Chartered Institute
of Linguists

Scottish Society in Dundee

Event report

On Saturday 17 February members from the Scottish Society met in Dundee for a relaxing lunch before enjoying a lively presentation from Dr Marion Spöring MCIL on the topic of Languages? Lost? Found! Collaborative cross-sector initiatives to support language learning in Scotland.

From the start of the presentation it was evident that Dr Spöring, who is Senior Lecturer in Applied Languages and European Studies at the University of Dundee and the Chair University Council for Modern Languages in Scotland (UCMLS), has boundless enthusiasm and passion for what she does. Her presentation looked at various joint initiatives that operate across different levels of society.

These initiatives are the result of cross-sector collaboration between UCMLS and Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (SCILT), and such collaborative efforts are vital, especially at a time where resources are limited. These bodies also provide essential support to Scotland’s 1+2 language education policy. UCML was established in 1993 and is a national organisation which represents the interests of modern languages, linguistics and cultural and area studies in higher education. SCILT aims to provide support and partnership to promote language learning in schools, further and higher education and in business.

After explaining the extent to which UCMLS and SCILT work together, Dr Spöring went on to explain some of these initiatives in more detail:

  • Mother Tongue Other Tongue – This is a multilingual poetry competition that encourages school students to explore and write poetry in their own mother tongue. We looked at some very creative (imaginative and funny) examples of poetry written in French, Italian and Scots from children in Glasgow, taken from the 2017-18 Anthology which is available on the SCILT website.
  • Language Linking Global Thinking – In this initiative university students who are about to spend a year abroad as part of their studies teams up with a class in a primary or secondary school in Scotland. During the year the student keeps in touch with the class via a blog, sharing their experiences of life in a foreign country.
  • Word Wizard Spelling Competition – This is open to S1-S3 pupils learning French, Gaelic, German, Mandarin or Spanish. If you have your doubts about how much interest this competition would generate, have a look at some of the videos of the finals on the SCILT website! Dr Spöring played a snippet from the video and we were all impressed by the students who took part.
  • Languages Lost and Found – This event took place on 18 November 2017 and consisted of 12 separate events in 6 locations across Scotland to raise awareness of languages in the community as part of the Being Human Festival UK.

While all of these initiatives demonstrate the enthusiasm with which language learning is being embraced at different levels – in schools, universities and the wider community - the presentation concluded with a discussion of some of the challenges that are faced in Scotland. These include the need for a national language strategy that covers all sectors of society (not just schools and universities); increasing awareness of the societal, educational and economic benefits of language learning; an improved focus on encouraging graduates to take up languages with a view to entering the teaching profession, not just as language teachers but across a wide range of subjects; improved support for primary and secondary school teachers to give them the skills required to implement the 1+2 language policy and a greater focus on normalising language learning within society at large.

The afternoon finished as it started, with attendees engaged in some serious and not-so-serious discussions while enjoying some light refreshments. The weather outside might have been a bit chilly but the atmosphere inside was certainly warm and friendly.

For more information about SCILT, click here.

Details of the work of UCMLS can be found here.

“Languages. Lost? Found!? Working across the sectors in HE, schools and the wider community. A perspective from UCML Scotland on collaboration with SCILT and others.”, Marion Spöring, University of Dundee.


12:15pm Lunch (optional and at your own expense)
2:00pm Talk and Q&A

Lunch prior to the event will be taking place at:
The Tinsmith
11-13 Old Hawkhill

Marion Spöring will focus on cross-sector initiatives in promoting and sustaining language learning in Scotland. UCMLS' March 2017 action plan has prioritised events and activities to support the 1+2 Scottish government initiative for schools. The goal is to take this initiave to the wider sector and promote lifelong learning, community engagement, intercultural awareness and language learning. The talk will include practical examples as well as discussions on the strategic importance of these initiatives.

For a number of years, UCMLS and SCILT (Scotland's National Centre for Languages) have been organizing regular events and competitions such as Word Wizard, Mother Tongue, Other Tongue, Business Brunches as well as events with wider focus such as the Languages Lost and Found Being Human festival and activities organized by individual universities. 

Speaker bio

Marion Spöring MCIL, Senior Lecturer in Applied Languages and European Studies, University of Dundee and Chair University Council for Modern Languages in Scotland.

Marion has worked for 40 years in the sector of language teaching in different education sectors including tourism. She has worked in both Germany and the UK, the last 24 of these in Scotland. Apart from her native German, her working languages are English and Russian. Marion has publications on language policy in Scotland and Europe, as well as applied languages focused on work, staff development and cultural studies.

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February 17th, 2018 2:00 PM   to   4:00 PM
Dundee University
Room 1G06, Dalhousie Building
75 Old Hawkhill
Dundee, DD1 5EN
United Kingdom
Events +
Category Scottish Society
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Scottish Society