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Students’ perspectives and expectations about language and content in Modern Languages - Alba del Pozo García

Students’ perspectives and expectations about language and content in Modern Languages - Alba del Pozo García -

Ethical approval ref FAHC 22-084

Funded by PRiA and LCS

This project is gathering Level 1 French and Spanish Modern Languages (ML) students views and expectations in the use of their language of study or target language (TL) outside their language modules. To do this I am conducting up to 15 voluntary participants and conduct one-to-one semi-structured interviews.

Research Questions

  • What do Year-1 students expect from the use of target language in their programmes?
  • How do ML students perceive the use of the target language in their cultural content modules?
  • How ML programmes would benefit student learning by widening the use of the target language in their modules?
  • How could the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies improve students’ intercultural awareness, and boost language fluency and exposure in ML programmes?



Most of the ML degrees in British Higher Education are divided into language modules that use the language as object and medium of instruction, on the one hand, and content modules, where students are expected to study cultural aspects of the areas that speak that language, on the other. However, in the latter English is used to teach the content and assessment is often conducted in English (Buse and Walter, Gallagher-Brett and Canning).

Previous research has shown that this division affects students’ capacity to develop cultural and intercultural awareness about the language and culture they are learning (Parks); it also motivates a utilitarian vision of language as a tool for communication that excludes cultural differences (Gallagher-Brett and Canning, Gieve and Cunico, Pountain). Furthermore, with limited contact hours in language modules, it is a common issue in student feedback, including Module Evaluation Reports, and students demand more opportunities to be in contact with the language.

At the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies at the University of Leeds, some initiatives have been developed in the Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American section aiming to better integrate content and language, in the form of language workshops attached to content modules. The so-called ‘CLIL’ approach (Content and Language Integrated Learning) (Coyle, Coyle, Hood and Marsh) has been one of the main methods used in these interventions and it aims to improve both language and cultural and intercultural competence by using a scaffolded approach with activities that help students work with content in the target language (García-Florenciano and Muñoz-López).

This project aims to specifically explore language students’ views and expectations about the use of target language outside language modules. To achieve this, students of French and Spanish post-A level modules (SPPO1010 and FREN1010) are be invited to participate in a one-to-one interview where they will be asked about their views and expectations of the use of target language in their programmes.

French and Spanish are two languages most widely available to study in the UK both at primary and secondary levels (British Council). Similarly, French and Spanish tend to recruit most of the students undertaking ML undergraduate programmes in most Russell Group institutions (The British Academy). Similarly, both programmes face similar challenges: the incorporation of Ab Initio routes, big cohorts of students per year (between 60 and 100 student), a clear division of modules between content and language, and a variety of students doing Joint or Single honours programmes with one or two languages.



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