On 13 March 2018, teachers, students and researchers from across the L@L network met with many of the 400 visitors who braved the snow and storms to attend Leeds University’s Be Curious day, and find out more about what we do in the largest school of languages in the UK.
At the “How and why in 100 tongues – benefits of learning languages” stall, visitors of all ages enjoyed taster sessions in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and French. We presented recent research on the psycholinguistic issues for EAL pupils developing vocabulary and written skills, on international students’ adaptation to life at Leeds, as well as support for UK students in making the most of their Year Abroad. Students ran quizzes to guess different language scripts, and identify the multilingual sources for many English phrases such as to skive (French), feel shirty (Norse), get miffed (German) or think everything is tickety-boo (Hindu). In tune with the day’s theme #WeAreInternational, we presented research on many of the benefits of multilingualism in today’s global world, addressing questions such as age effects on language learning, and how far multilingualism may delay dementia, lead to better-paid jobs, and help EAL pupils outperform monolingual children in maths GCSE.
At the “How do we understand speech rate?” stall, Leendert Plug and Robert Lennon discussed how listeners can judge the speed of speech (and the challenges of measuring what a listener perceives), and how good we are at understanding an unfamiliar accent. Visitors had hands-on experience with the research, trying speech perception experiments.