The Linguist

TheLinguist 58,3-June/July 2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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16 The Linguist Vol/58 No/3 2019 FEATURES PRESS NARRATIVES Are school students caught in the crossfire, as the media report on Brexit (above) and link Europhobia to the MFL decline; and could it affect their motivation to study languages (right)? Ursula Lanvers considers 'fake news' and the danger of talking ourselves out of language learning A nyone who still needs convincing of the deeply political nature of language policies need look no further than Northern Ireland: a parliament in deadlock, deeply divided over the position, importance and visibility of the Irish language. Language policy, how we learn languages and for what reason, has a habit of being politicised, especially at moments of seismic political importance. an example is 9/11: after the event, the us rationales for language learning shifted significantly as languages became increasingly instrumentalised for the purpose of national security. arguably, Brexit is another seismic political event, so perhaps it should have come as no surprise when, within days of the referendum, newspapers and media websites published articles linking anti-europe feelings to Britain's unwillingness to learn languages. I asked myself what links these writers were making between modern foreign language (mFL) learning in the uk and the Brexit vote – and whether they stood up to scrutiny. motivation to learn languages, including uptake at gcse, a level and university, has been spiralling downwards among young people for some decades. as a researcher in language-learning motivation in uk contexts, I am familiar with the systemic problems associated with learning and teaching languages in uk schools. can we link negative attitudes to mFL in a school environment to the europhobia (and arguably also xenophobia) expressed in the Brexit vote? What evidence would we need to support this? With a group of researchers, I set out to gather relevant publicly accessible websites and journalistic texts that appeared in the immediate aftermath (six months) of the referendum. 1 We found 33 texts, mostly written by academics, with some by journalists, politicians and commercial language-learning providers, and submitted these to a thematic analysis. the results revealed no clear link between Brexit voting behaviour per uk region or nation and commitment to language learning, Brexit: telling stories Images © shutterstock

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