Aston Centre for Europe (ACE) to host two public events in November

The Aston Centre for Europe (ACE), a politics research centre located within the School of Languages and Social Sciences alongside CLERA, is holding the following two public events at Aston in the coming months:

What can the Centre-Left in the UK learn from Germany?
Sumpner Lecture Theatre
Thursday, 1 November 2012, 5pm-6.30pm, followed by a reception
Lord Wood of Anfield, Shadow Minister without Portfolio and adviser to the Leader of the Opposition
Emma Reynolds MP, Shadow Minister for Europe
Duncan Weldon, Chief Economist, TUC
Discussant: DrEd Turner, Aston University
Chair: Professor Simon Green, Aston University

British Politics at a Crossroads? Prospects for Political Parties until the 2015 General Election
Speaker: Peter Kellner (President, YouGov)
Sumpner Lecture Theatre
Wednesday, 28 November 2012, 5pm-6.30pm, followed by a reception

Registration for both events is via email to


This was “Regional varieties, language shift and linguistic identities”

On 12-14 September, over fifty delegates from across the world came together at this international conference at Aston University to discuss the situation of smaller regional languages and varieties in the age of globalization. Globalization – the flow of people, products and ideas across the world – is not a new phenomenon. Mass migration, the development of air travel and electronic communication devices, however, have caused it to increase in speed and impact on the individuals’ lives. In the context of regional varieties we look at an accelerating increase in dialect levelling and language shift. In the light of this, sociolinguists have started to see the need to revisit many well established concepts of theory and analysis: Is there such a thing as a language, such as “English” or “Welsh”? Is a “native speaker” an ideological construction? Can we still apply the concept of a clearly defined “speech community” in a globalized world? Is “superdiversity” a more appropriate term to describe the present linguistic situation than “multilingualism”? The most urgent question for speakers of smaller languages is whether there is still a role to play for lesser used varieties under these changed circumstances.

Regional varieties, so the conference showed, have become an important contributor to identity construction processes, an increasingly important issue for the individual and the community in late Modernity: the individual is under constant and increasing pressure to define who s/he is and has to choose from an ever growing pool of possibilities to construct social identity in an increasingly globalized world, which is perceived as overwhelming and complex. By referring to what is seen as traditional regional language, dialect and culture, localizing oneself seems to be a viable way out of this dilemma. This should have stabilizing effects on lesser used varieties, which have been facing a gradual process of language shift and divergence towards dominant contact languages over the last hundred years. Unfortunately, at the same time, modern life does not so much require knowledge of regional varieties as of standard languages and a good command of English as the global lingua franca. How can an upwardly mobile individual combine the requirements of modern life with identity construction on a regional scale if they so choose? What are the linguistic consequences for lesser used varieties and their respective contact languages?

The discussions were led by three keynote lectures:

Professor Yaron Matras (University of Manchester) The afterlife of a language: The journey of English Romani from community language to a discourse register.

Professor Joan Beal (University of Sheffield) Dialect Inc: the commodification of languages in the ‘new economy’.

Professor Barbara Johnstone (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) The History of Yinz: from areal distribution to regional identity.

6th BAAL Gender and Language Special Interest Group Event on ‘Language, Gender and Sexuality’

Aston Centre for Interdisciplinary Research into Language & Diversity (InterLanD) presents: 6th BAAL Gender and Language Special Interest Group Event (GaLsig) on: ‘Language, Gender and Sexuality’ on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm in the Main Building at Aston University.

Further details on the presentations and registration can be found at:

CLERA member awarded Higher Education Academy Fellowship

Dr Fiona Copland, Senior Lecturer in the Aston English group and member of CLERA, has been awarded a prestigious National Teaching Fellowship. As one of only 55 recipients of this year’s Fellowships, the HEA recognized her outstanding work and contributions to higher education.

Fiona is Course Director for distance learning MSc programmes in the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).  She also contributes to Aston’s Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice, providing professional accreditation for practitioners in Higher Education.

Professor Helen Higson, Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor at Aston University, commented, “It is not only Fiona’s teaching style which is inspirational, but also her ability to bring real cultural change to the University by changing attitudes to curriculum design and

Fiona has presented at numerous international conferences and published widely on her research interests which include feedback in teacher training and education, international students’ experiences in the UK, linguistic ethnography and research interviews.

As one of the key researchers within CLERA, Fiona, along with Prof Anne Burns, Dr Sue Garton and Dr Muna Morris-Adams, is currently investigating Key Factors and Challenges in Transition from Primary to Secondary Schooling in ELT: An International Perspective, in a project funded by a ELTRP British Council grant.

To learn more about Fiona’s work, go here and here.

International linguistics conference at Aston

On 12-15 September, 2012, Aston University will play host to the international conference “Regional varieties, language shift and linguistic identities”.

The conference is organised by Aston Centre for Interdisciplinary Research into Language and Diversity (InterLanD) and Institute for the Study of Language and Society (ISLS), two research centres located within the School of Languages and Social Sciences alongside CLERA.

The conference programme includes a broad range of keynote addresses, paper presentations and poster sessions from the following fields of research: language contact, regional varieties, postvernacular linguistic and cultural practices, emblematic language use and language mixing, linguistic landscapes, and dialectology.

The keynote speakers are Prof. Joan Beal, University of Sheffield, Prof. Barbara Johnstone, Carnegie Mellon University (USA), and Prof. Yaron Matras, University of Manchester.

To learn more about this event, go to the conference website, where you will find a full programme.

LLAS Languages in Higher Education conference – a look back

On July 5-6, 2012, the 6th biennial LLAS conference entitled ‘Language Futures: Languages in Higher Education’ took place in Edinburgh. The rich conference programme included plenaries from distinguished scholars and policy makers such as Prof Jim Coleman (Open University, chair of University Council of Modern Languages UCML; click here to download his presentation slides), Prof Rosamond Mitchell (University of Southampton), Prof Colin Riordan (University of Essex) and Prof James Foreman-Peck (Cardiff University), alongside two days of paper sessions from UK and European researchers and practitioners working in Higher Education. The key note speeches gave an excellent overview of the status quo – and the future – of MFL teaching and learning in the UK and the plenary discussions contributed to a wider understanding of the challenges which universities are facing in relation to national educational trends.

The themes of the conference focussed on employability, the value of the year abroad experience, internationalisation and MFL for non-specialists, among others. A wide range of papers and presentations offered insight into current practice and innovative solutions at a wide range of HE institutions in the UK and elsewhere. For a full list of the papers presented, go to the conference website to download the programme. 

Two members of CLERA presented papers at the conference: Dr Claudia Gremler presented findings from a project on video production in the language classroom (read a good practice report on her project on the HEA website), and Elisabeth Wielander talked about content teaching in the target language, presenting some of the findings of her on-going PhD project investigating CLIL in UK Higher Education. A number of delegates from UK universities expressed their interest in CLIL and their institutions’ intention to expand target-language delivery in undergraduate MFL programmes, which opens possible avenues for future cooperation and dissemination of these findings. Both papers sparked lively Q&A sessions which provided valuable feedback and led to stimulating discussions with other researchers, and both conference papers will be revised and submitted for publication in the future.

Symposium hosted by InterLanD

On July 12, 2012, Aston Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Languages and Diversity (InterLanD) hosts a half day symposium entitled ‘New racisms, new racial subjects?: The neoliberal moment and the racial landscape of contemporary Britain’

The event will feature papers submitted for a special edition of the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies and a podium discussion.

When: 12 July, 2012, 2-5pm

Where: Aston University, MB727

To register, please contact