Subject Centre 2002 Conference Proceedings

The Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research University Council of Modern Lanugages Association of University Language Centres Standing Conference of Heads of Modern Languages in Universities


The 'Setting the Agenda' conference organised by CILT and the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Areas Studies in partnership with UCML, SCHML and AULC brought together more than 200 participants from the UK and beyond. This collection provides a selection of papers presented as parallel sessions and workshops.

New Publication: Setting the Agenda for Languages in Higher Education

Eds. David Head, Michael Kelly, Elspeth Jones & Teresa Tinsley
Published by CILT, this new book examines emerging policies towards languages in higher education and aims to enrich the debate about their place within the curriculum and within society as a whole. It provides material from a number of perspectives - global, international, and European, as well as a detailed consideration of key UK issues, including a foreign-policy perspective. Papers also provide a strategic perspective on the issues of on-line learning and the growth of language centres. Featured contributors include David Crystal, Wolfgang Mackiewicz, Uschi Felix, Hilary Footitt and Michael Kelly. A full description of content, together with purchasing information can be found at:

What issues were addressed at this conference?

This conference addressed the following key themes:

  • marketing and recruitment;
  • management, leadership and departmental strategies;
  • e-learning, innovation and the use of C⁢
  • institutional, national and international policy issues;
  • development of teaching materials;
  • pedagogical research;
  • collaboration.

Who was this conference for?

This three day conference was designed for those concerned with the teaching and learning of languages, linguistics and area studies in higher education in the UK and abroad including:

  • policy makers and decision makers;
  • teachers and researchers at all levels;
  • technical and learning support staff;
  • developers and publishers of teaching and learning resources and equipment.

This conference provided a major forum for exchanging expertise and exploring new directions in the fields of languages, linguistics and area studies. With the declining number of students enrolled on specialist language degrees in modern languages and in many area studies programmes, times are challenging. Never has there been a greater need to market our subject areas effectively, bring innovation and imagination into teaching and curriculum design and engender a spirit of collaboration with colleagues both at home and abroad. This conference brings together UK and international participants to exchange ideas and strategies for addressing the key issues currently faced.

Browse the conference proceedings:

Departmental strategies and modern language provision

LICS from CATS – a managed approach to the curriculum
Elspeth Jones and Ricarda Zoellner, Leeds Metroplitan University
It is widely accepted that language departments currently face a number of pressures, whether through the decline in applications from school leavers, from the need to widen participation, resource efficiency requirements or a reduction in the full-time student body. This paper considers how the Centre for Language Study at Leeds Metropolitan University (CLS) has sought to address these challenges through an innovative approach to the curriculum, which draws, inter alia, on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. A Centre-wide scheme now offers a series of awards for all of its 2,500 undergraduates, whether they be full or part-time, home or international and incorporates all 26 languages offered by the Centre

Development of language centres and IWLPs

An integrated on-line/classroom-based language-learning environment
Nicola Howells, Anny King, Nebojsa Radic, Anita Ogier and Christoph Zähner, University of Cambridge
The Language Centre (LC) was established as an academic service in 1990 to respond to the increasing demand for language learning in all sections of the University of Cambridge. Since its creation the Language Centre has worked on the issue of harnessing new technologies to support language learning and teaching throughout the University. Self-access facilities have been available in the Independent Learning Centre (ILC) since its inception and currently 140 languages learned on a self-access basis are on offer. The post of Language Learning Adviser (LLA) was created in 1990. It was the first post of this kind in the UK. The LLA supports ILC learners by discussing learning needs and helping in the planning of individual learning programmes.

Intercultural learning

Intercultural communication: a teaching and learning framework
Donna Humprey, Nottingham Trent University
The starting point for this paper is that the acquisition and mediation of effective intercultural communication skills as a new objective in modern language learning and teaching requires new methodological approaches. These methodological approaches need to offer a guide to curriculum development and structure, a means for students to progress through the material, and a way of checking to see if both the students and the course are achieving what is intended.

Challenging cultural stereotypes through contemporary Italian films
Donata Puntil, King's College, University of London
This paper aims to demonstrate how cinema, as a visual aid, provides insights into contemporary Italian culture and society and at the same time how it can bring students into direct contact with an authentic use of Italian language and idioms.

Languages and linguistics

Linguistics and the Arts and Humanities Data Service
Martyn Wynne, Oxford Text Archive
The explosion of access to electronic texts and information about languages and cultures on the Internet offers wonderful new resources for linguists. However, the texts available often present themselves to the researcher as a bewildering choice of unfiltered data. The Oxford Text Archive (OTA) is centrally funded as the centre of expertise in the creation and use of electronic texts for languages, literature and linguistics in the UK academic community, as part of the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS). This paper describes the ways in which the OTA ( ) is currently working in particular to improve the service which it provides specifically for people working in the subject field of linguistics in the UK Higher and Further Education communities. The AHDS is a UK national service funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB). Organised via an Executive at King's College London, and five service providers from various Higher Education institutions, the AHDS aids the discovery, creation and preservation of digital collections in the arts and humanities.

Learner autonomy

New learning environments, autonomy and language understaning
Norbert Pachler and Douglas Allford, Institute of Education, University of London
By the end of the presentation, participants should have gained an understanding of: certain key aspects of autonomous language learning; the importance of language understanding to autonomous language learning.

Learner training: from strategy awareness to actual language improvement
Andrea Wilczynski and María Fernández-Toro, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
The aims of this paper are to: present a strategy-training module taught at Newcastle University; evaluate it in the areas of writing and speaking skills; discuss the relationship between strategy awareness and language performance. It also aims to demonstrate how an observational approach to strategy research could be developed on the basis of student performance data. The data presented here was compiled at the end of the academic year (i.e. only a few weeks before this paper was given). Therefore it should be regarded as a preliminary communication rather than hard evidence of specific findings. Nevertheless, it was thought that an early glimpse into the nature of the information that can be obtained by this method could be of use to other researchers in the field, and might generate fruitful discussion at this initial stage.

Learner differences

It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it: managing diversity of learning strategies in the language classroom.
Vicky Davies and Mike Jones, University of Ulster
It is commonly held that successful language learners are those who are reflective and self-directed, able to use a range of learner strategies in effective and appropriate combinations. Nunan (1991) further classifies language learners into four categories: concrete, analytical, communicative, authority-oriented whose learning styles in terms of attitude, motivation, aptitude and previous experience are brought to bear in differing measure on the language learning experience. This paper takes as its basis the premise that language teachers too, as examples of successful language learners, can be categorised in terms of their learning preferences and that these will inevitably shape the approach adopted in the classroom.

Taking account of affective learner differences in the planning and delivery of language courses for open, distance and independent learning
Stella Hurd, Open University
The affective side of language learning has been attracting more and more attention in recent years. Results from studies carried out with undergraduate language learners in the late 1990s into affect in language learning have indicated 'substantial links among affective measures and achievement' (Gardner, Tremblay and Masgoret, 1997: 344) and have highlighted the 'interdependent role that linguistics, cognition and affect play in FL and SL learning' (Yang, 1999: 246). However, most research on affective learner variables concentrates on classroom-based learners, and there is very little on those learning in other contexts. This paper therefore: reviews the literature on affective variables and its relevance for independent language learning contexts; examines some of the interrelationships between affective variables, and their links with cognitive styles and strategies; explores briefly the issues raised with regard to pedagogic intervention in independent learning contexts and the development of learner autonomy.

Writing strategies: differences in L1 and L2 writing
Sophie Beare, Algonquin College, Ottawa and Johanne Bourdages, University of Ottawa
This paper aims to: explore writing strategies in bilingual writers; compare first and second language writing strategies; discuss the results of the study and its implications in teaching second language writing.

Languages and technology

Developing intercultural competence for the knowledge society: The Open University A buen puerto website
Tita Beaven and Inma Alvarez, Open University
Preparing students for the knowledge society has become one of the aims of many educational projects. In this paper we argue that intercultural competence is one of the main skills that students need to operate effectively in the information society. In turn the Web seems to be a good medium for the development of this competence.

Using the Virtual Campus for language learning: a case study in pedagogical and practical approach to using ICT
Tricia Coverdale-Jones, and Anu Bissonauth-Bedford, University of Lincoln
This paper considers the ways in which a learning platform can be used for language classes within the higher education context. The platform, the Virtual Campus, incorporates a number of features and facilities including the use of the multimedia platform for final year French materials, and the discussion lists for second-year students of English as a Foreign Language.

Towards a framework for expansion and collaboration: a Web-based multilingual grammar resource
Steve Cushion and Dominique Hémard, London Metropolitan University
There are a large number of language teachers producing Web-based computer assisted language learning material for their own use and some of this work is a duplication of effort. While this work will have been done in using many different authoring systems, the nature of the Web is such that these can be easily integrated in a way that appears seamless to the user. There is a solid case for a pooling of on-line resources in such a way as to enable the whole language teaching community to benefit from our collective efforts which could perhaps be facilitated by the Subject Centre's 'Materials Bank Project'.

The role of the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) in the development of a varied set of strategies to integrate ICT into language learning (a case study)
Cecilia Garrido, Open University and Josef Huber, European Centre for Modern Languages
The ECML was created in 1994 as a Partial Agreement under the umbrella of the Council of Europe to support its member states in the implementation of language education policies responding to the challenges of our multilingual and multicultural society. In doing so it is complementary to the work of the Language Policy Division of the Council of Europe. The ECML's programme of activities reflects the priorities of the member states and serves as a platform for exchange, development, training and dissemination beyond national boundaries. Current projects cover among others, various areas of teacher education, language learning and approaches to the development of cultural and intercultural awareness, innovation in language teaching and the organisation, set up and management of Language education.

Developing language courses for beginners and elementary level students using the VLE Blackboard.
Barbara Scott, Christine Lyne and Cathy Pink, Sheffield Hallam University
The session aims to; demonstrate how a VLE has been exploited to include a variety of media and to provide a range of attractive learning materials to satisfy the needs of language learners; outline the practicalities & implications involved in setting up courses using a VLE; report on staff and student feedback on the project.

The Gruppo 62 Italian project: undergraduate collaboration between the universities of Hull and Leeds
George Talbot,University of Hull
This paper reports quite briefly on a project in progress, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) through the Collaboration Programme in Modern Languages proposed by the University Council for Modern Languages (UCML) and directed by Professor David Robey. The project is of 24-months duration and began in October 2001. The name ‘Gruppo 62’ may require a little gloss. On the one hand there is a geographical reference to the north of England. Our two Yorkshire universities are linked by the M62 motorway. On the other hand there is a historical and cultural reference to a group of writers (including Umberto Eco) in Italy who in 1963, when they were young set out an agenda for change within Italian culture. Our Gruppo 62 has been in existence since 1994, running an annual mini-conference and arranging for reciprocal staff visits to address each other’s student body on matters of mutual interest.

On-line and face-to-face language learning compared: the student experience
Miranda van Rossum, University of Hull
This paper discusses the student experience of Lagelands, on on-line Dutch course for beginners. It will compare the experiences of students who took this course in combination with face-to-face teaching as part of their degree at the University of Hull, with that of students who took the course completely on-line. Before embarking upon the comparison itself, the Lagelands course and the two learning contexts in which it is offered will be briefly outlined.

Language policy

Evolution of a national strategy for foreign language learning
Jenny Willis, Universityof Surrey
Foreign language learning in England is dead; long live foreign language learning! Such was the contradictory message conveyed in February 2002 by the Green Paper 14-19: extending opportunities, raising standards (DfES 2002). After four short years, when the Nuffield Inquiry and its immediate aftermath appeared to have secured the identity languages had long sought (Hawkins 1987), the bubble of euphoria had burst. In an amazing feat of lger de main, the Green Paper could declare that 'unless our children learn languages earlier we will fail them' (DfES 0186/2002: 1), whilst simultaneously downgrading their status to that of mere 'statutory entitlement' (writer's emphasis) in Key Stage 4. Foreign languages would miraculously move from being a compulsory element of the secondary curriculum, to a 'desirable' subject in the primary sector and a requirement only in Key Stage 3.

Pedagogical approaches

Spanish Students in British Universities: developing a support resource to improve academic writing skills.
Maria Carmen Gil Ortega, University of Brighton
A substantial number of Spanish students enter British universities each year. Those students, like other international students, have to adapt not only to a new academic environment, but also to a new culture and a new way of communicating in a language that is not their native one. This piece of PhD research has analysed the difficulties that Spanish students have to face when studying in higher education in Britain.

Text modification in foreign language teaching
Rocio Ortega de Toro, University of Sheffield
This paper is concerned with the issue of modification in texts that are normally used for foreign language teaching classroom. The inspiration for this topic emerges from my experience as a foreign language assistant in Spanish at The University of Sheffield. My daily practice with Post A level students raised some issues on the subject of reading comprehension problems, particularly, how using authentic texts was affecting my students' ability to understand enough content to move forward in the lesson. The main difficulty I have experienced as a language tutor was that when students do not understand a text it becomes impossible to move forward with the plan of activities based on that specific text. A wider consequence which is that these 'out of reach' texts create a negative experience with reading in the target language for the student. Most importantly the ultimate effect is the lack of progress in the process of acquisition in the language.

Justifying the use of the learners' first language in the foreign language classroom.
Jeanne Rolin-Ianziti, University of Queensland
The main objectives of the paper are: to contribute to the current methodological debate about the use of the learners' first language in foreign language teaching; to base the discussion on the examination of teacher classroom practices; to advocate the introduction of a controlled use of L1 in the foreign language classroom, through a careful consideration of variables such as materials and linguistic targets.

Mono and multi-lingual reading circles.
Tony Shannon-Little, Ana Martiarena and Veronica Brock, University of Wolverhampton
This paper aims to: describe the research and findings; explore issues around this type of task in HE; describe a small-scale research project to encourage students to read and discuss extensively outside class time.

A new approach to teaching German as a foreign language at tertiary level
Sabine Woods, Queen's University Belfast
German Studies at Queen's University has developed a second degree pathway called 'Business Communication: German for European Industry', which we now teach in addition to the traditional pathway 'German Language and Literature'. This new pathway is a response to the changes in the job market in this country and internationally and includes an industrial placement with leading companies in Germany during the year abroad. In this paper, I would like to give a basic description of the new pathway and some background information about why we felt it was necessary to develop this alternative. I then want to give more detail about what is special about this modern language course, and what the benefits are for students. Finally, as evidence of the success of this approach to date, I would like to quote some of our students' feedback about the pathway and in particular about their industrial placement.

Residence abroad

Student voices on residence abroad
James Coleman, Open University
This paper focuses on the learning outcomes of residence abroad. It analyses for the first time qualitative data from the Residence Abroad Project (RAP) within the context of earlier quantitative findings from both RAP and the earlier European Language Proficiency Survey (ELPS).

Critical incidents between cultures.
Jane Jackson, Chinese University of Hong Kong
The paper describes a critical incident development project that took place in an intercultural communications course in Hong Kong. In this experiential program, students developed two critical incidents. One focused on the perspective of a Hong Konger who had experienced a confusing or troubling encounter with an American/Canadian; the other one required them to interview a sojourner from the States/Canada to write about a cross-cultural incident that the interviewee found confusing in Hong Kong. The project heightened the students’ awareness of their own culture and the ways in which differing expectations, values, and behavior can affect communication across cultures.

Teaching business language

Preliminary findings: implementing video-conferencing and e-learning environments for widening participation.
Rita Mascia and Christel Schroeder-Small, University of Luton
The aims of this paper are to discuss: teaching and learning implication of video-conference technology; challenges of supporting learners in e-learning environments; best practice in videoconferencing and online teaching for language training.