch in-laws' in Rotterdam. Personally, I think I've had more inspired moments of comedy but, for Dutch people, there's obviously something inherently hilarious about an English person attempting to speak their language.

The English have a well-earned reputation as the language-learning dunces of Europe, and traditionally that didn't bother us much. Taking a language at GCSE ceased to be compulsory in 2004, and since then the number of people studying languages at degree level has fallen to a record low. There's an obvious logic to this. Everyone else speaks English anyway, and as for those who don't, simply repeating the same phrase more loudly and with a cod Spanish accent usually suffices, right? So why bother?

Here's why. A new study by Pennsylvania University shows that language-learning keeps the brain healthy and sharp as we age, reducing the likelihood of early-onset dementia.

Read more...

Related Links

Learning languages is a workout for brains, both young and old (Penn State News, 12 November 2014)

Do young people care about learning foreign languages?

7 November 2014 (The Guardian)

A Guardian survey shows what young people think about language learning. Here are the five key points.

Read more...

Related Links

Most language students unable to do more than understand basic phrases (The Guardian, 7 November 2014) - survey of attitudes to language learning in the UK shows young people lacking in skills and confidence.

Born Global interim report published

3 November 2014 (British Academy)

Interim findings from the new policy research project, 'Born Global: Rethinking Language Policy for 21st Century Britain' have now been published on the British Academy website  The project is looking into the extent and nature of language needs in the labour market and the implications for language education from school to higher education.

Read more...

Erasmus Impact Study confirms EU student exchange scheme boosts employability and job mobility

22 September 2014 (European Commission)

Young people who study or train abroad not only gain knowledge in specific disciplines, but also strengthen key transversal skills which are highly valued by employers.

A new study on the impact of the European Union's Erasmus student exchange programme shows that graduates with international experience fare much better on the job market. They are half as likely to experience long-term unemployment compared with those who have not studied or trained abroad and, five years after graduation, their unemployment rate is 23% lower.

The study, compiled by independent experts, is the largest of its kind and received feedback from nearly 80 000 respondents including students and businesses.

Read more...

What happens in the brain when you learn a language?

4 September 2014 (The Guardian)

Learning a foreign language can increase the size of your brain. This is what Swedish scientists discovered when they used brain scans to monitor what happens when someone learns a second language. The study is part of a growing body of research using brain imaging technologies to better understand the cognitive benefits of language learning. Tools like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electrophysiology, among others, can now tell us not only whether we need knee surgery or have irregularities with our heartbeat, but reveal what is happening in our brains when we hear, understand and produce second languages.

Read more...

Modularising Multilingual and Multicultural Academic Communication Competence

3 September 2014 (ECML)

The European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) of the Council of Europe was an associate partner in the MAGICC project, part of the EU Lifelong Learning Programme (2011-14). MAGICC provides transnational tools for integrating academic and professional communication competences, intercultural and lifelong learning skills and competences as part of students' academic profile. Findings from the project are now available.

Read more...

Alliances overseas can ‘secure future’ for languages

28 August 2014 (THE)

The new director of the University of London’s Institute of Modern Languages Research sees stronger international links and public engagement as keys to combating the continuing crisis in her discipline.

Read more...

Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching

19 August 2014 (Futurelearn)

A free online course from the University of Southampton and British Council commencing 17 November 2014. The 4-week course will introduce you to some of the latest ideas in research and practice in language learning and teaching.

For more information and to register for the course, visit the website.

Read more...

Trying harder makes it more difficult to learn certain aspects of language, shows study

22 July 2014 (News Medical)

When it comes to learning languages, adults and children have different strengths. Adults excel at absorbing the vocabulary needed to navigate a grocery store or order food in a restaurant, but children have an uncanny ability to pick up on subtle nuances of language that often elude adults. Within months of living in a foreign country, a young child may speak a second language like a native speaker.

Brain structure plays an important role in this "sensitive period" for learning language, which is believed to end around adolescence. The young brain is equipped with neural circuits that can analyze sounds and build a coherent set of rules for constructing words and sentences out of those sounds. Once these language structures are established, it's difficult to build another one for a new language.

In a new study, a team of neuroscientists and psychologists led by Amy Finn, a postdoc at MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research, has found evidence for another factor that contributes to adults' language difficulties: When learning certain elements of language, adults' more highly developed cognitive skills actually get in the way. The researchers discovered that the harder adults tried to learn an artificial language, the worse they were at deciphering the language's morphology - the structure and deployment of linguistic units such as root words, suffixes, and prefixes.

Read more...

Related Links

Persistence might not always be the key to language learning: study (The New Age, 27 July 2014)

How To Learn A New Language: Stop Trying So Hard (Medical Daily, 22 July 2014) 
 

Researchers, brush up your Mandarin and get ready to spend time in China

25 June 2014 (The Guardian)

The scope for UK-China research collaboration is clear, says James Wilsdon, but we need to broaden our focus.

Read more...

First language research improves outcomes

11 June 2014 (Neoskosmos)

Using bilingual assistants when researching culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities can dramatically improve research outcomes, a new study has found.

The use of first language research assistants can deliver a deeper understanding of participants' experiences, essential cultural knowledge and important contextual information or perspective. It can also make research more valid by gaining access to people who may not typically participate in research, the report said.

Read more...

The shared pathways of music and language

8 May 2014 (University of Liverpool)

Researchers at the University of Liverpool found musical training can increase blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain, suggesting the area of the brain responsible for music and language share common pathways.

Read more...

The reasons behind the decline in languages at A level

8 May 2014 (SecEd)

The latest Languages Trends study has revealed yet further decline in language learning, with specific concerns about post-16 study. Kathryn Board and Teresa Tinsley consider some of the reasons behind the continuing problems.

Read more...

Latest edition of Scottish Languages Review published

18 February 2014 (SCILT)

Issue 27 of the Scottish Languages Review has been published.

This edition looks at the range of projects that Foreign Language Assistants can implement. There is an article on teaching Mandarin tones to Anglophone learners and an article on a module which assesses the progress and gains made by university students during their residence abroad. We look at the support that can be provided by university language professional to help teachers’ efforts in implementing and evaluating action research projects. We report on the successes and challenges of the ‘Routes into Languages’ initiative in England and Wales and consider its potential for Scotland.

Read more...

Multimedia publication demonstrates vital role humanities and social sciences play in tackling the challenges of our time

12 February 2014 (British Academy)

The British Academy has launched Prospering Wisely, a multimedia publication and series of events that aim to kick-start a national conversation about the place of humanities and social science research in our society.

Prospering Wisely argues that we need to think about the nature of 'prosperity' in much broader terms than its usual purely financial definition, and it explores the many ways in which 'prosperity' is dependent on the ways the humanities and social sciences enhance our lives, as individuals and as a society.

This publication discusses the value of foreign language skills in opening up overseas markets as well as opening up cross-national and cross-cultural discourse, and the need for more people who can supplement their specialist knowledge in a particular professional, scientific or other disciplinary area with an understanding of other languages.

Read more...

Related Links

Annual survey of Institution Wide Language Programme take-up in UK universities

11 February 2014 (UCML)

The report from the annual survey of Institution Wide Language Programme take-up in UK universities has now been published. The responses indicate an increase in numbers of students enrolled on such programmes nationally, even taking into account a slight increase in the number of universities responding this year.

Read more...

Acquiring a foreign language improves when learning and teaching involves non-language content

4 February 2014 (Basque Research)

The PhD thesis defended by Jon Ander Merino at the Arts Faculty of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), under the supervision of Professor David Lasagabaster of the Department of English and German, has shown that content and foreign language integrated learning, i.e. teaching through a foreign language involving content of the language itself as well as non-linguistic content, enhances the acquisition of that language. The PhD thesis is entitled, ‘El efecto del Aprendizaje Integrado de Contenido y Lengua Extranjera (AICLE) y su intensidad en las lenguas curriculares: un estudio longitudinal’ (The effect of Content and Foreign Language Integrated Learning [CLIL] and its intensity in curricular languages: a longitudinal study).

Read more...

Study: Speaking 2 languages delays dementia

14 November 2013 (WZZM 13)

A study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology is offering new evidence supporting the benefits of speaking two languages.

The study was designed to determine the association between bilingualism and it's affect on dementia.

Read more...

Speaking a second language may delay dementia

7 November 2013 (BBC)

People who speak more than one language and who develop dementia tend to do so up to five years later than those who are monolingual, according to a study.

Scientists examined almost 650 dementia patients and assessed when each one had been diagnosed with the condition.

They found people who spoke two or more languages experienced a later onset of Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.

Read more...

Related Links

Bilingual skills can stall dementia onset (The Herald, 7 November 2013)

The Linguist Online

1 October 2013 (Chartered Institute of Linguistics)

The latest news from the languages world.

Read more...

Baltics are on top for learning foreign languages

30 September 2013 (The Baltic Times)

RIGA - Latvia and Lithuania are two of the top countries in Europe for learning foreign languages, the latest research shows. New figures from the Central Statistical Bureau show 85 percent of the total number of pupils in general schools in Latvia learn foreign languages.

Latvia trails just behind neighbour Lithuania, where 97.3 percent of the population speaks at least one foreign language.

Read more...

Related Links

Luxembourgers are language-savvy (Poliglotti4, 3 October 2013)

English is the lingua franca of Europeans as two thirds speak the language which has squeezed out all its rivals

28 September 2013 (The Daily Mail)

English has squeezed out every other language in the competition to become the common tongue of Europe, an EU report confirmed yesterday.  It found that English is the most popular foreign language in all but five European countries, and all of those are small nations that use the language of their larger neighbours.

Read more...

Launch of Born Global: Rethinking language policy for 21st Century Britain

23 September 2013 (British Academy)

Today the British Academy launched a new policy research project, ‘Born Global’, investigating the nature and extent of language needs in the labour market and the implications for languages education from school to higher education.

As a key project in the British Academy’s language programme, the research aims to develop a deeper understanding of how language is used in the workplace for different purposes, by employees of different levels of skill and accountability. It will explore employers’ expectations of language competence and investigate the reasons for their dissatisfaction with the current language capabilities of school and college leavers and university graduates.

Read more...

Key Findings: Languages in business – 70% of companies do not keep record of staff language skills

16 September 2013 (Language Rich Europe Blog)

Language Rich Europe developed a survey to explore the language strategies of companies, to find out whether they prioritise and support language training for their employees, and also to establish the range of languages used to communicate with customers and in promotional materials. The criteria investigated are divided into three main categories: general company language strategies, internal language strategies, and external language strategies.

Read more...

Commission highlights benefits of foreign language skills for UK students and business

16 September 2013 (WiredGov)

More needs to be done to encourage British students to study languages at A Level and university, according to the European Commission. The importance of foreign language skills is self-evident in all EU countries, given that businesses increasingly operate internationally: more than half of the UK's trade is with the rest of Europe - and its businesses need staff who can speak the language of their customers. The Commission will underline this at a conference during the London Language Show next month (18 October).

Read more...

The five cities with the most developed language policies

5 September 2013 (Language Rich Europe)

According to LRE data, the five cities with the most developed language policies are in ranked order Vienna, Barcelona, London, Milan and Krakow.

Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism across the education sectors. This week we highlight Language Rich Europe findings in public services and spaces.

Language policies and strategies at city level were explored, as well as the number of languages in which public services are offered. In addition, city representatives reported the actual languages available in both written and oral communication in education, emergency, health, social, legal, transport, immigration, and tourism services, as well as theatre programmes.

Aberdeen and Glasgow feature amongst the cities offering the most oral communication services in the most languages.

Read more...

Key Findings: Languages in audiovisual media and press

2 September 2013 (Language Rich Europe blog)

Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism and that goes beyond the education sector. You can browse all of the national/ regional profiles but in this post we focus on Languages in audiovisual media and press.

Read more...

What does research show about the benefits of language learning?

1 September 2013 (Observatoire européen du plurilinguisme)

In this age of accountability in education, policymakers and administrators, as well as parents, are increasingly demanding to know what research studies show regarding the benefits of language learning. This document, published by the American Council on the teaching of Foreign Languages, will identify some of the major correlation studies that highlight how language learners benefit from their experiences.

Read more...

Key Findings: Languages in further and higher education

19 August 2013 (Language Rich Europe blog)

Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism across the education sectors. You can browse all of the national/ regional profiles or simply focus on further and higher education by reading on.

Read more...

British holidaymakers admit to struggling with languages and culture

14 August 2013 (British Council)

Despite millions of people from the UK heading overseas for sun, sea and sand this summer, a lack of language and cultural skills is landing many in hot water, according to a poll by the British Council.

78% of British people say they cannot speak a foreign language to a high standard. 40% say this has caused them embarrassment while on holiday, 22% say they have paid over the odds as a result of not being able to speak the local language, and 18% admit to having no idea what they ate after ordering something from a menu they could not understand.

The research, carried out by Populus among 2000 British adults, was commissioned by the British Council as part of its work to build relationships for the UK around the world through language, culture and education - and advocate the learning of modern foreign languages in the UK.

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Related Links

Language skills: Brits 'embarrassed' abroad (BBC News, 14 August 2013)

Please 'Elp Me, I Am Briteesh... (Huffington Post, 14 August 2013)

Are British people really bad at languages? (BBC News, 14 August 2013) Article includes a link to a report on BBC Radio 5 live's Breakfast show, available until 20 August 2013.

Why learn a foreign language? Benefits of bilingualism

19 June 2013 (The Telegraph)

Learning a foreign language is more than just a boost to your CV or handy for travelling. It will make you smarter, more decisive and even better at English, says Anne Merritt.

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Which countries want to be influential and attractive?

19 June 2013 (British Council)

A new British Council report, ‘Influence and Attraction: Culture and the Race for Soft Power in the 21st Century’, discusses global trends in cultural relations and soft power. Anne Bostanci explains.

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BCC: Knowledge gaps and language skills hold back exporters

10 June 2013 (British Chambers of Commerce)

A survey of more than 4,500 businesses released today (Monday) by the British Chambers of Commerce shows that the share of Chamber members which export continues to increase. However, the findings also suggest that gaps surrounding the general know-how of how to take a product or service overseas are holding back firms from taking the initial step towards exporting. In addition to this, there is a major shortfall in foreign language skills within the business community. Rebalancing the economy towards net exports is vital for the success of the UK economy, so the British Chambers of Commerce is calling for more support for firms looking to trade overseas, while encouraging the take-up of foreign languages – both in school and in the workplace.

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Related Links

Addressing knowledge gaps and the deficit in foreign language skills will boost exports (BCC, 10 June 2013)  The results of the BCC's 2013 international trade survey show that companies continue to be held back from exporting by lack of knowledge and poor foreign language skills.

Poor language skills are deal-breaker for economy, says BCC (The Times, 10 June 2013)

 

Polyglots required if we want a place in the global academy

7 March 2013 (THE)

English cannot be the only acceptable language of scholarship, says Toby Miller. It’s arrogant, impractical and anti-intellectual.

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Help in Reading Foreign Languages

6 March 2013 (Science Daily)

Recent research into how we learn is set to help people in their efforts to read a second or foreign language (SFL) more effectively. This will be good news for those struggling to develop linguistic skills in preparation for a move abroad, or to help in understanding foreign language forms, reports, contracts and instructions.

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New research shows UK students hampered by lack of overseas study information

6 March 2013 (British Council)

The vast majority of UK students are still not considering studying overseas, and over three quarters of them feel there is not enough information to make an informed decision, according to new research by the British Council.

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Related Links

Broadening Horizons - Breaking through the barriers to overseas study (summary findings from the British Council's research)

Lack of information turns students off studying abroad (The Guardian, 6 March 2013) A lack of information is stopping students from studying abroad, even though they believe the experience would boost their job prospects, according to research by the British Council. The study, which surveyed 2,239 UK students, found that just 20% consider overseas study, with concerns about cost and language ability among the perceived barriers.

Culture at work - The value of intercultural skills in the workplace

5 March 2013 (British Council)

This research, published by the British Council, shows that there is real business value in employing staff who have the ability to work effectively with individuals and organisations from cultural backgrounds different from their own. In particular, employers highlight the following as important intercultural skills:

  • the ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints
  • demonstrating respect for others 
  • knowledge of a foreign language

The findings of this report may help teachers argue the case for languages with pupils, parents and colleagues.

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Related Links

Avoiding cultural chalk and cheese in the world of business (British Council blog, 5 March 2013)John Worne, the British Council’s Director of Strategy, argues that a lack of intercultural skills can be a big risk in the business world, as our recent research shows.

University applications 2013: what subjects are people applying for?

30 January 2013 (The Guardian)

The number of applicants to UK universities has risen by 3.5%.

Computer sciences had the highest increase in total applications (up by 12.3% at the same point last year). It seems social sciences, arts and languages are feeling the biggest decreases.

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138,000 speak no English – census

30 January 2013 (BBC News)

(Relates to England) The number of people living in England and Wales who could not speak any English was 138,000, latest figures from the 2011 census show.  After English, the second most reported main language was Polish, with 546,000 speakers, followed by Punjabi and Urdu.

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Related Links

In praise of … the Polish language (The Guardian, 30 January 2013)

Polish becomes England's second language (The Guardian, 30 January 2013)

Census 2011: the language data visualised (The Guardian, 30 January 2013)

Survey of Institution-wide Language Provision in Higher Education 2012-13 published

22 January 2013 (UCML)

The survey, carried out by UCML, AULC and the Higher Education Academy, aimed to obtain a picture of the current availability and demand for Institution-wide Language Provision (IWLP) across the higher education sector in the UK.

The full report can be downloaded from the UCML website.

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Brain Structure of Infants Predicts Language Skills at One Year

22 January 2013 (Science Daily)

Using a brain-imaging technique that examines the entire infant brain, researchers have found that the anatomy of certain brain areas – the hippocampus and cerebellum – can predict children's language abilities at 1 year of age.

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Sacre bleu! Getting children to study languages is tough

11 January 2013 (TESS)

The difficulties in persuading pupils to study foreign languages at Higher has been underlined by a report that compares languages and social subjects uptake.

The report, which uses social subjects as a comparator since many pupils choose these over languages, finds that the "conversion rate" for languages from Standard grade and Intermediate is "significantly" below that for social subjects.

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Très bien! Speaking two languages from childhood keeps brain in good shape as we age

9 January 2013 (Daily Mail)

Hours spent in language classes struggling with masculine and feminine nouns and upside down punctuation may all be worth it, say scientists. For pensioners who learn a second tongue as children have far sharper brains when they reach their sixties.

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New study of how Gaelic affects brain functions

20 December 2012 (BBC News)

Scientists are to investigate changes in brain functions among people who are fluent in English and Gaelic.  The study involving Glasgow and Edinburgh universities will require its test subjects to speak Gaelic exclusively for about 40 days.

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Related Links

Mapping the bilingual brain (Radio Lab blog, 12 December 2012)

Difficulties in expanding language provision

7 December 2012 (The Herald)

Expanding the study of languages at Scottish universities is proving difficult to achieve, a report by funding chiefs says.

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Scots fare worst in bilingualism study

14 November 2012 (The Scotsman)

Scots have fared worst in a Europe-wide initiative designed to foster bilingualism.
The study, which was led by the University of Edinburgh and backed by the European Commission’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), recruited 25 monolingual families from five European countries.

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Gaelic language use by families studied by university

9 November 2012 (BBC News)

Generations of families that speak Gaelic use the language in different ways, University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) research suggests.

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Pedagogy unplugged – understanding how children learn

8 November 2012 (SecEd)

From teacher collaboration to how children learn, the work of Professor Bill Lucas is providing a blueprint for 21st century education.

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The joys of being bilingual

8 November 2012 (The Independent)

Learning another language has many benefits apart from aiding research.

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The Modern Language Journal

7 November 2012 (Modern Language Journal)

The Modern Language Journal has provided free access to all articles from its December 2011 issue. One article of note is by Lynn Erler and Ernesto Macaro on ‘Decoding Ability in French as a Foreign Language and Language Learning Motivation’. Go to the MLJ home page and scroll down until you see the 'Most Read' articles on the bottom left.

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The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual

31 October 2012 (The Dana Foundation)

Today, more of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual than monolingual. In addition to facilitating cross-cultural communication, this trend also positively affects cognitive abilities. Researchers have shown that the bilingual brain can have better attention and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain, thanks to its developed ability to inhibit one language while using another.

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