Not content to confine their academics to the university walls, several of our LEL students have been taking their studies out into the community! Two teams of LEL undergraduates have been visiting secondary schools in Manchester and the surrounding area to deliver workshops on variation and change in English. The workshops, wholly designed by the students with the able and enthusiastic support of MA Linguistics student Charlotte Graham, are centred around Our Dialects, a public web resource on variation in English based on data collected by students in LELA20072 Language Variation and Change. Participating secondary school pupils got to try their hand at pinning accents on a map of the UK, participated in spirited debate concerning which word they use to refer to a soft round bread, and learned about classic studies in the field of sociolinguistics. Throughout, the emphasis was on the importance of recognising dialect diversity and the rich variety of Englishes people encounter in their daily life.
The workshops have been a great success all around, with 85% of attendees reporting that the workshops taught them something new about language, and effusive praise from teachers about the student leaders’ enthusiasm and knowledge. Moreover, they’ve provided invaluable classroom experience for those of our students who plan to go into teaching. The initiative, which was funded by a Social Responsibility in the Curriculum grant to Dr Laurel MacKenzie, will be celebrated at an upcoming event, Wednesday, 20 May 2015 from 4.30pm – 6.30pm in the Kanaris Theatre at Manchester Museum.