Presentations 2019

Student-centred initiatives in language programmes: affordances and challenges

Sylvain Blanche, Sybille Ratz and Christine Penman
Edinburgh Napier University

This presentation from the languages group at Edinburgh Napier University will consider ‘widening participation’ from two main perspectives which partly overlap: encouraging students to engage in extra-curricular activities to foster active learning and building bridges between sectors.

It will present reflection on a selection of student-centred initiatives undertaken over the last few years (a student newspaper, storytelling competition, film club, immersion day with secondary schools). These were all designed with the aim to involve, motivate, challenge, support students in their language studies and foster a sense of community among language learners. The presentation will assess the uptake of these activities (which so far have been optional) and the impact these have had internally and externally. It will also seek to engage the audience in a reflection on ways to reach out to those who have so far been less inclined to participate.

A special resource on my course – Visiting Erasmus and other native students in foreign language teaching

Anna Bokedal
University of Aberdeen

Language students often want more small-group teaching with feedback from a native speaker. As a language teacher you want your students to interact naturally with peers in the new linguistic and cultural context. The teacher, as an informal representative for a country where the language is spoken, may also wish to engage with local and visiting students from this country.

In response to these issues, a novel teaching approach will be presented, in which native Swedish students, already present on campus, were invited to discussion classes in Year 2 Beginners Swedish (level B1). Students worked in small groups, each containing a native student, and used set questions, relating to topics, grammar and vocabulary encountered in the course book, as a help to initiate and possibly sustain the otherwise free conversation. The classes were evaluated with surveys and interviews. In addition to social aspects, the initiative had positive outcomes for both groups of students, such as increased confidence and oral skills paired with increased awareness of Swedish dialects and mannerism (course students), and increased appreciation of Sweden and of language learning (native students). The fact that it was mutually beneficial for both groups of students was an important feature.

This session will present the teaching concept as well as highlights from the evaluation, but also briefly compare similar approaches and share some practical tips.

Promoting Confident Target Language Use in the Modern Languages School Classroom

Colin Christie
University of Aberdeen

This session will use research findings to explore factors which can make more spontaneous conversation by pupils in the Modern Languages school classroom possible. Examples of secondary school pupils conversing spontaneously in French will be given, as well as easily implemented lesson ideas and routines. It will be shown that it is possible to create an ethos in the classroom which sets the expectation that pupils will communicate more freely in the target language, for routine purposes. This will be referred to as creating a “target language lifestyle.” Ten principles will be given which lay the foundations for promoting such confident target language talk by pupils.

Engaging students through consecutive interpreting

Carmen Garcia Del Rio
University of Dundee

Many of us may when travelling abroad may have been in situations in which we, as the only one that has some knowledge of the language of the country we were visiting, had to become interpreters to help others. This could happen in a variety of situations: in a restaurant, in a chemist, in a doctor’s surgery, in a shop or in a conversation. Or it could have happened in our country of residence as we may have been asked to help with a foreign visitor. When this had happened we performed to the best of our ability. On doing this, we may have felt that all the effort that we put into learning the language has been worthwhile, it made us feel good. Becoming a professional interpreter is a long and complex process but we can provide our students with basic interpreting skills in our classrooms and in doing this engage them in learning by doing. This session will examine an interpreting lesson as an example to illustrate some ways of how some of the basic necessary skills and techniques to be able to become ‘consecutive interpreters’ can be acquired.

Creativity in the English Language Classroom: A Comparison of Two Contexts

Vincent Greenier, Marta Nitecka Barche
University of Aberdeen

Creativity has recently gained greater attention in English language teaching, yet student and teacher perspectives on creative activities can vary significantly depending on institutional, situational, and cultural factors. This talk explores the importance of these particularities by investigating two groups of students learning English through arts-based group projects in rather distinct contexts: adult Polish learners enrolled in a UK government-sponsored English development programme in Scotland and adolescent Korean learners studying English at a private academy in South Korea. This talk begins by considering differences in age, culture, and institutional contexts. These attributes provide the foundation for considering two aspects of the affective domain: student motivations when participating in creative activities and their attitudes toward learning English through the arts. Findings reveal that the instrumental motivation of preparing for standardized tests was prominent in both groups; however, differences included “integrative” motivation being relevant primarily to adult Polish learners, while friendly competition proved motivating with teenage Korean students but had a near opposite effect with adult Polish learners. As for attitudes towards the activities, similarities were a demand for curricular relevance and space to include personal interests and cultural identity within the projects. Differences included adult Polish learners concurring more with institutional philosophies and instructional methods and demonstrating more difficulties adapting to the novel curricular approach. This talk will conclude with suggestions for how teacher training and professional development programmes might help teachers become more aware and responsive to critical contextual factors when implementing creative activities in their classrooms.

Integrating creative writing in a Modern Language curriculum:
Going beyond the ‘language’ vs. ‘content’ divide

Elise Hugueny-Léger
University of St Andrews

Following the creation of a co-taught Honours module, ‘Creative Writing in French’, at the University of St Andrews, this workshop offers an insight into the aims and workings of creative writing in a second language. As an activity which integrates ‘language’ and ‘content’, creative writing has the potential to broaden, and facilitate access to works of literature through the integration of different genres and media as triggers. Creative writing workshops, based on exchange and peer feedback, integrate and develop all four skills of language learning – reading, writing, listening and speaking – while positing participants as producers of texts. Activities can range from work on single words and sentences, to full-length texts and stories, allowing for the integration of creative writing at all levels of the curriculum, from beginners to proficient learners, and demystifying myths around literary creation.

Based on the experience of running Creative Writing in French (, and experimenting with various formats of writing workshops, this session aims to give participants the chance to reflect on their own practice and experience. With concrete examples and interaction between participants, this workshop will address the opportunities, challenges and potential of including creative writing activities and courses in language curricula, in order to rethink the divide between ‘language’ and ‘content’ courses.

Are there better fonts to teach? Letter-sound connection becomes stronger in some fonts.

Hana Jee
The University of Edinburgh

The ability to read and write is essential not only to support the quality of individual lives, but also for nationwide economic growth.  Considering a few effort put into English such as spelling reform and phonics, deep orthography can be one of the reasons for dyslexia or difficulty in reading, in the sense that it hinders the efficient building of letter-sound connection.  Making the best of linguistic systematicity can facilitate learning in this regard.   Recent studies suggested novel ways to investigate the systematicity between meanings and forms.  Applying those methods, the current paper aims to demonstrate the systematicity between letters and phonemes in the seven phonographs: Arabic, Cyrillic, English, Finish, Greek, Hebrew, and Korean.  We measured the distances among sounds and the distances among letters in order to check the correlation between them.  The phonemes were transformed into vectors according to the features from International Phonetic Alphabet, and the distance between two vectors was calculated by feature-edit distance and Euclidean distance.  The distance between two letters were measured by Hausdorff distance (Huttenlocher, Klanderman & Rucklidge, 1992).  All these phonographs returned significant positive sound-letter correlations, and some fonts returned higher correlations than others.    The study implies the choice of font may enhance letter-sound connection for early readers and allow more people to successfully read and write. (215 words)

Huttenlocher, D. P., Rucklidge, W. J., & Klanderman, G. A. (1992, June). Comparing images using the Hausdorff distance under translation. In Proceedings 1992 IEEE Computer Society Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (pp. 654-656). IEEE.

Translation and modern language learning and teaching

Penelope Johnson
Durham University

‘Translation in language teaching has been treated as a pariah in almost all the fashionable high-profile language teaching theories of the 20th century’ (Cook, 2010: xv). This was as a reaction to the so-called ‘Grammar Translation Method’ which was dominant in secondary language schools in Europe from the end of the 19th century. Inherited from the teaching of Latin and Ancient Greek, this method was criticised for its emphasis on accuracy, grammar and writing. Thus, many of the language teaching theories of the 20th century (from the Direct method to the Communicative method) advocated for a monolingual teaching of languages, where the use of translation and the students’ first language were banned from the classroom. This idea has persisted ‘almost unquestioned for over a hundred years.’ (Cook 2010: 5). However, in 2018, the Council of Europe published the CEFR Companion Volume. Instead of the traditional four skills, now mediation was introduced as one of the four modes of communication: reception, interaction, production and mediation. The publication of this volume reflects the climate in which, from the turn of the Millennium, many scholars have discussed the benefits of using translation in language learning (Makmkjaer 1998, Cook 2010, Laviosa 2014). It also reflects the need to widen the concept of translation as perceived by practitioners, students and teachers alike (Tymozco 2007). In fact, forming language professionals with the ability to operate between languages was among the recommendations made in the report of the MLA Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages (MLA 2007: 3-4). That is, rather than aspire to replicate an educated native speaker, the aim of studying languages is forming ‘educated speakers who have deep translingual and transcultural competence’ (MLA 2007:2). Having this competence will also enhance students’ employability, which will make the study of languages more attractive to students both at school and university level, thus widening the participation.

Using as a case study the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University, this paper has two main aims:

  • to explore, with the use of questionnaires, the extent to which the premises of the monolingual methods of teaching languages are still taken for granted by both teachers and students.
  • to ascertain the wider training implications of using translation in the language classroom.

Diaries as a Pedagogical Tool for Exploring Metalinguistic Awareness of University Language Learners

Argyro Kanaki and Susana Carvajal
University of Dundee

This paper presents the results of our ethnographic, longitudinal research work with learning diaries. The pedagogical approach of using diaries for exploring metalinguistic awareness seems also to be suitable for enhancing academic skills and consolidating teaching and learning. Our research aimed to explore the manifestations of metalinguistic awareness of students who were learning Spanish at Dundee University in three different, evening classes. We introduced learning diaries to classroom practice as a task for the end of each language input. Our research showed that, by using a diary, students consciously expressed detailed reflections on language analysis and compared Spanish with their L1. However, they did not seem to reflect on their own learning strategies and to demonstrate an intercultural awareness. The paper concludes with some recommendations for the enhancement of the language teaching and learning experience, and the improvement of both teaching materials and teaching methods at University level.

UN and EU model conferences: An innovative way to foster students’ foreign language skills

Ina Knieselies, Claudia Sein
University of Aberdeen

EU/UN simulations are a motivating and effective way for third and fourth year students of German to develop their German speaking and debating skills. At Aberdeen University, we have successfully held model conferences during the last five years.

As a first step, students learn about the UN or EU and how these institutions work in their oral class. Students also gain insight into a political issue that is currently being debated in one of the two organisations. Students are then divided into small groups, who are provided with guiding questions and carry out research on the situation and the stance of the country they have chosen to represent. Finally, students come together at the University of Aberdeen’s Conference Centre for a model conference. To recreate the authenticity of a real-life political discussion, conferences follow a strict agenda with registration, joint lunch, and a meeting with the photographer. Students are also asked to follow a formal dress code.

EU/UN simulations reinforce the debating and discussion skills that students learn in the classroom. They allow students to demonstrate their skills, which results in a huge confidence boost, especially for continuing ab-initio learners. Moreover, these simulations help students to develop and foster the University’s Graduate Attributes, such as a breadth of knowledge and understanding, critical thinking, team working skills, self-directed learning, and active citizenship.

The project’s effectiveness was measured through feedback from colleagues and written student feedback. 

The Game of Brainy Roles: The Ultimate Multilingual Challenge

Maria Larriva-Hormigos
University of St Andrews

Bilingualism and multilingualism in the classroom

“The Game of Brainy Roles” in an educational tool created to get teachers and students together to learn – by playing– how the brightest minds come together to come up with innovative research ideas.

This is a science & humanities themed role card-game to play in groups, in which a variety of professional and real people-inspired roles are represented: international, races diverse men and women, pioneers in their scientific fields along with well-recognised artists to highlight the lack of boundaries between scientific disciplines and to remark the strong connection between art and science. Moreover, the multilingual challenge expansion allows students to reinforce/acquire collaborative and language skills: this game brings basic neuroscience and language learning aspects together tackling not only the necessity to work across disciplinary fields but also the importance to overcome language barriers for an effective communication in collaborative, interdisciplinary and multicultural environments.

In this workshop/talk I will present “The game of brainy roles”, will share all we have learnt so far running this activity at Secondary Schools across Fife (Scotland) and Madrid (Spain) since May 2018, and will explore further directions to improve and expand the learning experience, considering two key dimensions of the game: the neuroscience related content and the acquisition/reinforcement of further language skills in a second language (Spanish or English).

I hope this work would inspire new affordable tools that don’t really required expensive equipment but creativity, passion, a strong knowledge of the subject and a good story to tell (in several languages) from teachers and educators involved.

Widening participation by improving employability prospects and confidence in the ability to succeed.

Simon McKinnon
Durham University

Employability prospects and confidence in the ability to succeed on a chosen programme of study are key factors in decisions made by young people when considering options for university study.

Supporting students’ employability and ensuring that they are confident that their options for study are aligned with their prior learning, knowledge, ability and interests are therefore crucially important in encouraging students from under-represented groups to apply to study Modern Languages at university.

Given the gap between what many students study in Modern Languages for A-level/Highers, and what is studied in more traditional, literary/cultural university Modern Languages degree courses, ensuring that these courses also provide non-literary/applied language modules can help university language study seem less exclusively unfamiliar and inaccessible.

The final-year module in French Interpreting at Durham University (sitting alongside modules in translation) is just such a course.

Students are given a basic introduction to Conference Interpreting (bilateral, consecutive, simultaneous and on-sight) not in order to provide professional interpreting training but, instead, to increase employability by honing and refining skills in mediation and communication, and by building confidence in the ability to work linguistically under pressure and in a range of contexts and situations.

This presentation will describe the module, its coverage and aims, and will provide evidence of its impact on students’ perceptions of the attractiveness of the degree drawn from interviews with current and former students.

Dictionary training to develop independence and confidence in learners of Chinese 

Kester Newill
Heriot-Watt University

Learning Chinese can take English-speaking students four times longer to learn than some European languages. One reason is that the ability to recognize and produce a large number of characters is fundamental to success. Yet, for learners of Chinese there is no obvious relationship between a character’s written form and its pronunciation, which makes recognition and retention problematic and time-consuming. This can lead to raised levels of foreign learner reading anxiety in learners of Chinese.

The difficulties developing script-sound associations means that learners cannot easily look up characters in a dictionary, and beginner textbooks do very little to train learners on the use of Chinese dictionaries. This creates in learners an over-reliance on textbooks and on surface-learning strategies to enable task completion without necessarily meeting the intended learning outcomes.

Chinese textbooks have been criticised for sacrificing language authenticity and learner-centred methodologies in favour of an overly-simplified, tightly-controlled approach to Chinese acquisition. This is at odds with some desirable learner characteristics at university level, such as the ability to work independently, and the acquisition of conceptual subject knowledge.

In my presentation I will suggest how teachers can incorporate systematic training and assessment in the use of Chinese dictionaries in the curriculum, in order to promote greater conceptual knowledge of character formation, and thereby foster independent learning and increased confidence among university students who study beginner-level Chinese.

“This is what I want today” – A Longitudinal Study of Multilingual Development

Sibylle Ratz
Edinburgh Napier University

Modern language programmes at UK universities today attract students with varying language constellations and diverse multilingual backgrounds and concerns. Through the use of narrative inquiry (Clandinin and Connelly, 2000) as a way of understanding the experiences of students, I explore the multilingual development of ten students.

My approach to the narratives draws on Archer’s theory of reflexivity which focusses on three aspects: The “singular constellations of concerns” (Archer, 2007, p. 22) which subjects express (what do they want?); the projects which subjects develop to realise their concerns (how do they go about getting it?); and the way in which subjects reflect on constraints and affordances which may cause them to alter their projects (and sometimes also the underlying concerns). In my paper I apply this theory of reflexivity to the area of multilingualism.

The narratives I interpret are based on interview data collected over three years (including a year abroad). I give examples of the diverse multilingual concerns of the students and their projects. The concerns and the projects are dynamic and I show how the students adjust these through their reflections. These reflections on constraints and affordances are multi-faceted and include the micro and meso level (for instance experiences in the classroom) and the macro level (for instance Brexit anxieties).

Widening participation in language programmes means understanding the heterogeneous multilingual concerns of students. Engaging students in dialogue could help to foster their reflexivity on constraints and affordances and give staff the opportunity to support students in developing their concerns.

Archer, M. (2007). Making our Way through the World: Human Reflexivity and Social Mobility. Cambridge: University Press.

Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco: Josey-Bass Publishers.

Developing confidence in language learners

Jen Read, Virginie Bradbury

A proposal from PanTayside explaining the role of the partnership to develop 1+2 teaching and learning.

The PanTayside partnership is a working body of the three local authorities Angus, Dundee and Perth and KinRoss. Three Staff Tutors are employed as part of the team to develop and strengthen the 1+2 Language policy across all primary and secondary schools within the authorities. Led by a cross authority team of senior managers, the PanTayside Staff Tutors develop and lead a range of initiatives designed to support managers, teachers, parents and the school community. The team works with and alongside a range of external partner bodies including CISS (Confucius Institute within SCILT), DCA, language based companies, The National Museum and local businesses.

The team would be keen to host a stall (if this is possible) to showcase two of the projects being developed and run within the authorities.

  1. A new concept for Scotland- the first Satellite Confucius Hub

In January 2019 the first Satellite Confucius Hub in Scotland was launched. As one of the Scottish authorities with a primary and secondary Confucius Hub we are keen to support and promote learning and teaching of Mandarin and further develop an understanding of Chinese culture. As with many authorities the sheer size of the authority makes sharing of resources difficult. As a simple solution a satellite hub has been established at Tannadice Primary School. Resource boxes have been developed and are currently on loan across the authority. The Hub was launched at a twilight event including staff from CISS and Hanban. Workshops helped to further explain the resources available. Future plans include developing the school as a cultural centre with visits from specialists such as the Chinese Opera to further deepen learning. Plans for the hubs have been shared with several authorities across Scotland.

A PPT is available for further information.

  1. Partnership working with the DCA

Working with the staff at the DCA , the PanTayside team developed resources (Teachers’ Resource: “Regardez, écoutez, discutez…”) for teachers and educational professionals to support language learning based on Modern Language Films show at the DCA film festivals.

Each resource aimed to:

  • support and extend working with film in the classroom
  • help prepare teachers for a class visit to a Discovery Film Festival film and to extend the impact of that visit for delivery of CfE
  • develop confidence in Moving Image Education approaches and working with 21st Century Literacy /moving image texts

For additional information see

As a team we would welcome the opportunity to share our approach with colleagues at the Conference.

A Technology-Enhanced and Self-Access Learning Project in the Making: French Grammar Videos

Pauline Souleau
University of St Andrews

This paper will focus on a project in the making: the creation of self-access French grammar videos for the University of St Andrews School of Modern Languages. After a brief presentation of the project and its aims, the paper will take e.g. the form of a roundtable discussion with delegates to reflect on technology-enhanced and self-access learning.

Currently, the project aims to produce a first video in the summer 2019; more will be added each year and existing videos will be revised and updated. Each video will target one specific grammar point known to cause students trouble (e.g. past participle agreement; partitive article omission).

The roundtable structure of the paper would help reflect on some of the pedagogical questions raised by the project and refine its aims, methodology, and input: the choice of hosting platform (a Virtual Learning Environment, only accessible to current students; the School’s webpages, open to all; YouTube; all three or others?); the target audience (future/incoming students, current students, or both?); language and subtitles; length and frequency of the videos; data collection; overall usefulness of technology-enhanced learning and self-access language tools for outreach/widening access and participation, students’ confidence, and grammar consolidation.

Espacios Increíbles

Louise Whyte
University of Strathclyde

In this seminar;

  • teachers will share their experience of working with other professionals to develop an interdisciplinary project which seeks to improve learners’ experiences

About the project:

‘Espacios Increíbles’, based on the TV show ‘Amazing Spaces’, is a project developed in collaboration with teachers across 5 schools in 3 challenge authorities. Through this project learners are investigating 2 Latin American countries, Bolivia & Chile, with whom the architecture department have links. Whilst learning about the countries, pupils will design an ‘amazing space’ in Bolivia or Chile & present it to their class in Spanish. Using the moderation cycle teachers have engaged in professional learning & developed a shared understanding of what learning looks like at level 3 &4 through;

  • professional discussion on expectations of learners at each level
  • development of lessons & resources
  • inter-authority moderation using benchmarks

Participation in this collaborative partnership will empower them to lead the project in their own contexts.

Benefits of attending seminar:

For all delegates;

  • project plans will be available to empower them to develop similar projects in their own contexts;
  • all learning and teaching resources developed will be made available
  • lead teachers from this partnership may arrange to visit schools, where possible, to give further information on the project should they wish to lead a similar project;
  • information on the structure of the final event at the university to celebrate the learners’ work and the parental engagement event will also be shared
  • evidence of impact will be shared