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Languages in Crisis? Rethinking the Languages Pipeline in the Age of Brexit


Organised by Prof Claire Gorrara and Lucy Jenkins, 'Languages in Crisis? rethinking the Languages Pipeline in the Age of Brexit' took place at Insole Court, Cardiff, on 27 September 2019. It was supported by a Language Acts and Worldmaking Small Grant, the GW4 Consortium and Routes into Languages Cymru.


This event discussed the challenges facing languages from primary school to University and across England and Wales. Increasingly, students are opting out of studying a language, often unaware of what they will lose (or never encounter) as a result of such a decision. Multilingualism is an integral part of our everyday lives and allows us to communicate, interact and learn from others beyond our linguistic community. The openness that this promotes is needed more so than ever in an era of Brexit. The event aimed to bring together key language stakeholders involved in a student’s language journey to reflect and consider how we might reconfigure the language landscape in the UK to make language learning more appealing to young people.

The event began with teacher perspectives on innovative approaches to language learning. The following colleagues spoke about their experiences of language teaching in schools and sixth form colleges: Blanca Garcia Puente & Carmen Wismayer (St. Brendan’s Sixth Form College, England), Emily Harper (St James School, England), Ceri Griffiths (Ysgol Cwm Rhymni, Wales) and Emma Muggleton (Caerleon Comprehensive School, Wales).

This was followed by a session on language policy with papers from Neil Kenny (Oxford University) ‘Towards National Languages Strategy: Education and Skills’; Theresa Tinsley (Alcantara Communications) ‘Routes into Languages Cymru: Evaluation Report’ and the British Council Wales who launched their report on ‘Developing MFL in Primary Schools in Wales: an Impact Study’.

Following lunch, the event moved to discuss undergraduate student perspectives on studying languages, supported by the following students: Rachel Beaney (Cardiff University), Eira Jepson (Cardiff University), Edward Mills (Exeter University) and Nicola Pearson (Bristol University). A handbook, 'Modern Foreign Languages and the Transition from School to University: Student Perspectives', is available here.

The event ended with a roundtable discussion on language journeys and the future of language study in the UK with interventions from Claire Gorrara (Cardiff University), Walter Ariel-Brooks (British Council), Anna Havinga (Bristol University), Sonia Cunico (Exeter University) and Irene Macias (Bath University).

The organisers would like to thank the Language Acts and Worldmaking team most warmly for their support for such an inspiring event for all contributors.