Linguistics in MFL

Undergraduate Research Scholarship project 2020

Department of Modern Languages

Project academic: Alice Corr and Norma Schifano

Project summary

The 'Linguistics in Modern Foreign Languages' project is a joint venture between four universities (Anglia Ruskin, Birmingham, Bristol, Westminster) aimed at assessing the potential for the inclusion of linguistic topics in the MFL curriculum.

While current A-level syllabi make a distinction between language and content, the latter referring to literature, film, history and culture, in many university courses linguistics also plays a fundamental role. Our project is addressing this gap by engaging A-level students with topics in linguistics.

The UGRS scholar will work with the lead investigators to collect, analyse and act on feedback from the 2019/20 iteration of the project, with a view to assessing how stimulating students find these topics and the effect this exposure has on their language attitudes. The underlying impetus of these activities is to take drastic action to address the current crisis in MFL by enthusing candidates for entry into MFL at university.

What you will do 

The researcher will be responsible for (provisional outline of weekly activities):

  • Week 1: liaise with participating schools and stakeholders in relation to project updates / feedback collection;
  • Week 2: under guidance from supervisors(s), undertake telephone interviews with participating teachers;
  • Week 3: working on feedback data collected from participating schools (e.g. coding answers);
  • Week 4: working on class materials produced for teachers (e.g. creating engaging ppt slides based on materials provided);
  • Week 5: producing a write-up of the scholarship holder findings/contributions to the project;

Skills required 

  • Some knowledge of linguistics (e.g. has studied a module with a linguistics component) and/or a willingness to engage with the field (e.g. complete some preparatory reading before commencing the project);
  • Excellent written English, with ability to write for academic and non-academic audiences;
  • Ability to conduct primary research online and in person and to work comfortably with Microsoft Office (or comparable online equivalent, e.g. Google Docs/Sheets);
  • Interpersonal skills for liaising with stakeholders outside academia (e.g. participating teachers);
  • Strong attention to detail in analysing primary and secondary sources;
  • Knowledge of, or willingness to learn, appropriate research ethics related to linguistic data collection;
  • Spanish (preferred) or French language skills would be an advantage but are not required;

How will the project benefit you?

  • Development of knowledge and skills in an academic area beyond the curriculum (linguistics, education, teaching, data collection and analysis);
  • Development of independent research skills (including ethical questions and procedures) and professional integrity, applicable to the scholarship holder’s degree subject and transferable to other academic and non-academic contexts, particularly the world of work;
  • Development of presentation skills, through the preparation and editing of class materials to be delivered by participating teachers, allowing the scholarship holder to practise summarising information in an effective and engaging way;
  • Application of language skills, particularly spoken and written communication, and how to adapt these in a professional academic context;
  • Opportunity to use their skills to make an impact in the world beyond academia, specifically, in secondary school contexts where a wider and more nuanced approach to language study could inspire students to apply for the study of languages at university level;

Where now?


Professional Services