Why don't more young Asian women study languages?What is Aston University doing to encourage them?

18th April 2002

Why don't more young Asian women study languages?
What is Aston University doing to encourage them?

LANGUAGES for Life, a new web site, will be launched on Monday, April 29th, to encourage more young people to study European Languages.�

The site has been created following Aston University's recent research into attitudes to the study of modern European languages amongst young Asian women. The aims of the website are to dispel some common myths about language study and to encourage applications to the university's language courses. The project forms part of Aston University's widening participation initiative.

For the research, some 20 Aston graduates and undergraduates from ethnic minorities were interviewed about their experiences of learning European languages, and a key finding was their determination to act as role models for their communities. The new site uses the profiles of these students to illustrate routes to a successful career. It has been trialled in local schools, and is designed to be of interest as a careers resource to all students in years 9-11.

The site has attracted interest from across the region and also from the Government. Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Estelle Morris commented: "I would like to congratulate Aston University on the research they have carried out exploring attitudes to the study of European languages by Asian female students which has resulted in the launch of the 'Languages for Life' website. It is encouraging to hear of young people becoming actively involved in activities aimed at helping their peers. We need to inspire people of all ages to learn languages. I wish all the people involved with the launch of the website every success."

So what do the students say? These extracts are taken from the site:

Jasbir Mankoo: In my family, like many other Asian families, the idea is to study sciences, become a lawyer or become a teacher, and I am the only one who has not followed the normal path. I am certainly the first one to have completed a degree and done a year abroad and that was my first time living away from home. I thought I had it in me to be successful and to stand on my own two feet. I have a passion inside me 'I thought I can do it' and I have done it!

Jasvinder Hunjan: When I initially started to learn French and German, it did not occur to me that I already knew two languages - English and Punjabi, but I think now, when I look back, it must have helped that I was already bilingual ... sometimes I think that pupils don't realise when starting a European language that they may already be at an advantage.

Lackhbir Kaur: We live in England in a very multi-cultural society, and we've got to acknowledge that.we are British Asians, and we must live as British Asians - this is not a rejection of our culture, but an adding on, not a deprivation, but an enrichment. I'm very proud of where I've come from, but by experiencing other cultures we can enrich our lives. I think if we are honest with our parents, start communicating more effectively, open their eyes to our hopes and aims, it's going to improve their quality of life and reduce their fears and worries.


For further information please call 0121 204 4549 or email: b.a.l.coombes@aston.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

The website is at www.les.aston.ac.uk/langlife

Note to editors: * The research showed that the study of languages is not currently perceived amongst Asian girls in the West Midlands as a route to a successful and lucrative career path. Parental anxiety about daughters working and studying abroad was thought to be a possible influence in dissuading some girls from the study of modern European languages, but even more significant was parental pressure towards science and maths and more professional and vocational careers. More than 200 Asian girls in years 9-12 in the West Midlands participated in the research, which was conducted by Annie Bannerman of the School of Languages & European Studies.

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