Aston leading the way in promoting languages


18 December 2014

Aston University is a keen advocate of encouraging the take up of foreign languages with initiatives to support its own undergraduates and students within the wider West Midlands region.

Aston’s ‘Languages for All’ scheme is a free module available to all full time undergraduates to learn one of several modern languages. This includes Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. The University also leads the successful Routes into Languages programme for the West Midlands which promotes languages to secondary school students across the region. 

Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Julia King also recently emphasised the importance of
languages as a pathway to global citizenship and employability, in an article published in The Guardian.

Jenny Price, Routes into Languages Project Manager, outlines how Aston University is working with other local universities to ensure younger students are inspired to learn languages: “The scheme I’m involved in, Routes into Languages, supports secondary school students across the Midlands. This is a government-funded initiative designed to promote learning languages in higher education to increase take-up in work and study abroad opportunities.  We provide a variety of engaging activities for schools across the region here on campus, or at schools, to pass on our passion for languages. This can include weekly languages classes, poetry workshops in other languages, spelling competitions and cultural days.  Aston is the lead institute in the West Midlands Consortium, working in partnership with the Universities of Birmingham, Coventry, Keele, Warwick, and Wolverhampton.

Students from our universities also act as ambassadors for the scheme, and thanks to their help so far we’ve engaged and interacted with over 107 schools. This has a huge impact, as younger pupils can relate to our ambassadors and find it inspiring to hear about their experiences at university and abroad."

This year we’re also offering opportunities students who study abroad for a year to engage in an ‘Adopt a Class’ initiative with a local secondary school. This allows the individual to blog about their experiences with a different culture, language, traditions and working patterns whilst gaining valuable work experience and an insight into teaching.

I’ve highlighted a couple of our Ambassadors’ experiences below

Samantha Holyman, a volunteer ambassador involved in the scheme, said: “Every week I plan a lesson for students at Joseph Chamberlain College in Birmingham encouraging them to continue learning languages. There are great benefits for all involved!”

Matthew Cooke, another ambassador, added: Routes is a fantastic platform on which to express my passion for languages and to encourage people in different communities to become involved in learning a language.”

We are always keen to make the link between languages and work, as UK businesses are desperate for more language speakers. We recently ran a conference about careers in translation and interpreting, at which undergraduates and sixth formers heard from speakers from a wide variety of language careers, ranging from television documentaries to legal work, theatre captioning, the European Union, GCHQ and even video gaming. This just goes to show what a valuable and flexible skill it is to speak another language, and all the unexpected places it can take you!

  It is an exciting time to learn a language with lots of learning initiatives on offer.  Knowledge of an extra language is a key social and business tool and a real pathway to future employability.  I would encourage all students of any age to learn a new language, to discover more about other cultures and to unlock the many opportunities that language skills can bring them in the future.”

Find out more about Routes into Languages.

Find out more about Aston University’s Languages for All’ scheme.


For further media information, please contact Naheeda Akhtar, University Communications on 0121 204 5004 or