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LBAS language conference report

5 February 2013

The following report on the LBAS conference "Building the Language Base for Research" (14 December 2012) was published in the 5 January 2013 edition of Ukrains'ka Dumka (Ukrainian Thought), a fortnightly newspaper which is produced in London. An English translation is provided below. Click on the image for an enlarged pdf version of the original article (in Ukrainian).

Ukrainian Thought, 05.01.2013

English translation:

Conference of Foreign Language Teachers, London

Olga Kerziouk, British Library

On 14 December London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) hosted “Building a Language Base for Research: The Impact and Future of Language-based Area Studies”. Over 60 participants from British universities, as well as representatives of other interested organisations (Higher Education Funding Council for England, European Commission and the British Library) attended the conference.

The main focus of the conference was “Lesser Taught Languages”, which include Ukrainian (and all other Slavonic languages). The conference opened with a presentation by Ann Pauwels of SOAS, who gave an overview of the teaching of foreign languages in the UK and perspectives for the 21st century. The speaker stressed that “in spite of financial constraints and ‘global English’ interest in learning world languages is not decreasing, even here in the UK”.

Speakers at the morning session presented the achievements of the various language-based centres. Marta Jenkala, Senior Teaching Fellow in Ukrainian, talked about the collaboration of universities teaching central and east European languages, who are part of CEELBAS (The Centre for East European Language-Based Area Studies). A significant achievement of this institution has been the creation, over recent years, of a Language Repository which is on open access to teachers and researchers (http://www.ceelbas.ac.uk/repository_welcome). Richard Berry of Glasgow University focused on issues of distance learning and the need for students to acquire language skills in order to function abroad. Caroline Rose talked about the study of Chinese and Japanese in Leeds and Sheffield Universities (http://www.wreac.org) and Jonathan Featherstone discussed issues relating to the study of Arabic and the training of teachers of this language.

Notable among the other presentations was the talk, given by Vanessa Pupavac of Nottingham University, on language learning (or, rather, non-learning) by those working for non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Of particular interest was the talk by JJ Gurga, a young academic who recently defended her PhD on 1960s Ukrainian poetic cinema. The researcher expressed the view that, without the language base she acquired in London at the School of Slavonic Studies, her dissertation would have turned out very differently. It was her knowledge of Ukrainian which allowed her to talk directly to the Hutsuls who had, in previous times, taken part in the making of various films.

The final session, chaired by SSEES Director Robin Aizlewood, consisted of presentations by representatives of prominent British institutions: Nigel Vincent from the British Academy, Richard Hardy from UBS and Ian Lyne on behalf of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which funds the development of the arts and humanities. In this connection I would also like to mention a wide-ranging campaign supporting the study of foreign languages at all levels of education in the UK, from primary school to higher education. This is “Speak to the Future” (http://www.speaktothefuture.org/), a campaign actively supported by representatives of British business who understand that humankind will speak to the future, and in the future, in other languages as well as English. I would like to believe that the study of Ukrainian will have a worthy place in UK and global education in the 21st century.