Extending good practice in less widely used less taught (LWULT) languages

This project worked with language practitioners to disseminate and transfer innovative practice in LWULT languages through workshops and number of funded mini development projects. Collaboration across languages and between institutions was a key feature.

Funded by:

Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies

Successful bidders:

  • Language Centre, School of Oriental and African Studies
  • Languages Resources Unit, University of Ulster
  • Centre for Language Study, Leeds Metropolitan University
  • School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London
  • School of Languages and Area Studies, The University of Portsmouth
  • Language Centre, University of Durham
  • Department of Humanities, Arts and Languages, London Metropolitan University


The identifying and describing of Hindi learning and teaching materials

Eun Bahng, Ulrich Kratz, Language Centre, School of Oriental and African Studies

SOAS Language Centre makes use of diverse commercial and in-house materials for the teaching and learning of Hindi at beginners and intermediate levels. The project aims to identify, describe and catalogue these materials, to place these descriptions online; and where copyright allows, to mount text and audio components of the materials online for use by the wider teaching and learning community.

Computer-Assisted Practice Activities for Irish Language Learners (CAPAILL)

Gregory Toner, Languages Resources Unit, University of Ulster

Materials Bank: Access the completed CAPAILL website

The CAPAILL Project aims to provide on-line learning materials for Irish-language students. The main objective is to develop material for private study, but the suite of units will also be integrated into language classes taught in the University’s new ASC digital language laboratory. The finished package will consist of 18 units concentrating on selected topics, with the main emphasis on practice of grammar, spelling and vocabulary. Each unit will consist of a number of different exercises exploring the topic in a variety of ways, and there will be a degree of progression among the exercises and from unit to unit. A wide range of quiz types (cloze, gap fill, multiple choice etc.) will be employed, and each exercise will be accompanied by guidance notes. The units will be compiled in a non-proprietorial quiz package (Hot Potatoes) and the completed question bank will be made available on the internet in accordance with the requirements of the fund.

The applicant will be the director of the project. The applicant, in collaboration with a research officer who is a qualified Irish teacher with extensive experience of computing, will design the syllabus and units. The research officer will design and encode each exercise under the direction of the applicant. Testing, proof-reading and correction will continue throughout the encoding phase.

The completed suite of exercises will be trialled with University of Ulster students in the digital language laboratory beginning in October 2003. At the end of this trial period, the research officer will implement any changes required, and the applicant will evaluate the package based on both student and teacher feedback and an analysis of student performance in the exercises. Particular attention will be paid to the effectiveness of interactive software in language teaching.

Cultural Twist: a language learning framework with cultural awareness activities

Hitomi Masuhara, Centre for Language Study, Leeds Metropolitan University

Case study: The Cultural Twist Project: a language learning framework with cultural awareness activities
Website: The Cultural Twist Project (www.leedsmet.ac.uk/lsif/sol/cultural_twist.htm)

The Centre for Language Study (CLS) in Leeds Metropolitan University (LMU) has been playing a unique role in the north in offering 18 LWULTs (e.g. Finnish, Hungarian, Japanese, Norwegian, Punjabi). CLS has also been promoting research into Cross-Cultural Capability and has hosted several international conferences. CLS has an international reputation in Materials Development for Language Teaching and offers annual international conferences and postgraduate courses. CLS has also been involved in the development and promotion of two FDTL projects (DEVELOP and CIEL).

Through our activities, needs and wants have been strongly felt for language learning materials that help learners to become sensitive to language use and to discover cultural assumptions that drive language use. A systematic materials evaluation, however, seems to reveal that such needs and wants are rarely, if at all, addressed by currently available materials and that materials focus on teaching discrete vocabulary and structures using a PPP method (i.e. Present, Practice and Produce). Cultural elements may occasionally feature but the methodology remains knowledge transmission of cultural anecdotes that do not lead to learners examining implicit cultural assumptions made in the target cultures and in their own culture. This present situation is especially problematic for LWULT tutors because they are mostly part-time native speakers who do not always possess academic or pedagogic expertise. They may wish to produce better materials but they need time, a place, resources, expertise and strong encouragement to do so.

LMU has relevant fields of expertise and a remarkable number of tutors and learners of LWULTs. What it needs is funding to support systematic staff development and materials development programmes. This project proposes conducting such programmes that will produce generic criteria, a generic inventory of cultural activities and a flexible framework for producing principled materials that can be disseminated and shared through the internet.

Materials for an online LWULT LANGUAGE (example: Bulgarian)

Jim Dingley, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London

Materials Bank: Access the completed Bulgarian website

The project will focus on the dissemination and transfer of innovative practice in the area of LWULT languages. It aims at the creation of a selection of materials for teaching Bulgarian to students with some knowledge of Russian by contrasting the two languages. The materials will be designed in such a way as to make them useful for independent learning and distance learning/teaching, in both the Higher and Further Education sectors.

A maximum of five teaching units will be produced. Each will comprise a number of internally linked sections introducing particular grammar points that emphasise the differences between Bulgarian and Russian by means of:

  • on-line grammatical explanations;
  • selected texts illustrating the particular grammatical point(s) of each unit;
  • extra reading for cultural background;
  • exercises;
  • where appropriate, sound files for listening practice.

Some of the proposed specimen units will be at beginners or elementary level; one will be at a more advanced level, with listening practice.

It is the intention that the materials developed will serve as the nucleus of a complete web-based course of Bulgarian. They will also provide an example of how to approach the design of courses in other languages, e.g. Romanian, utilising learners’ previous language-learning experience.

Developing web-based resources and educational materials for the on-line learning and teaching of Portuguese

Margaret Anne Clarke, School of Languages and Area Studies, The University of Portsmouth

Materials Bank: Portuguese language online website

The development of a website and on-line WebCt language course with the following objectives:

  1. To provide easy access to a range of up-to-date materials which will both complement formal classroom activities and facilitate and enhance independent and distant learning of Portuguese.
  2. To develop an appropriate topic-based methodology for the teaching of Portuguese enabling the student to acquire not only linguistic but also cultural competencies; the materials developed will integrate linguistic skills in reading writing and listening with socio-cultural content, drawing on material in a range of registers from the Portuguese-speaking world, principally Portugal and Brazil.
  3. To develop pedagogical models in Portuguese for the integration of independent learning into the formal university curriculum.

Finding your way in Arabic

Randal Holme and Karima Soutsane, Language Centre, University of Durham

The problems that Arabic presents to a Languages-for-all (extra curricula) student are no greater than for other lesser taught, non-Indo-European languages, but the ability of students to make significant progress in an LFA (50 hour frame) are limited. An additionally problem is presented by the writing system. As an alphabet, we think it should be within the reach of an LFA student, and a knowledge of it can constitute a useful learning outcome that will underpin survival levels for students travelling to Arabic speaking countries, Teaching Roman systems of transcription is also wasteful because they are not used outside the classroom. However, the alphabet is sufficiently different for it to take up quite a large amount of a short learning time, retarding progress in the communicative skills. Even more than many other languages, Arabic LFA therefore requires a systematic programme of extension through self-access if the student is not going either to ignore the writing system or to become overly bogged down in it. The objective of this project will be to design that programme, presenting it as a usable package that teachers can work with and lodge in self-access centres.

The project will:

  • Set out a series of learning targets for nine months, four hours per week study using both classroom and self-access modes (2 hours in class, 2 hours in self-access –but extendable-)
  • Identify existing published materials in different media that can support the self-access programme and feed into classroom projects
  • Identify appropriate media in which to author materials to fill gaps or provide additional learning support
  • Author materials where necessary
  • Write an instructional booklet that will lead students through the different phases of the programme, linking the different modes of study and give guidance for the use of different types of supporting materials
  • Offer sustained practice in reading Arabic and the option of the same in writing (the primary objective with regard to the writing system is decoding the script, a secondary, optional extension will be acquiring some fluency in writing and letter formation

Interactive language learning for Arabic

Steve Cushion, Department of Humanities, Arts and Languages, London Metropolitan University

Materials Bank: Access the completed Arabic study materials website

To produce an interactive audio enhanced web-site covering the main parts of Arabic grammar in order to assist in the teaching of the Arabic language for Stage One of the Certificate of Proficiency in Classical Arabic in the wake of the successful completion of the first Arabic A unit. The interactive software will cover the four skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking, along with appropriate exercises. The material will also be distributed on CD-ROM to students to use at home and to this end a downloadable self extracting version of the material will also be made available.

To evaluate the material by using it in teaching both within the department and in collaboration with other institutions. As part of this collaboration, trainee teachers at Goldsmiths will help develop new material as an integral part of their course.

To see how the lessons learnt from using this material can be extended to work in other community languages, initially Punjabi, Bengali and Tamil.

To provide an authoring tool so that teachers can produce their own additional material customised to their specific needs. Not only will the material be made available for use by teachers via the Subject Centre's resource bank, but an authoring package will enable teachers to produce tailor made material which could be then added to the resources bank.