Creative multilingualism and the future of language learning in the UK by Professor Suzanne Graham

Professor Suzanne Graham, School Director of Research
Professor Suzanne Graham, School Director of Research

Having celebrated European Day of Languages on 26 September, it’s important that we remain positive about the future of language learning in the UK.  This is the underlying message of a new website being launched for a project exploring the value of languages:

Learning a foreign language brings many benefits – not only for communicating with speakers of other languages, with 75% of the world’s population speaking no English at all – but also for the cognitive and social development of young people.

These benefits include improved cognitive and executive functioning, as well as social and communication skills. They also have the potential to help people see other people’s perspectives more easily, and can help people be more broadminded and tolerant, offering ‘a liberation from insularity’ in the words of the National Curriculum for foreign languages.


We need to find out more about alternative approaches to language learning to help learners become more intrinsically motivated to carry on with language study. The Institute of Education, University of Reading, has several research projects, ranging from primary languages to language teacher development.

To complement this work researchers at the Institute of Education are part of a new project looking at “Linguistic creativity in language learning” – exploring alternatives to the prevalent emphasis on language learning purely for functional purposes.

We are going to be investigating whether creative approaches to learning a language will motivate and better equip foreign-language learners in the UK, both within schools and beyond.

The project is part of a very significant research initiative, ‘Creative Multilingualism’, led by Katrin Kohl at the University of Oxford and involving a number of other universities. The project will explore the cognitive and cultural value of languages, and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

For further information see:

Professor Graham is School Director of Research for the Institute of Education (IoE), a Professor of Language & Education and Subject Leader for PGCE Secondary Modern Foreign Languages at the IoE.


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