We’re very much looking forward to our next English Language and Linguistics seminar at 12noon on Wednesday 11th of May 2022. The speaker is Professor Michelle Sheehan from Newcastle University and she will be sharing findings from the Linguistics in Modern Foreign Languages project: https://linguisticsinmfl.co.uk

The talk takes place in person at 12noon on Wednesday 11th May 2022 in room 204 in the Lipman building. It will also be possible to join online.

You can find directions to the campus and a campus map here


Email Billy Clark with any queries and for the link to join online: billy.clark@northumbria.ac.uk

Here is Michelle’s abstract:

A place for linguistics in the UK languages curriculum? Feedback from a co-creation project

Michelle Sheehan, Alice Corr, Anna Havinga, Peter Gillman, Jonathan Kasstan & Norma Schifano 

In this talk, we present an overview of the findings of the Linguistics in Modern Foreign Languages project (https://linguisticsinmfl.co.uk), a cross-HEI initiative which investigates the possibility of including linguistics as part of language teaching in UK schools. The project brings into focus the ‘language as discipline’ approach as opposed to the conception of modern languages in purely instrumental terms (see Lodge 2000). Results from an extracurricular intervention with over 300 A-level pupils which covered the sounds, structures, histories and varieties of French, German and/or Spanish show that students (and their teachers) see value in learning about the languages they are studying in this way rather than merely learning how to use them. Moreover, although we did not test for effects on language competency, students also report improved confidence in the modern language they are studying and a perceived improvement in productive and receptive language skills.

The current co-creation study, which involves materials designed to fit within the existing A-level curriculum, reinforces the perceived value of linguistics amongst pupils. While data collection for this project is ongoing, we present preliminary results (from 57 pupils) which show that even when linguistics is embedded within existing familiar A-level topics such as ‘politics and immigration’ and ‘cultural patrimony’, pupils perceive a linguistics-based approach to be very different from their normal A-level classes because it involves “[s]tudying different versions of French instead of the one ‘accepted’ exam-ready version”. One commented that: “it is a side of languages that I have never heard about”. Several said that the material seemed ‘more relevant’ (e.g. “Feels much more relevant learning how people talk in reality. It made the lessons much more interesting than the usual spec”), and another commented that the inclusion of a linguistic perspective “[e]nabled a wider variety of opinion and means for debate”. Overall, the reactions of students show that being allowed to think about language itself including how it works and varies and changes over time is highly appealing, though not all feedback was uniformly positive. Finally, time permitting, we will also discuss a thematic analysis of interviews with teachers who taught these materials. This brings up several potential issues for the introduction of linguistics in schools, not least time pressures and the tension with the prescriptive view of language. 


Lodge, A. 2000. Higher Education. New Perspectives on Teaching and Learning Modern Languages, edited by Simon Green. Multilingual Matters, pp. 105–23.  

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