Studying English Language with a Language

Reading offers a vast array of combined degrees amongst their courses and the School of Languages is no exception to this. The most popular subject to combine English Language with in my year was English Literature, but I chose to combine it with a language, French. In Welcome Week, a question you will answer almost a hundred times is, “What are you studying?” and I quickly got used to people screwing their noses up when I told them that I did French and English Language. The question that they often followed it up with was, “Why?” Well, here’s the answer.

For me, it was always a no-brainer that I would take English Language at University – I took it at A Level and it was by far my favourite subject. I’ve always had a love of grammar and words but was never interested enough in reading the classics to choose Literature. When I came to look at where I could go and what I could study, I was overwhelmed with choices, but a combination with French was the one that struck me. I was studying it at A Level and so knew that the two subjects were a good combination.

I suppose a love of grammar meant that delving into two very grammar heavy subjects didn’t daunt me, but I would recommend my course to someone even if they didn’t love to talk about tense as much as I do. My English lectures compliment my French lessons perfectly. In first year, I learned about Phonetics and Phonology on the English side of my course, which is the study of sounds and how they make up language. Part of that was learning the Phonetic Alphabet, a way of transcribing sounds. When I then encountered some phonetic transcriptions in my French pronunciation classes, I was able to read them easily. Seeing the words transcribed helped me to understand things like the difference between how –ous and –us sound in French. And, of course, having a deeper understanding of the grammar of your own language will only help when you learn a second one.

Worksheets and books of an English Language and French Language student

Worksheets and books of an English Language and French Language student

Of course, these aren’t the only advantages of my course – an obvious one was that it provided me with the opportunity to do a year abroad. When I first applied to University, a combined degree with a language was my only real option if I wanted to do a year in another country. Now, you can do a year abroad in your third year even if you’re a pure English Language student. For me, my year abroad is an important part of perfecting my ability to use French but it’s also a good chance to explore another country’s language and culture as a student of linguistics. Whilst English is the focus of the course at Reading, you will naturally look at other languages during your studies. After all, you can’t really have a full grasp of how a language works, especially not one like English, if you haven’t taken into account the other languages of the world and how they may have influenced it. So taking a year abroad is a great chance to enhance your understanding of language.

Finally, possibly the biggest advantage of studying my course is the departments themselves. The school of Literature and Languages is like its own little community at Reading. Though the French department may have its own little corridor, you can expect to see the students and staff mingling with those from Italian and German too, and it’s the same in the English department. The departments may not be big when compared with the hundreds that take business or a science but, if you ask me, that’s better. When you’re studying something as complex and personal as language, it’s always helpful to know your fellow students and lecturers well.

So some people may turn their nose up at my degree and question why I would inflict it on myself, but it was the perfect choice for me and I would recommend it to someone else in a heartbeat.

Emma Connor

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My Favourite Part Two Module – Sociolinguistics

After finishing my first year at the University of Reading, I realised that studying English Language here was one of the best decisions I had made during my A-levels. My modules as a part one student consisted of Sounds Grammar and Meaning, English Language in Use, Techniques and Skills for Applies Linguistics and English Language in Society. The module I particularly enjoyed was English Language in Society, which I now have the opportunity to further my study in, through my core part two module Sociolinguistics. Sociolinguistics is a great module for those who want to understand the deeper or implied meaning behind language, and how this affects us as individuals, our social groups and the culture around us. I find it fascinating to see how one small word or sentence can have such a great effect on the world around us, and how every individual can take or draw something different from those words.

As Sociolinguistics is a core part two module, everyone on the English Language course was obliged to take it. It helps to further your knowledge from your compulsory first year module, English Language in Society; so it’s actually less a question of learning new content, but rather applying the content you have learnt during the first year to a range of different situations and scenarios. For example, we look at everything from language in advertising to language change, gender and power. The areas within Sociolinguistics I particularly enjoy studying are language in advertising, and language and power. My interest in these areas started whilst studying language in power when doing my A-level exams, and it has only grown more as I have developed a new understanding of how language really can make a difference in society, depending on the way we use it.

Another aspect of Sociolinguistics I have really enjoyed is taking part in the group project, which makes up for 30% of our overall module grade. The group project allows you to analyse the language of any TV show or film you wish, and then within your group create a website to present your findings and conclusion. You will be looking at the different varieties of English, and the key phonological and grammatical aspects of these varieties, as well as how characters use features such as a particular linguistic style to convey their identity. You will also develop this further by showing how these features actually create stereotypes and ideologies relating to particular varieties, such as Received Pronunciation and African-American vernacular English, and the affect this has on society.

With only a few weeks left of this module, one tip I can give you is to look behind the language when you are next watching a TV show or a films. What are the characters or individuals really trying to say? Is what they are saying actually having an impact, or even changing the way you view something? Asking yourself these questions will only help to further your understanding of the power that language has. Finally, if you’re looking to start early on some reading around this topic a great start would be Homes, J. (2013), An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. It’s a great book to get a feel for what this module is all about.

Emma Campbell

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Societies – Enriching your Time at Reading

Although a lot of your time at university is spent absorbed in your degree, there is also so much more you can get involved in that will help make your time at university more memorable; it will also help develop your employability skills for after university. At the University of Reading there really is so much you can get involved in as a student, from Quidditch to the business society, and from caving to the Beyoncé society. I remember when I first looked around one of the societies fayres, I felt a little overwhelmed about how many different things I could sign up to. My advice would be to go for something that either you enjoy or something that is completely out of your comfort zone.

Societies Fayre in Welcome Week

Societies Fayre in Welcome Week

The best thing I believe I got involved in, was taking part in The Spark newspaper’s committee as their secretary. As I was already doing an English Language degree, joining the universities newspaper really helped enrich my degree, as well as being something I really enjoyed and could talk to future employers about, such as managing my deadlines as well as keeping the paper organised. It also allowed me to meet a great bunch of people all with similar interests to me.

I also got involved in the St John Ambulance society. This was a great society to get involved with as each week we learnt new ways of dealing with and treating more minor injuries such as burns and sprains, as well as more serious injuries such as fractures and breaks and even CPR. I have also had the opportunity to put my training into practice in real life scenarios as I train for first aid certificates, such as community first aider. Not only has this helped me learn how to deal with problems in difficult and tense situations, something that is a great skill to apply to the workplace, but it has also enabled me to add first aid training to my CV.

I also decided to put myself outside of my comfort zone by taking part in ballet lessons and fitness. Before university I was quite a lazy person, so doing something like this has really helped me become a lot more confident, as I now know I can do something I might not necessarily be good at, but still enjoy and put my mind to.

All these things I have been involved in at university have helped me enrich my time here, but also make me a more employable person, as I have a lot more that I can talk about than just my degree. I have developed skills that are great for the workplace, such as my organisation and confidence. So if I was to give any advice from what I learnt, it would be to throw yourself into everything the University of Reading has to offer, because not only will you enjoy it, but it will also help with your future life and career after university.

Emma Campbell

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Review of David Crystal’s Making Sense of Grammar

If you don’t know the name David Crystal, then you can be sure you will by the end of your first year of Linguistics at Reading. Crystal is a lecturer in the field of English Language and has published many, and by many I mean nearly a hundred, books on the subject. Excitingly he helped set up linguistics degrees at the University of Reading and his extensive list of works notably includes The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language and The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language.

If you only read one book of his, it should be Making Sense of Grammar. As a first year at Reading, one of your modules will be Sounds, Grammar and Meaning. It’s a module of two halves; the first half concentrates on Phonetics and Phonology, the study of sounds in language; the second half tackles how to analyse the Grammar, Semantics and Pragmatics of the English Language. For me this was a dream module and I’m sure that soon you will come to understand and possibly even enjoy grammar lectures like most of my friends. And this book is definitely something that will help with that.

Making sense of grammar

In the first week of grammar, Jacqui, our lecturer, told us that this is the one book we should definitely read or even buy and many of us took that advice. It breaks down the different aspects of English grammar in much the same way as your lectures are structured. It starts with the broadest aspects of sentence and clause. Then it breaks that down into the different phrases before breaking it down even further into separate words. There’s a section for each grammar point that you might struggle with, from adverbials to prepositions and the explanations are clear and easy to understand. Of course, it’s hard to fully explain one grammar element without looking at the others, so the explanations helpfully include the page numbers of related grammar points. For example, whilst discussing the verb element of a clause, Crystal gives reference to earlier comments on clauses and to a page where the reader can find a definition of some technical terms used. All this makes it a good addition to what you learn in lectures.

You may think that a book based entirely around the subject of grammar, especially one that is designed to explain the complexities of the English language, would make for a boring read. When I first went to retrieve a copy from the library, I was also worried that this may just be another unimaginative list of various grammar points. However, just looking at the cover, I was reassured that I was wrong. The explanations are punctuated with appropriate but interesting examples including poems, recorded speech, articles and extracts from scripts. Then, on some pages, there are illustrations in the form funny cartoons. It’s safe to say that Crystal uses a quirky style to keep his reader interested for long enough to take in what he’s teaching them, but you’d expect no less of someone with plenty of experience lecturing in the field.

So, as my lecturer suggested to me, I will suggest to you that during your first year you seek out a copy of the book and read as much of it as you can. It’s the perfect introduction to studying grammar at a higher level.

Emma Connor

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Multilingualism in the Digital Age Conference – 19 June 2015

The Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics was delighted to host the 1st International Conference on Multilingualism in the Digital Age on the 19th of June 2015. The aim of this conference was to bring together scholars from various disciplines, interested in the investigation of multilingualism and language use in digital media.

Our influential keynote speakers, Professor Alexandra Georgakopoulou (King’s College London) and Professor Yaron Matras (University of Manchester) presented innovative work studying the representation of Eurocrisis on YouTube (Prof Georgakopoulou) and the ownership of language in social media (Prof Matras).

Findings from original case studies were also presented by seven scholars coming from institutions in the UK (e.g. Newcastle, London and Lancaster) as well as from abroad (e.g. Canada, Spain and Italy). Multilingualism was investigated in various digital media including Twitter, Websites, Facebook and video games.  More than 50 delegates from as far as South Africa and Canada attended this one-day event and shared engaging discussions on the topics presented.

Here are some comments from our delegates:

‘Excellent organisation, very friendly environment and it was great to establish academic links’

‘Excellent speakers from all over the UK and abroad. Learned so much in one day’

‘A wonderful and successful conference. We have learned a lot by exchanging ideas with researchers from other countries’

‘Really good day. Do a similar event soon please!’

Because of the great success of this event and the positive feedback we received from the participants we are now planning a second conference next year! The focus will be on Multilingualism and Immigration. Watch the space!

Christiana Themistocleous & Sylvia Jaworska

 

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6th October – Applied Linguistics Circle

All are welcome to the first Applied Linguistics Circle talk of 2015 by Dr Johanna Woydack, (Vienna University of Economics and Business)

Date: Tuesday  October 6th, 4.15-5.15 pm.

Room: SSE Gordon Lecture Theatre

Title: Learning and working in London’s language market: an ethnography of a multilingual London call centre

See details on attached flyer

ALC Woydack 2015 flyer

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15 October – BAAL-Routledge L2 Fluency Workshop

BAAL Routledge workshop flyer

All students and staff interested in L2 Fluency are welcome to the L2 Fluency workshop organised by DELAL staff, held at Institute of Education campus, London Road. See attached for details.

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L-SLARF Colloquium 30th May 2015

The Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics was delighted to host the second L-SLARF colloquium on Saturday 30th May 2015. This was a a very successful event featuring a number of renowned scholars and key researchers in the field of second language acquisition, including Peter Skehan and Pauline Foster from the UK and Roger Gilabert from the University of Barcelona. On this one-day event, researchers from different universities from the UK and abroad presented the findings of their latest research and discussed the implications of these findings for future research and practice.

The London Second Language Acquisition Research Forum (L-SLARF) was recently formed by academics from St Mary’s University, Kings College London, the Institute of Education, the University of Greenwich and the University of Reading as a way to share and develop research in the field of cognitive and task-based approaches to second language acquisition in and around our region.

The colloquium was held in the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) with 7 presenters and more than 50 delegates. Although we had not advertised it widely, we had a waiting list of people interested in attending the event. The delegates were a mix of MA and PhD students, language teachers, EAP instructors and researchers from different universities in and around London. We had 5 invited talks and a very engaging panel discussion.

We had a very unique closing to the event as the fire alarm went off, and we were evacuated from the building 2 minutes before the colloquium came to an end! We are certain that the delegates will never forget the closing of the colloquium as it was done at the fire assembly point with the fire alarm ringing in the background. All in all, there were many hot topics discussed, but fortunately no real flames!

 

Photographic evidence below!

Parvaneh Tavakoli and Anas Awwad

 

audience Group photo Panel discussion

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After Reading : Alumni Update

Lucy Skinner tells us about her career and life after studying English Language at Reading:

Lucy Skinner graduated in 2009.

Lucy Skinner graduated in 2009.

I left Reading in 2009. To be honest it feels bizarre even writing that; time really has flown!  I did a BA in Applied English Language Studies which at the time was a very new course but the opportunities it offered me were so vast.

When I graduated, I genuinely wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I dipped my hand into PR and advertising. After all I’d spent three years perfecting my writing and communication skills! I considered journalism, marketing – even nursing. Nothing felt quite right though until I spent one afternoon helping my younger cousin with her English homework and it was there that I discovered my calling, teaching.

I went to Kingston University and did a PGCE in Primary Education where I graduated with distinction in 2012. I was fortunate to land my first job as an NQT at the school I did my final training placement. During the three years I’ve been there I’ve taught a wide range of subjects across the curriculum. I’ve been based in Year 5 since qualifying which has really allowed me to cement my knowledge and build confidence and I’m really proud to be judged as an ‘Outstanding teacher’. My BA from Reading has also supported my work as shadowing Literacy Coordinator at the school.

I have now been appointed a new teaching job at an independent school to commence in September this year as an English specialist. It’ll bring new demands and challenges but I’m very excited to start anew. As well as teaching, since leaving Reading, I have also had two children who are now 4 and 1. I can’t deny that going back to university and then working full time as a mum hasn’t been easy but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

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Graduate Scheme Success

Laura Armstong, a final year English Language student, gives us her top tips on applying to graduate schemes:

During your time at University, the talk of the elusive graduate scheme jobs will start to creep in. Graduate schemes are run by hundreds of companies and are often thought of as the ideal graduate job, with good pay, benefits and on-the-job training; it is easy to see why! However graduate schemes are not for everyone, so don’t feel obliged to apply for one. Having been through the process, these are some tips for people setting out on the graduate scheme application journey:

  1. The process is long –Don’t expect a job overnight. Graduate scheme applications are made up of multiple (often time-consuming) stages. These stages often include CVs, application forms, online tests, video interviews, phone interviews and assessment centres before your final interview! Trying to juggle applications can be exhausting alongside University work, do ensure you stay organised and don’t rush to apply to lots of schemes as the employers will be able to tell. Be selective.
  2. Be boastful – you need to ensure your CV is current and contains all your achievements. The potential employer needs to see your abilities so make yourself stand out.
  3. Use the careers team – the University offers great support not only for CVs and interviews, but for all different stages of applications. The careers service team are always happy to help, explore what they offer and use them!
  4. Prepare- make sure you take the time to prepare for each stage, research the company and look at their job descriptions. You can also practise online assessments to make sure you are as prepared as possible.
  5. Persevere – It would be a miracle if you didn’t receive at least one rejection email. They are extremely disheartening and you start to doubt yourself, but don’t! Companies have to be brutal and you have to recognise that it doesn’t make you any less employable. Pick yourself up again and continue. If you are determined, organised and you research well, you will get there in the end.

 

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