Examples of language analysis in schools


In the UK

  • Longsands Academy (St Neots)
    • The Linguistics in MFL project has brought benefits to both my students and my own teaching practice.  I have a personal interest in linguistics and I was keen to explore how study of linguistic form can engage students and improve their competence in second language acquisition. Delivering the project in the summer term of Year 12 also provided a valuable enrichment to studies as students began to consider university choices.My A level students engaged positively with the course materials, enjoying the opportunity to learn about French as a language as opposed to learning the language. The discussions surrounding phonetics and morphology particularly in relation to verb endings had a discernible impact on their pronunciation, deepening their understanding of the differences between written and spoken French. I was also able to make explicit links to our study of la Haine when delving into the area of socio-linguistics and highlight the significance of ‘verlan’ in the film to reflect social identity.My involvement in this project has also been hugely beneficial for my wider teaching practice. In particular, it has caused me to reflect on the way in which I teach listening skills. I routinely use dictation so that students are more aware of the differences between written and spoken form. I have also designed linguistics starter activities to enable students to become more proficient at identifying patterns of language and build word families. A greater appreciation of morphology leads to greater resilience in decoding language. (Janette Swainston, Head of MFL, Longsands Academy)
  • St Paul’s School for Girls (London)
    • Three years ago, the MFL department at St Paul’s Girls’ School inaugurated a new approach to teaching languages to the notoriously diverse Year 7 intake. All students undertake a four week mini linguistics course, focusing week by week on ‘what is a language?’; ‘how do languages relate to one another?’; ‘how do we write a language down?’ and ‘how is learning a language like cracking a code?’ – this last week extensively inspired and resourced by language puzzles from UKLO. After this introduction students apply the skills they have learned to three new languages from different language families before making a concrete decision about which languages they will actually study. Whilst it was developed to suit the school’s needs, the course reflects a growing appetite for more holistic approaches to language learning seen in some primary schools already and reflected in the recommendations of the 2016 MFL pedagogy review. As such it has been adopted by a number of other schools and its author, Mary Wenham, is very happy to be contacted by anyone in primary or secondary wishing to know more. (Mary Wenham)
  • City of London School for Boys
    • In 2016 the City of London School introduced linguistics for our Year 6 entry (two forms). We did not want to start teaching any particular language at this level, as all boys in our First Form (Year 7) start French, Latin and Mandarin from scratch (with German, Spanish and Russian introduced as options in subsequent years). The object of linguistics lessons is to introduce our boys to various linguistic concepts such as gender, adjectival agreement, cognates, definite and indefinite articles, direct and indirect objects, and so forth, in the hope that such awareness will help them when they start learning languages proper in future years. I don’t set homework but there is an end-of-year exam. I very much structure the scheme of work, and almost every lesson, around the “Breakthrough Workout” problems provided freely on the UKLO website. The one weekly lesson typically consists of a recap of the previous session’s main points, then a discussion on this week’s new “concept”, then boys try the week’s problem, working in small groups. We go over the correct answers at the end. I am absolutely NOT an expert in linguistics, so the simple explanations and hints provided by the UKLO problem setters are most helpful. Boys have generally enjoyed the course, and my colleagues in the Modern Languages Dept have sometimes commented on the good understanding shown by those boys who have done linguistics with me the previous year. Boys also enjoy the simple cryptic crosswords I do with them at the end of every half-term. As a keen cruciverbalist myself, I have been gratified to see the enthusiasm of boys for solving cryptic clues, which I feel demands similar skills to those I’m trying to teach in our normal linguistics lessons (i.e. realising that sometimes in English the same word can function as noun, adjective, adverb or verb!) (Peter Allwright)

In other countries

  • Denmark
    • As part of the 2005 educational reform two new foundation courses were introduced into the Danish gymnasium (= UK sixth form) curriculum: Almen Sprogforståelse (AP, general language understanding) and Naturvidenskap (NV, natural science). These courses are obligatory for all students whatever their later specializations and must be taught for a minimum of 45 hours over the first three months of the 3 year gymnasium student examination (STX) programme. The language understanding course falls into two parts. The first addresses general issues such as language diversity, language families and change, language in society, the pragmatics of communication and strategies for language learning, as well as core elements of linguistic structure including phonology, morphology, syntax and lexis.  Part two is an introduction to Latin covering the basics of grammar and with some simple texts for translation into Danish. Following the further reforms in 2017, not only have these foundation courses been kept in the curriculum but the marks obtained in the course exams are now an obligatory part of the students’ graduation certificates.  There are two widely used textbooks: Babelstårnet (The Tower of Babel, 2005) and Sprogenes Verden (The World of Languages, 2013). In addition many schools have constructed their own websites; see for example (in Danish); and the Ministry of Education has a page relating to the course (also in Danish) is here: (Nigel Vincent)
    • The following is part of the English summary of a relevant report (which is otherwise in Danish): Upper secondary education is supposed to undergo a change from August year 2005. One of the  main challenges in this reform, as in all other reforms of upper secondary education in Denmark, is to define the overall purpose of education, Bildung. The purpose of Bildung is to form students  in such a way that they can be responsible, democratic citizens. Each era must define how this aim is reached. A number of scholars, of whom Harry Haue is the most important, have tried to make the concept meaningful in the 21st century. All of them agree that the keyword is the capacity of reflection. One of the attempts to implement Bildung in the reform of upper secondary school is to create a new subject which is a general introduction to the use of language. In this introductory course there is a new element that has never had any prominent place in a Danish language learning
      tradition: language learning strategies. A number of strategies have the capacity of training students’ awareness of details in written and spoken language. In other words, when dealing with certain language learning strategies you want to encourage students to start a reflection about how
      to deal with language – and thereby language learning strategies and Bildung have a common goal.  

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