Policy Papers & Collections
Policy papers connect research with policy through focusing on a specific piece of research and explaining its relevance for policy. The link to policy can range from pointing out conclusions and lessons for practice through to discussion of existing policies and practices and formulation of policy recommendations. In all cases the emphasis is on providing research evidence for criticising, endorsing or proposing a policy.
Emma Humphries and Wendy Ayres-Bennett
7 Jun 2023
Our analysis challenges three common misconceptions:
1. The United Kingdom (UK) has little to no language policy;
2. UK language policy concerns ‘modern languages’ only; and
3. UK language policy is primarily, if not exclusively, found in the Education domain.
Our analysis of UK legislation shows that much of the language policy is actually ‘hidden’ in legislation which is primarily about another issue and is therefore not easily visible to either the public or policymakers. We found 1,501 examples of primary and secondary language legislation, most of it ‘hidden’.
Legislation concerning the UK’s indigenous languages is more numerous than modern language policy, which is perhaps surprising given that the UK is often seen as monolingual.
We found language policy in 21 domains, including Public health and safety, Law and crime, and Media, much more than just Education.
With over 90% of language legislation hidden–some of which marks important landmarks in the status of languages–legal coverage for languages is patchy and the importance of languages risks being overlooked. This is a barrier to a coherent, joined up language(s) strategy.
Most language legislation is being drafted by policymakers and civil servants whose expertise lies in other domains. Those drafting legislation might benefit from training and support which encourages a systematic consideration of whether their portfolio has a language dimension, in the same way that gender and ethnicity are now considered.
Further work is needed to determine the extent to which ‘hidden’ language policies are implemented. There is doubt about this first, because of a potential lack of awareness of the policies, and second, due to the way legislation is formulated. The use of hedging clauses, permissive auxiliaries such as ‘may’ and vague phrasing may mean that the legislation is not consistently applied.
With the diversity of language policies in the different jurisdictions of the UK, more cross-jurisdictional comparison and collaboration might be beneficial to highlight best practice where it is found.
Piotr Blumczynski and Steven Wilson
23 Feb 2023
COVID-19 has underlined the importance of good communication strategies in public health. The research project we led has shown that multilingual provision is key to this by ensuring communities – including linguistic minority communities – have access to key public health messages.
A linguistically inclusive response to pandemics is also crucial to ensuring that levels of trust and, therefore, engagement with public health information and services, are high among diverse communities.
The inadequate provision for Deaf communities represented a particular failure of inclusion during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to an ‘infodemic’ and sense of marginalisation.
This paper makes a series of language-based policy recommendations to enhance public health strategies. These include the need for government health departments and public health agencies to commission adequate translation of key pandemic information for linguistically and culturally diverse communities, which involves accredited translators working alongside respected cultural and/or religious figures in the relevant linguistic minority community.
The paper highlights the requirement for health information to be meaningfully translated (attuned to the recipients’ needs and conditions) rather than merely transcribed (mechanically converted into another language).
30 Jun 2022
Education plays a fundamental role in the identity of young people. One key question is how it intersects with increasing linguistic diversity in schools.
Our position is all students should be empowered to identify (if they wish) as multilingual - whether this is through languages or dialects spoken at home, languages learned in school as part of the curriculum, or other languages or forms of communication they are exposed to elsewhere.
Research evidence shows that developing such a multilingual identity may not only have positive implications for students’ engagement with and motivation towards language learning but may also have wider implications for academic attainment across the curriculum more broadly.
Our policy recommendation is that an identity-based pedagogy is necessary in schools in order to help all learners to fully understand their own and others’ linguistic repertoires (whether learned in school, at home, or in the community) and so to recognise their agency in being able to claim a multilingual identity.
Wendy Ayres-Bennett and Marco Hafner
30 Jun 2022
English – though important as a lingua franca in business worldwide – is not the sole driver behind existing trade flows across different business sectors. Our study demonstrated how sharing spoken languages can reduce trade barriers. We estimated, for instance, that if the populations in the world who speak Arabic, French, Mandarin, and Spanish could communicate with the UK population without difficulty, then UK exports would increase by £19bn a year.
We considered how these potential financial benefits might be realised through the establishment in UK schools of an intensive language programme for Arabic, French, Mandarin or Spanish, akin to the government’s Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP). We found that a 10% increase in the UK Key Stage 3/4 pupil population undertaking such an intensive programme in Arabic, enabling them to use this language later in a business setting, could improve the UK's GDP cumulatively over 30 years by between £11.8bn and £12.6bn. This corresponds to about 0.5% of the UK's 2019 GDP. We estimated economic benefits of comparable magnitude for Mandarin (£11.5bn-£12.4bn), French (£9.2bn-£9.9bn) and Spanish (£9.1bn-£9.8bn). If more pupils were engaged in such a programme, the cumulative benefits would be higher.
Comparing these benefits to their potential costs, we found that £1 spent today could return £2 by 2050.
Based on our findings, we offer the following policy recommendations:
In formulating policies to promote ‘Global Britain’, more attention should be given to the importance of language skills in the globally integrated business community, especially with the growing geopolitical and economic importance of countries like China, where English is not the official or main first language. As a country, the UK cannot be complacent that English is enough.
Programmes such as the MEP should be developed and expanded to other strategically important languages so as to combat concerns about the quantity and quality of languages education in the UK and the decline in entries for languages at GCSE and A level.
The economic case for languages in terms of the cost-benefit analysis provided should be used to try to secure more funds for languages education and to promote, both in government and in society more widely, the value of languages for the UK’s prosperity.
Hui (Annette) Zhao, Nicola McLelland and Leanne Henderson
19 Dec 2020
In April 2019, the University of Nottingham brought together academics with practitioners – teachers, examiners, dictionary-makers, speech therapists, legislators, translators, lobbyists, policy-makers, and others – to examine how assumptions and beliefs about correct, acceptable or standard languages impact on everyday life in a multilingual world. The papers in this Languages, Society and Policy special collection, all by participants in that “Language Rules?” workshop, offer perspectives on language inequality in education, law and citizenship, from the USA, Ireland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands as well as from within the UK. Five policy papers by Adler, Kibbee, Migge, Moreno-Rivero and Stollhans reflect on the implications of research on multilingualism for decision-making in aspects of law, citizenship, and education, while Debono’s opinion piece challenges us to consider the role of academic linguistic experts in court. Krogull and Darquennes, meanwhile, issue a challenge to researchers of historical sociolinguistics to tackle research questions in ways that yield insights to inform contemporary real-world decision-making.
1 Dec 2020
Attitudes to language norms and variation in language teaching vary widely.
Concerns among professionals include anxiety that introducing learners to ‘non-standard’ varieties might lead to ambiguity and confusion, and a risk that students might be penalised for non-standard language in assessments.
On the other hand, linguistic variation is a rich area of study that can appeal to language learners and have a positive impact on motivation.
In German, as with many other languages, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, communicative conventions etc. can vary depending on factors such as region, social context, degree of formality, medium and relationship between the speakers.
Learners are likely to come across different varieties, whether online, mixing with L1 speakers, or in the country. They will benefit from some awareness of and sensitivity to these varieties.
Textbooks for German tend to focus on the ‘standard’ variety of Germany and only introduce Austrian and Swiss vocabulary to an extent.
A particularly striking example of how attitudes towards variation in language teaching can be shaped is the Chinese Putonghua Proficiency Test. This mandatory test for Chinese language teachers focuses on pronunciation, which is largely based on the Beijing variety.
The Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR) offers some guidance for the inclusion of variation in language teaching.
Treating variation as an insightful and interesting area of study can have a motivational effect on learners. The paper makes concrete recommendations for policy-makers, publishers, authors of learning materials, examination boards and teacher training providers.
1 Dec 2020
The annual microcensus provides Germany’s most important official statistics. Unlike a census it does not cover the whole population, but a representative 1%-sample of it.
In 2017, the German microcensus asked a question on the language of the population, i.e. ‘Which language is mainly spoken in your household?’
Unfortunately, the question, its design and its position within the whole microcensus’ questionnaire feature several shortcomings. The main shortcoming is that multilingual repertoires cannot be captured by it.
Recommendations for the improvement of the microcensus’ language question: first and foremost the question (i.e. its wording, design, and answer options) should make it possible to count multilingual repertoires.
1 Dec 2020
This paper draws on my experiences with language in English and non-English-speaking universities, minority language education research (Migge et al 2010) and on a survey-based research project on linguistic diversity at a major Irish university (Lucek & Migge ms).
Universities worldwide are under pressure to internationalise but there is a lack of clarity about what it means.
Internationalisation is interpreted to mean exposure to diversity.
Universities generally try to achieve internationalisation by encouraging students to spend one or more semesters at a foreign institution and by hiring foreign staff.
In terms of language, internationalisation is generally limited to discussions about access to English and the detrimental role of English.
Local academic staff and students are traditionally not seen as playing an integral role in internationalisation when at home.
Recommendation: a socially sustainable approach to internationalisation requires a bottom up approach: it must involve raising awareness about local and global diversity and its multifaceted origins through the core curriculum.
Recommendation: language is a central ‘tool’ for raising awareness about diversity and experiencing diversity.
1 Dec 2020
Translation is an essential tool in diverse societies. As language conflicts grow within certain sectors of the population, translation and interpreting contribute to bridging the communication gap within multilingual nations.
Governmental social policies in the UK and Spain recognise the right to translation and interpreting in public settings, yet their implementation needs to be reinforced.
The provision of Public Service Interpreting and Translation (PSIT) has faced many challenges, and professionalisation is encouraged. The privatisation and outsourcing of court interpreting have proven to be detrimental to the profession.
In this paper, we call for close collaborations between governmental agencies and policymakers with translation organizations to ensure that the quality of PSIT is guaranteed.
Douglas A. Kibbee
1 Dec 2020
Individuals have different linguistic competence in using the ‘standard’/official language(s) set by the state, and the differences can lead to inequality in the justice system.
Translators and interpreters in legal settings can be used as an immediate approach to compensate disadvantaged individuals
The right to an interpreter and/or translator for those who do not speak, or (far less often who speak non-standard varieties of the language of the court, is protected in many countries and mainly applies to criminal cases, leaving gaps in other legal cases where this
right is not guaranteed.
In non-criminal trials, the responsibility to request interpreters and/or translators often falls either on those in need of the service, who sometimes are unaware of their needs or cannot afford the service, or on the judges who have not received sufficient training and support in recognizing and fulfilling these needs.
Practices addressing the issue include court transcription and interpreting, but even the use of these techniques does not eliminate errors which are extremely difficult to correct afterwards, leaving court participants’ rights unprotected.
More rigorous policies on legal interpretation and translation services are needed and a list of suggestions are provided in this paper.
Mélanie Gréaux, Napoleon Katsos and Jenny Gibson
24 Nov 2020
Autistic children are at risk of having their communication rights violated. This risk is heightened for autistic children with communication disability, which can emerge from factors inherent in autism, co-occurring language disorders and societal barriers. This risk is also unacceptably high for autistic children from minority groups.
The autistic community, researchers, clinicians and policymakers must work together to promote the communication rights of all autistic children. In particular, Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) can contribute valuable expertise to the development and implementation of impactful policies in this field.
We propose three areas of policy action to better protect the communication rights of autistic children:
Area 1: Promoting more Inclusive Communication practices in our society;
Area 2: Enabling the co-creation of communication support services with autistic children and other relevant stakeholders;
Area 3: Increasing the visibility, access and inclusivity of specialist services.
1 Nov 2020
Every second language (L2) speaker will make grammatical errors, irrespective of age, education, motivation or learning context. Errors often persist even after focused teaching of the relevant forms and rules and abundant exposure to input through immersion.
Errors may persist even in the language of young learners immersed in mainstream education. It is important to recognise that grammatical errors do not, in any way, reflect the cognitive abilities or intelligence of these young learners.
Grammatical errors arise because learners have difficulty processing L2 forms which do not have easily identifiable meaning. Learning activities helping learners to process the relevant forms correctly can improve their accuracy. Such grammar processing activities need to take into account the degree of similarity between the target L2 forms and the first language(s) of the learners.
Young immigrant children acquiring the language of their host country through immersion in mainstream education require support in their L2. Online grammar activities incorporated in a blended learning environment can provide a personalised approach, without disrupting children’s attendance in the mainstream classroom.
Kamila Polišenská, Shula Chiat, James Fenton and Penny Roy
29 Jun 2020
This paper examines the communication, language and literacy assessment required by the 2017 Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and the challenges from this mandate in particular: ‘If a child does not have a strong grasp of English language, practitioners must explore the child’s skills in the home language with parents and/or carers, to establish whether there is cause for concern about language delay’ (p. 9).
If there is cause for concern, practitioners face three challenges:
Challenge 1: Providing consistent and objective assessment when relying on parental reports;
Challenge 2: Assessing children’s skills in the 300-plus home languages of the one million children in English primary schools who do not have English as their first language (DfE, 2019);
Challenge 3: Determining whether low performance on English assessments is due to (a) limited English language exposure, likely to be resolved through additional exposure in primary school and not requiring specialist intervention, or (b) an underlying language disorder that cannot be resolved through additional exposure alone.
To address these challenges, we argue for a policy that utilises a small range of evidence-based and easily-administered tests that evaluate language-learning skills, focusing on skills needed to learn word forms (the sounds that make up a word) and word meanings.
Elena Ioannidou, Petros Karatsareas, Stavroula Tsiplakou and Vally Lytra
10 May 2020
Greek Cypriot education remains largely oriented towards promoting standard language ideologies and only accepts Standard Greek as the language of teaching and learning.
Cypriot Greek, the pupils’ home variety, is still seen as an obstacle to academic achievement by teachers and educational authorities.
Cypriot Greek needs to be integrated into policies and practices of teaching and learning both in Cyprus and in the UK’s Greek Cypriot community.
hone pupils’ awareness of different varieties;
foster the development of their critical literacy;
facilitate the acquisition of Standard Greek;
counter negative perceptions, stereotypes and feelings of inferiority associated with the use of Cypriot Greek; and,
aid in the maintenance and intergenerational transmission of Cypriot Greek as a heritage and community language in the UK
Teachers and learning activities should promote and cultivate:
awareness and respect of the different varieties spoken in class, Cypriot Greek and Standard Greek; and,
awareness of vocabulary and grammar in the contexts of use of the two varieties and their social meanings.
This approach will ultimately change the way we view language and literacy learning.
Andy Hancock and Jonathan Hancock
12 Dec 2019
The Scottish Government's ambitious 1+2 Language Strategy, launched in 2012, has refocused attention on language policy in education and the provision for language learning in Scotland.
The Language Strategy contains a commitment for schools to further develop links involving “language communities” and to teach “the community languages of pupils in schools”.
However, a review of the implementation of the policy reveals the languages on offer in mainstream schools remain dominated by a narrow range of European languages such as French and German.
The learning of community languages of an increasingly diverse population remains the preserve of complementary schools organised by language community members and operating in the evenings and the weekend.
Numerous studies in the UK and internationally have acknowledged the pivotal educational, social and cultural role of complementary schools. However, learners’ linguistic achievements gained at complementary schools often remain hidden from mainstream schools.
A national survey of complementary school providers highlights a desire to improve their language learning provision and to be involved more in 1+2 developments at a local authority level.
Developing meaningful partnerships between the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), local authorities, complementary schools and mainstream schools needs to be an integral part of the 1+2 Language Strategy.
Extending and enhancing language learning provision in and outside of mainstream schools will add much weight to the Scottish Government’s policy aspiration to develop a new generation of plurilingual citizens.
Florence Myles, Angela Tellier and Bernadette Holmes
26 Aug 2019
The statutory requirement to teach a modern or ancient language at Key Stage 2 (ages 7–11) took effect in September 2014; the first cohort of children made the transition to secondary school in September 2018 and are now in their fifth year of language learning.
The introduction of a modern or ancient language to the national curriculum at Key Stage 2 represents an exciting but challenging requirement for most schools.
No additional central or regional funding has been made available to support such major reform, and no formal monitoring or evaluation of children’s progress and attainment is in evidence.
In the absence of a nationally commissioned evaluation of the impact of the new policy, the Research in Primary Languages network (RiPL) undertook a research-informed analysis resulting in a White Paper.
Drawing on available research and published data, the White Paper outlines the context and nature of particular challenges in implementing policy and offers fresh insights into possible solutions to strengthen provision.
Analysis of available data found patchy provision in a number of key areas, with large variations between schools in the amount of time dedicated to languages, expectations of children’s progress, teachers’ subject knowledge and professional training, monitoring of pupils’ progress, and transition arrangements between primary and secondary.
Research evidence has demonstrated the importance of amount of input and age-appropriate activities, a sense of achievement, progress, and motivation. Research has also shown how foreign language learning is closely linked to the development of literacy in the first language.
Teaching time, teacher language proficiency and teaching approach have also been found to be closely linked to learning outcomes.
The RiPL White Paper makes ten recommendations, focussing on: time allocation; curriculum planning; transition arrangements; assessment and reporting; use of digital technology; school accountability; school leadership; the strategic role of research; and the setting up of a National Task-Force for Primary Languages (NTPL).
Claire Gorrara, Lucy Jenkins and Neil Mosley
22 Jul 2019
This article considers the role that mentoring, and in particular online mentoring, can play in tackling the decline in modern language learning at GCSE level in Wales.
It evaluates Digi-Languages, a blended learning experience that pairs university student linguists with secondary school learners of languages to improve MFL uptake at GCSE.
This article examines the conception, design and early outcomes of Digi-Languages.
The article evaluates the experiential learning of the mentees (Year 9 learners) and explores the ethos underpinning resource development and the project’s key messaging around culture and languages.
The article provides recommendations for the expansion of Digi-Languages to support broader language policy objectives in Wales, including the Welsh Government’s policy of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.
The article concludes with suggestions for the extension of Digi-Languages to other regions of the UK and overseas and its potential as a model for stimulating inter-cultural conversations on the lifelong value of languages.
Maria Garraffa, Maria Vender, Antonella Sorace and Maria Teresa Guasti
19 Mar 2019
The language profiles of monolingual children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and typically developing multilingual children can overlap, presenting similar paths and delays in learning specific aspects of language in comparison with typically developing monolingual children of the same age.
In an increasingly multilingual society, it is essential to develop guidelines and tools for differentiating the two populations, avoiding both under- and over-diagnosis of language disorders in multilingual children.
Many multilingual children have a narrower vocabulary compared with monolinguals of the same age. Therefore, grammatical features are considered more reliable clinical markers of a possible disorder.
Clinical markers for children with DLD are language-specific. For example, in English-speaking children with DLD, verb endings may be omitted, as in “*Mary cook it”. For Italian or French children with DLD, a reliable marker is therealisation of certain pronouns, as in Mary lo cucina, “Mary it cooks”, with omissions or substitution of the pronoun lo depending on age.
Despite similarities between multilingual children and children with DLD, it is possible to distinguish between the two groups after multilingual children have at least two years of exposure to their second language (L2).
Multilingual children can learn their L2 fully, while this is generally not the case for monolingual children with DLD; however, children’s success in learning their L2 depends onlength of exposure to the language, the type of multi-language experience, and the structural relatedness of the two languages.
Clinicians need to be aware of the type of language experience, the length of exposure to the L2, the linguistic characteristics of the child’s first language (L1) and the specific clinical markers of DLD in all languages.
DLD will affect all the languages of a multilingual child, so assessment of all the child’s languages – wherever possible – is helpful in teasing apart developmental differences and disorders.
26 Sept 2018
Urban schools in Belgium have become increasingly multilingual. This invites pedagogical challenges as pupils struggle with the instruction language, but it leads to ideological anxieties in Dutch-medium schools especially.
Recent studies show that Flemish teachers have negative attitudes towards the use of other languages than Dutch. These studies call for anti-bias training and for a teacher education that lives up to the current multilingual reality.
There are good reasons however for expecting that teachers will waver ambivalently between linguistic uniformity and diversity, because they associate both ideas with important, albeit competing, educational purposes.
Developing positive attitudes towards multilingualism is possible. But the effects of such an endeavor may be limited, and the expectations about what teachers are capable of unrealistic, if it is ignored that teachers will also attend to linguistic uniformity, at least in the present circumstances.
Policy debate needs to take into account that teachers have to strike a balance between competing pedagogical purposes and societal concerns. Advocates of multilingualism at school may be more effective if they associate linguistic diversity not just with attitudes of tolerance and respect, but also with knowledge, qualification, and assessment.
10 Jul 2018
This paper focuses on language learning at school level and identifies three policy challenges emerging from the 2016/17 Language Trends survey of primary and secondary schools in England, namely:
Inequalities in access to, and participation in, language learning. The research shows that these are geographic, socio-economic and gender-related.
The need to reinvigorate language learning in primary schools and forge more coherent pathways between primary and secondary schools if the aspirations of the national curriculum and for the English Baccalaureate are to be fulfilled.
The challenges posed by Brexit itself in terms of supply and retention of language teachers, motivation to study languages, and opportunities for pupils and teachers to learn through engagement with native speakers and their cultures.
9 Jul 2018
In the context of widespread change in Higher Education and of disciplinary innovation across the Arts and Humanities, it is clear that Modern Languages is at a crucial juncture.
Italian studies, in common with all subfields in MLs, needs to demonstrate how the range of approaches that are now pursued within the subject area, share a common framework, the purpose of which is to provide a series of critical strategies that allow us to see how cultures operate in the past and the present, how they interact and how they define human being in the world.
In a world of ever-increasing mobility and global interaction, MLs needs to develop the study of the national with the study of the transnational and, in the process, to demonstrate how inquiry into linguistic and cultural translation is at the basis of our branch of study.
The paper outlines the different elements of the AHRC project ‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages’ (2014-2017) and the contribution that it is making to curricular reform.
Jenny Cheshire, David Hall and David Adger
26 May 2017
The linguistic diversity of the UK presents a longstanding challenge for social equality and social mobility.
Only a small proportion of the population speaks or writes a variety that would be considered standard English grammar, yet standard English is needed in professional life and to succeed in education.
In schools, the National Curriculum requires students to be taught to use ‘standard English when the context and audience requires it’ (Department for Education 2014a); yet the available evidence indicates that this policy, intended to improve educational and social outcomes, has not been particularly successful.
Educational and institutional policies do not usually take account of the fact that social and regional accents are often perceived negatively and can cause discrimination, whether conscious or unconscious, in life-changing situations such as oral examinations, job interviews or legal contexts.
The challenge has become even greater with the recent emergence of multiethnolects – new socially inclusive English dialects spoken in many multilingual urban centres – resulting from an increase in the amount and diversity of immigration.
We provide four concrete policy recommendations based on research into developing multiethnolects in the UK:
Increase students’ exposure to standard English, while ensuring that they are not discouraged from using non-standard English in appropriate contexts;
Commission the production of descriptions of local non-standard varieties for teachers;
Embed an understanding of non-standard varieties throughout the curriculum;
Outside education, promote the inclusion of language in equality and diversity policy.
Dina Mehmedbegovic and Thomas H Bak
20 May 2017
There is a widespread and often implicit tendency to consider monolingualism as the default state of individuals and societies. Multilingualism is considered in this context as a burden, posing challenges particularly to the education system.
In contrast, research evidence shows that multilingualism is common globally and on the increase in the UK. It is associated with better cognitive performance and higher academic achievement in children and with slower cognitive ageing, delayed onset of dementia and better recovery from stroke in later life.
These benefits can already be observed during language learning, long before learners become proficient, and have been reported in language learners off all ages.
We propose a positive re-evaluation of multilingualism illustrated by the notion of a ‘healthy linguistic diet’, based on the idea that exposure to different languages, learnt to different levels of proficiency, can have positive effects across the whole lifespan, benefiting individuals and societies.
We outline some practical implications of this concept, such as the inclusion of a healthy linguistic diet in the Healthy Schools Initiative and promotion of language learning and multilingual language use as a beneficial mental activity in healthy ageing.
20 May 2017
The teaching of a foreign language was introduced in the National Curriculum in primary schools in England in 2014 (Key Stage 2 – age 7–11). Children now study one foreign language for up to one hour per week.
This policy was primarily based on the belief that young children learn foreign languages faster, and that teaching foreign languages early to young children could therefore close the gap which currently exists between our young people and their European counterparts in terms of foreign language capability, making them more competitive on the global market.
Research shows, however, that children are slower at learning a foreign language than adolescents and young adults. This is because young children do not yet have well developed cognitive resources and therefore need abundant language input to compensate. The current one hour weekly, well below the several hours of teaching in many European countries, is insufficient to meet current expectations about achievement.
At the same time, research shows that young children are very enthusiastic towards the learning of foreign languages. There is, therefore, a strong case for an early start, in order to capitalize on this enthusiasm.
Research on current educational provision has highlighted two further areas of concern, in addition to the low amount of teaching input: (i) the transition between primary and secondary school is problematic because children arrive with very diverse foreign language experiences; (ii) the lack of specialist teachers, lack of training for teachers, and lack of adequate teaching resources.
Improving provisions for teacher training and resources is vital for the success of the current policy of teaching one foreign language in primary schools. A smooth transition between primary and secondary schools should also be ensured to mitigate its adverse effects on the motivation of young learners.
There are broader cognitive, cultural, societal and literacy benefits to learning foreign languages besides linguistic proficiency. These benefits need to become more central in the development of the primary languages curriculum and shape expectations.
Ianthi Maria Tsimpli
19 May 2017
Around 1,700,000 primary and secondary school pupils in England speak English as an Additional Language (EAL). As a result, bilingualism and multilingualism is of central concern for local and national government.
A number of recent studies show that EAL pupils perform academically less well than their monolingual peers at all key stages. In addition, levels of fluency in English can predict achievement in English, Maths and Science.
These studies show that fluency in English is necessary for academic achievement but may also lead to the incorrect conclusion that bilingualism is an impediment to academic achievement.
These studies do not take into account the huge diversity among EAL students, specifically the huge variation in their levels of fluency and literacy in their home language. Research shows that literacy in the home language (biliteracy) and bilingual education more generally enhances literacy in the additional language as well as cognitive abilities, therefore, supporting rather than impeding fluency in English and academic achievement.
Current policy guidelines around multilingualism are supportive of oral skills in home languages, but assessment of literacy (reading and writing) skills is exclusively in English. The absence of promotion of literacy skills in the home language can lead to decline of the home language, depriving EAL pupils from the cognitive advantages of bilingualism, and the specific academic benefits of biliteracy.
The benefits of bilingual education and biliteracy need to be promoted in current government guidelines and specific initiatives are needed, e.g. support of community schools for teaching literacy, promotion of qualifications in community languages (e.g. GCSEs) to motivate young people to develop literacy skills in their community languages.
Colin H. Williams
18 May 2017
The revised Welsh language policy has set a very ambitious target of creating a million Welsh speakers by 2050 which is supported by all political parties.
Research into the priorities, decision-making and concerns of language policy formulators highlights the difficulties they face in realizing political promises and can point to evidence-based strategies for language revitalization.
Without substantial investment in formal education, teacher training, the child care sector and the economic development of predominantly Welsh speaking regions, the 2050 target is unlikely to be met.
Structural difficulties in integrating the programmes of large departments of the Welsh Government militate against holistic and effective planning to reach the target.
Esther Gutierrez Eugenio and Nick Saville
17 May 2017
European language policy is led by two intergovernmental institutions: the Council of Europe and the European Union (EU). European language policy over the past 40 years involves three differentiated periods.
The first one spans from the late 1980s throughout the 1990s, when assessment was mainly seen as part of wider language education initiatives funded and developed by the Council of Europe and the EU. This period culminates in the early 2000s with the launch of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the establishment of the EU’s goal of ‘mother tongue + 2’.
In 2001, the Council of Europe and the EU joined forces to celebrate for the first time the European Day of Languages (EDL), which has been celebrated annually ever since. This marked the beginning of more intense cooperation between these two institutions.
The second period is marked by the need to measure progress in the development of language competences, with language assessment as the central instrument for policy making.
Between 2008–2011, the European Survey on Language Competences (ESLC) was conducted to collect data towards the EU’s indicator on language competences.
The third period starts in late 2015, with the EU moving towards closer cooperation with Member States to promote integrated approaches to learning, teaching and assessment not only in education, but also across a variety of policy fields, such as employment or social integration.
Rather than regularly repeating the ESLC, as initially planned, and given the difficulty of comparing results from national exams, in September 2015 the EU shifted the policy focus towards integrated approaches to learning, teaching and assessment.
10 May 2017
Major cities are becoming ever more linguistically diverse – the outcome of increased mobility, but also of greater opportunities that immigrant communities have to support and maintain their languages through access to resources, communication technologies, and increasing social acceptability of multi-layered identities.
In diverse, post-industrial urban settings with a constant influx of new arrivals and a need for economic diversification, language provisions are key to ensuring access to services and employment, supporting cultural heritage and community cohesion, and harnessing skills to support global outreach for economic growth and development.
The complexity and rapid pace of change in urban settings mean that extensive, top-down regulatory frameworks for specific languages, of the kind that are often employed to protect regional and national languages, are not practical. Instead, policy and provisions must be responsive to demand and they need to involve a network of different players.
Changing patterns of demand create a need for constant monitoring and assessment of data. This requires the development of new tools for data compilation and new procedures of data assessment. To ensure proper support for provisions and quality assurance, efforts are needed to increase public awareness of language diversity, to build confidence in multilingualism, and to share and promote good practice in language planning, including teaching and interpreting provisions.
The need for new data tools and for public engagement and awareness-raising in regard to the value of languages opens an important space for the civic university, which can become a key player in the urban policy and planning environment.