our words make worlds

Interview study with ML

Building on our 2019 online survey on Attitudes towards digital culture and technology in the Modern Languages, the largest part of our wider landscaping exercise was an extensive interview study which surveyed the state of digital transformations in the Modern Languages at Higher Education level. This Interview study was carried out with 34 Modern Languages policy makers and digital practitioners, with follow-up interviews to assess post-pandemic impacts, April 2018 to January 2022.

We report on its findings as part of our strand's final report. We include a few extracts below.

Main Interview survey

Interviewees were asked a series of questions about the current context for Modern Languages, their experience of digital transformations in the field and what role they saw for digital methods, literacies and pedagogies in the future.

Most respondents worked in Modern Languages, Areas studies, Linguistics and/or Language education, broadly conceived. There was a bias towards European languages and cultures, but other areas were covered such as Latin American studies, East Asian studies, South Asian languages and Middle Eastern studies. Some respondents worked in cognate fields such as Translation studies, Linguistics, wider Education studies or language policy. Others worked in fields such as History, Classical studies, Politics and international politics, Art and curation, Postcolonial studies and Library and information studies.

One key focus of the interview study was on Modern Languages research, so not surprisingly there was a high concentration in senior academic jobs, but we interviewed people with other career profiles from schools, the arts and the private sector in order to provide a comparative perspective.

Interviewees were asked about the main (research) focus of their work. As is typical in language education, the research areas were very diverse indeed, but there was concentration in established ‘language’ fields such as:

  • Language policy/especially relating to language education
  • Language pedagogy, including e-learning
  • Modern Languages
  • Area studies
  • Broader cultural studies – theatre, gender studies, memory studies
  • Linguistics, including applied and sociolinguistics
  • Translation studies

Other areas included:

  • Social sciences, for example migration studies
  • Multilingual studies, language documentation and endangered languages
  • Multimodality and gesture, visual culture, spatial theory
  • Media studies
  • Digitally-focuses fields such as digital culture, critical digital literacy, educational technology or Digital Humanities

Post-pandemic Interview study

The COVID-19 pandemic broke just as we were completing our study, a global event which has transformed our lives in ways which we are all still coming to terms with. A full study on its impact on Modern Languages education is likely premature, and in any case, beyond the scope of this report. We did, however, wish to capture early reflections from those taking part in our initial interview study to gauge the extent and nature of these transformations, and their effect on digital engagement in the field. With this in mind, we contacted all 34 interviewees to ask them about five main areas:

  1. How far the pandemic had transformed ML education in the short term
  2. How far the pandemic would transform ML education in the long term
  3. How far the pandemic would transform digital engagement in ML education in the long term
  4. What the main impacts of the pandemic had been on this digital engagement
  5. To what extent the pandemic would change the responses they gave in their initial interview to questions about digital literacies/pedagogies, digital methods and digital tools in Modern Languages study and research

We gave interviewees the option to respond by online questionnaire or virtual interview.

They responded on such matters as:

  • Scale of change
  • Changes in the language classroom
  • Expanded demand for languages during pandemic
  • Engaging with a new landscape for learning
  • Shared experiences in online pedagogy
  • New reflections and experimentation
  • Opportunities for less well-resourced languages
  • Study abroad and virtual exchange
  • Contours of digital pedagogical infrastructure
  • Global dynamics, soft power


Findings are published in our final report.