Young Asian women and their attitudes to language study

24 January 2002

Young Asian women and their attitudes to language study

NEW research conducted by Annie Bannerman at the School of Languages & European Studies at Aston University has shown 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.

The study has also shown that almost 80% of those responding could speak at least two languages before starting school. While in some schools this early bilingualism was used by teachers in a positive manner when introducing a first European language, this attitude was far from universal. Some girls were surprised by the idea that the ability to handle more than one language from an early age might help them to learn further languages at school. One teacher expressed the view that the discussion of community languages is a positive light was "the first time anyone has suggested such an idea to them."

The research is the starting point of a widening participation initiative at Aston to find out more about attitudes to studying modern European languages and to encourage applications in this field from young Asians. More than 200 Asian girls in years 9-12 in the West Midlands participated in the survey. 78% expected to work abroad in the future and 52% were prepared to work in a language other than English, but few had clear ideas of careers for which languages would be useful or essential. Parental anxiety about daughters studying and working abroad was identified as an influence in dissuading some girls form the study of modern European languages, but even more significant was parental pressure towards science and maths and more vocational careers.

In addressing the need to encourage more students to study modern European languages at university, some 20 current undergraduates and recent graduates of Aston were also interviewed. Their commitment to act as role models for their communities has been the inspiration behind the continuation of the project. Extracts from this material will be incorporated into a website designed to be of interest to all students in years 9-11. It will be trailed in local schools and eventually distributed in CD format to schools as a careers resource pack.


For a copy of the report contact Annie Bannerman on 0121 204 3750 or email a.bannerman@aston.ac.uk� For further press inquiries contact Sally Hoban on 0121 204 4552.

Notes to editors:

Schools targeted have a high proportion of Asian pupils and where modern languages are being taught with enthusiasm. Nine schools in all took part (see below). Ethnic balance of respondents: 48% Indian, 36% Pakistani, 9% Bangladeshi and 7% from other Asian groups. Most widely spoken community language was Punjabi at 62%. Participating schools were: Bordesley Green Girls' School, George Dixon School, Hodge Hill Girl's School, King Edward VI Handsworth School, Lordswood Girls School & Sixth Form Centre, Moseley School, Queen Mary's High School, Walsall, Selly Park Technology College for Girls, Shireland Language College, Smethwick, Swanshurst School and Sixth Form Centre.

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