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The Position of Language Teaching at University

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    When I started this study, there was a large variety of pedagogies in language teaching provision in British universities, ranging from the traditional literary-based modern languages degree, modern languages degrees with an emphasis on Area Studies and non-linguistic degrees with language as an extra module, the latter usually provided through a Language Centre. Language teaching as part of a modern languages degree, whether provided by the departments themselves or by a Language Centre, took place as a separate educational activity with a different set of aims from the rest of the degree and carrying much less prestige. This lack of prestige was borne out particularly by staffing levels, terms of employment, and hours allocated to language teaching within the curriculum as a whole. In 1992, Scott et. al. pointed already to the fact that the majority of language teachers were part-time and hourly-paid, and on temporary contracts. This situation does not seem to have changed. Teachers in Language Centres are still frequently on vulnerable contracts (Worton, 2009: 31). Whilst, in comparison with a decade ago, there is a tendency in departments to employ specialised language teachers, they are not part of the ‘academic staff ’, and as Worton says (p.26), are seen to provide ‘service teaching’. Moreover, in many departments the tradition still persists of (junior) lecturers with specialisms other than language and no specific qualification or experience in language teaching, teaching language classes in order to fulfil their share in the teaching load of the department. This illustrates the view that is still common at some institutions that language teaching can be carried out by any intelligent native speaker with some sensitivity towards the language. When this is seen against the situation for other subjects, the likelihood of appointing nonspecialist staff to teach for instance a literature class would be an extremely unlikely occurrence.

    Whereas the curriculum for modern language degrees as a whole is changing – with the traditional literary degrees (although they still exist) giving way to contemporary cultural studies, including contemporary literature, film studies and Area Studies (Worton, 2009: 25), language teaching still remains separated from the rest of the degree in status and content. This separation is even starker now that instrumental approaches have been adopted.

    This page titled The Position of Language Teaching at University is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gerdi Quist (Ubiquity Press) .

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