Coventry City of Languages

The Story So Far

Coventry City of Languages is a transformative Community Action Group that started in 2020. 

What started as a conversation between two teachers quickly grew to encompass members from throughout the Coventry area. Together with our allies and partners, Coventry City of Languages engages and mobilizes activists, teachers, learners and leaders from all backgrounds and walks of life. Get in touch to learn more about activities and offer your support.

Modern Languages teaching and learning is at crisis point at a time when knowledge of another language has become more important for a functioning UK economy in the 21st century than ever before.  School teachers find examples of low aspiration in their classrooms and many young people are unaware of the possibilities of social mobility.  There are children and young people across the city who have not had the experiences of travel, and there is much prejudice due to misconceptions and misunderstanding of other cultures.

The Coventry MFL Hub has grown over the last few years, with a core group of committed and passionate teachers, both specialist and non-specialist, primary and secondary, working together to achieve a common vision, laid out in this document.  Primary MFL has been a compulsory area of the KS2 curriculum for the last seven years, but there is still much work to be done.  Many non-specialist teachers and head teachers are nervous of the subject as they are unaware of how to teach a language that they are not familiar with, and according to the Language Trends survey, published in July 2021, many primary schools have dropped languages in favour of more English and maths lessons.

The UK now has fewer language students at degree level than ever before, and even if every language graduate went into MFL teaching, it would still not be possible to fill all the vacancies.  Many universities have now closed their language departments due to falling numbers and therefore it is imperative that we work with non-specialist teachers to empower them to give opportunities to instil love of languages and culture at the earliest opportunity.  By the time they arrive in Secondary school, many young people show a lack of confidence in the MFL classroom, with secondary teachers saying that they have to spend a large proportion of lesson time persuading their students that they CAN learn a language.  This is much less obvious in Key Stages 1 and 2, and we need to capitalise on this potential.

Coventry City of Languages was a project devised by two practising Modern Languages teachers during lockdown as a response to their frustrations regarding the profile of all languages in the UK.  They decided that they had two options:  sit and moan or do something to try to make change.  Very quickly they managed to get support from Coventry University and the University of Warwick, Coventry MPs and councillors, the British Council, cultural institutes, schools, Coventry City Council and local businesses.  There is little funding for language education, making it difficult to get grassroot initiatives off the ground.

Coventry City of Languages will launch on Friday 8th October at the Assembly Festival Garden in Coventry and will celebrate languages, both heritage languages and additional languages ,with representation from Early Years education through to post-degree language learning as well as languages for the workplace.  There are plans for awards for promising linguists, young interpreters, Coventry Language Teacher of the Year, performances, VIP guests and more.    We have managed to secure some funding from the universities, but we desperately need sponsorship to cover the remainder of the venue costs, awards and a light buffet that we are hoping to put on for our VIP guests.  We would love to hear from anyone who can help us and join our group of amazing partners to help to raise the profile of languages and help to improve provision for our young people to ensure they have this invaluable skill for their future.