C'est la vie: The Usefulness of Languages in Education
Hi, my name is Helen and I have just completed my second year of undergraduate study at the University of Manchester. The subject of my degree is English Language for Education, which is a small course but is very specific and has allowed me to combine my interests in both language and education. In my second year my degree enabled me to conduct research within two schools that concerned the use of languages other than English by bilingual and multilingual students in their school and their education.
As part of my degree in my second year, we were required to complete a research project. We were given the choice to do our own independent research or to part take in a research project that the University was already undertaking. I wanted to conduct my own research, however after much deliberation on which subject and areas I would like to look into, I decided to join a project called Multilingual Manchester. This project focuses on promoting the awareness of language diversity in the Manchester area. After a few meetings with the organisers of the project, I understood my role was to take part in and conduct the School Language Surveys. This involved me and a few other students on the project entering two schools in Manchester (a secondary and primary school) and interviewing the students about their language use. This project was great as it allowed me to do research on language within education, which has always been a large interest of mine.
As I originally wanted to conduct my own research, I decided to add some of my own questions into the surveys the Multilingual Manchester project had already provided us. I was particularly interested in the usefulness of speaking a language other than English in school, whether the students used it much in school and if they enjoyed using their language. Using both my own questions and those from the Multilingual Manchester team, I was able to collect data that told me the range of languages that were spoken amongst the students in those schools and their opinions on whether they used languages other than English much and if they liked using languages other than English. I was also interested in the teachers’ perspectives on the use of languages other than English in the classroom, and so I emailed a survey to the teachers at one of the schools.
All the way through completing the project, although I knew my interests and what I wanted to get out of the research, I was unsure on what specific question I would have to answer for my report. However, when all the data I had collected was in front of me, my aims became much clearer and I was able to analyse my data and produce a report on students’ and teachers’ perspectives on the use and usefulness of multilingualism.
Throughout my degree I have become increasingly interested with language diversity, especially in the Manchester area, and I had wondered how this had impacted education. I really enjoyed this project as it gave me the opportunity to gain experience working in a school and to observe for myself the impact that increased language diversity is having on education. I found that the schools were really embracing language diversity, and were beginning to change their curriculum in order to include and teach the languages of their students across the school.
As I enter my third and final year of my degree, I have decided to take this research further and work on it for my dissertation. As this project progressed, I found myself becoming increasingly passionate about the subject and the research that I was undertaking. I found it to be an important piece of research as it displays the change in attitudes toward language diversity in schools and where in education students find it useful to speak a second language and where they don’t. I want to carry this on to possibly see how schools could further integrate second language speaking into education, or to see the impact that second language speakers are having on teachers and the classroom.
For more information about the English Language for Education course at the University of Manchester http://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2015/09173/english-language-for-education-ba-3-years-ba/
For further information about education courses at the University of Manchester http://www.seed.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/education/
For further details about Multilingual Manchester http://mlm.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/
For further information on the results of the School Language Surveys http://mlm.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/reports/schools-and-public-services/