Student blog: Niamh – One Year On…

So, my time in Australia has unfortunately come to an end. I have had the most incredible time, and had the pleasure of meeting the most amazing people. This past year has gone by so unbelievably quickly; it feels just like yesterday that I was taking the long journey over here and stepping foot in a place I was so unsure of. But now, I am leaving the same place: a place I was once so nervous about, a place I now call home.

If you’d asked me a year ago, whether I would travel to 7 different states/territories around Australia, represent ANU in the Eastern University Games, or try my hand at AFL, I would’ve said no. But here I am! There are so many things that I have done this year that I would never have imagined I would do, and I can’t thank everyone here enough for helping to facilitate that. It has been an adventure, and an adventure I would repeat a thousand times over.

Now, as my time here has ended, I have left the cold Canberra winter to settle back home in the *slightly* warmer British summer, and prepare to start my third and final year of university.

But before I do, I have a couple of words of advice for anyone considering going on exchange.

Whether it is to ANU, to Australia, or to anywhere else:

  • Try not to fly under the radar
  • Try new things (cliché, I know)
  • Meet new people (also incredibly cliché)
  • Load your days up to the max
  • Don’t study too hard (find the perfect balance)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Appreciate the people around you


Student Blog: Helen – “And so it ends”

So here we are, a week after I came back from Tübingen and I’ve only just mustered up the energy to write this post.
In all seriousness, coming home has definitely been the hardest part of being abroad; not exams, not going there – leaving. I don’t want to focus too much on the negatives, but I think there’s definitely a reason people (half-jokingly) call it post-Erasmus depression, and I’d advise some preparation before you go home; plan things to keep yourself busy within the first few days (seeing family, friends etc.), else you (like me) may end up moping around and feeling homesick for abroad.

However, looking back on the past year it’s been incredible. I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. I feel like I’ve grown in so many ways; I’ve met people from many different backgrounds, taken a vastly different range of courses than I’d be able to in Lancaster, and got in touch with my half-German side, meaning that I feel fairly confident speaking to my relatives now. I’ve traveled to different countries, seen people skating on the frozen river, figured out how to sort my rubbish correctly, realised that the Biomüll needs taking out at least every week, and that not all stereotypes are true (shout out to the number 4 bus, which was maybe on time twice).

Going abroad is not easy, it’s not always fun and it’s not always comfortable. It forces you out of your comfort zone, but that’s why it’s so beneficial. There will be great times, and probably some bad ones (these mostly coincide with periods of stress, I’ve found), but with a good support system in place and people around you, it’ll work out well.

Just a tip: don’t underestimate the power of social media at the beginning! Look for international groups, course groups etc. so you can find people to hang out with at the start of the semester.
Also: if you’re invited somewhere I would definitely advise going! You never know who you’ll meet, maybe they’ll be your best friends.

I know I’ll have a hard time piping down about my time abroad for a long while to come, because it’s what I’ve been used to for the last eleven months (but I think if I don’t I might lose all my friends; I don’t want to be that person).

I’d also like to thank everyone who’s made my time abroad the amazing year that it was; my flatmate who made me feel welcome, the Erasmus group that kept me sane in my first semester (fulle ska vi bli alle) with copious amounts of coffee, the ISCL guys (FrieFore, without whom I may not have passed some classes) who were my rocks in the second, and the first, semester, all the great people I met in my classes, and- thinking about it- pretty much everyone I met. Thank you all so much.

Finally, thank you for reading this! I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse of my year abroad- maybe it’s inspired you to go, or at least made you consider it. I’m sure this won’t be the last time you hear from me, so I guess we’ll talk… soon?

Erasmus+: Continuing longstanding cooperation between Lancaster and Ljubljana applied linguists

We have been very honoured to welcome Dr Karmen Pižorn (Vice-dean of Undergraduate Studies and International Cooperation & Associate Professor in EFL in Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia) to our Department in June 2017 as part of the Erasmus+ staff exchange programme. During her stay, Karmen presented her work on language classroom anxiety among young learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), offered several research consultancy sessions to post-graduate students in Lancaster’s Department of Linguistics and English Language, and joined the Department’s writing retreat to work on joint publications with Lancaster staff.

This was not Karmen’s first visit, though. The first collaboration between Lancaster’s Department of Linguistics and English Language and Ljubljana’s Faculty of Education dates back to the late 1990s when Professor Charles J. Alderson (Lancaster) helped design a study on a language assistant scheme. The scheme, which involved highly proficient English speakers spending a year assisting in Slovenian classrooms, led to a set of recommendations followed-up by the Slovene Ministry of Education. The collaboration continued when the Slovene government decided to implement national assessments for English and German at Year 9, and five language testing experts from Lancaster (Charles Alderson, Jay Banerjee, Caroline Clapham, Rita Green and Dianne Wall) were brought in to train the Slovene test development team. Apart from the introduction of a more rigorous test cycle, the fruitful cooperation also resulted in the publication of a bilingual Slovene-English handbook, Constructing school-leaving examinations at a national level – Meeting European standards (Alderson & Pižorn, 2004), which to date is still the compulsory textbook for new test writers joining the Slovene national testing teams. The experiences on the national assessment reform have also been reported in the edited volume The politics of language education: individuals and institutions (Alderson, 2009; including a chapter co-authored by Pižorn). Importantly, Karmen and Charles cooperated with others in creating a European network for language testing and assessment (the ENLTA project), which has led to the establishment of the European Association for Language Testing and Assessment (EALTA;

More recently, the support of the Erasmus+ staff exchange programme has ensured the continuation and expansion of this productive collaboration between the two institutions. Since 2013, Professor Judit Kormos (Lancaster), together with Dr. Karmen Pižorn and Dr. Milena Košak Babuder (Ljubljana), have trained 100+ teachers in teaching EFL to students with specific learning differences in Slovenia and have conducted joint research on this topic. Furthemore, during visits to Ljubljana in 2014 and 2015, Dr Tineke Brunfaut (Lancaster) ran language testing workshops for novice test writers and in-service teachers, taught pre-service primary school English teachers on innovations in research methodology, and set up a joint study on the rater training needs of teachers involved in the Slovene national assessments. Karmen Pižorn, on the other hand, has been visiting Lancaster on an annual basis, where her research and operational expertise in young learner language teaching and testing – which she has shared through talks and consultancies with Lancaster staff and students – has been greatly valued and has informed Lancaster student and staff projects.

Student Blog: Helen – “Expect the unexpected”

As the days start to get shorter again (??) it’s still roasting temperature in Tübingen; last week it got to 34 degrees. And, if you’re wondering why I’m still abroad, semester continues til the end of July here (and yes, I am jealous that you have already finished your exams).

If I had a word to describe how the last few weeks have been, it would be “stressful”. I’ve had an exam, a presentation, and more are looming. Other, completely random things haven’t been going particularly well- my kitchen has been redone, so I couldn’t cook anything for a week, and there were people in my flat from 7:15am to 4pm. It’s definitely a strange feeling to feel out of place in your own home.
Due to the heat, I’ve been sleeping pretty badly, and it’s difficult to concentrate when I’m studying, which- with exams coming up- isn’t the best thing in the world.

And, the icing on the stress-cake, is that I managed to (somehow) spill antibacterial hand gel on my phone, and repairing it is expensive, which leads to my next point…

All these things going wrong really makes me appreciate that they usually are fine; it’s like that feeling when you get a cold and your nose is blocked, and you realise how lucky you normally are to be able to breathe easily. The time without my phone has really helped me to be more productive, and to reevaluate how much I really need it. Funnily enough, it half-breaking has inspired me to stay without my smartphone (I still have a brick German one) until I come back to England, as having a month without my phone has always been something I’ve wanted to do, and there’s no better time to be productive than just before exams!

So, I guess the lesson to be learned is to make the best out of a situation, even when it seems that things aren’t going particularly well. There’s often a silver lining, and anyway, you can be almost certain that in a job interview they’ll ask you about a challenge you overcame- these experiences have got to come from somewhere!

Anyhow, I need to get back to revising for my exam (it’s in just over a week now)- talk soon?

Lancaster Linguistics covered on Portuguese television

Last April, RTP (the Portuguese national broadcaster) sent a team to cover the heritage language symposium that I organized with the financial support of the FASS Internationalization Fund. The event was a joint initiative between Lancaster University and PARSUK, the association of Portuguese scientists and students based in the UK. It brought to Lancaster policy makers, leading researchers, parents and educators in order to discuss challenges and opportunities associated with heritage language education. We were particularly pleased to welcome the Portuguese Secretary of State for Education (Professor João Costa) as our distinguished keynote speaker.

You can see the clip produced by RTP by clicking on the video below. For more information on our symposium, please drop me a line or visit our symposium website.

Student Blog: Helen – “Spring in Tübingen & weekend break”

So– it’s been a while. My last post got lost in the computer system, which is why there’s been a break. However, I am evidently back again to tell you about the *cough* interesting weather we’ve had, and about the weekend trip I took to Berlin (and probably some other things too).

Within the past month and a half we’ve essentially had all four seasons- no joke. One week it was around 25 degrees and I (laughably) got a slight tan, then there was a lot of rain- I think all the rain we ought to have had the rest of the year- and hail and snow (yes, snow. In April.) and then we’ve come full circle back to summer weather again. In a word: unpredictable.
I can’t lie though, I love this summer weather. I swear we’ve had more sun within the past month than in a year in Lancaster (see also: reasons to study abroad).

Last weekend (it feels like ages ago) I was in Berlin with some friends who are/were also on Erasmus and I had such a good time! I was there for a day less than the majority of people, as I had class on the Friday and most people didn’t, but it was really nice to catch up with some of the people who left last semester (even for a short while). We really lucked out with the weather as well- originally we thought it would rain the entire weekend but actually it only rained for a couple of hours on the Sunday. It felt great to get away from Tuebingen and be somewhere a bit bigger; whilst I had been to Berlin before, it was at least 5 years ago so I was able to wander around and get a new feel for it. I think to experience Berlin in its entirety I’d have needed slightly more time than I had, but it was great to be there. One thing that wasn’t as great was the transport there and back- 11 hours on the Flixbus (Megabus but for all of Europe) and 12 and a half hours back, due to delays and, excitingly, being checked for passports by the police. To this day I don’t know why.

Whilst the bus was not the best part of the trip, it’s very cheap- a lot cheaper than flying or taking the train- which is why when I go to Amsterdam in Pfingsten (the first week of June) we will also be going via Flixbus. There’s a lot of exciting things coming up soon: my mum is coming to visit in a week and a half, then I’m off to Amsterdam, then I should probably study a bit as I have a midterm (ok, maybe that’s not an exciting thing), but life has good things coming, which I’m really happy about.

That’s about it for now, I’m off to get some rest– talk soon?

Second Lancaster-Ghent Symposium: Program online!

The program of the second symposium of the Lancaster-Ghent partnership is now online!

The workshop is taking place on April 18-19, 2017, in Ghent. The topic is “Multilingualism: Language learning and testing”. Day 1 will feature talks by Lancaster and Ghent colleagues, Day 2 consists of a workshop on corpus linguistics. The Lancaster delegation will consist of Vaclav Brezina, Tineke Brunfaut, Aina Casaponsa, Dana Gablasova, Luke Harding, and Diane Potts. The local organizer is Piet van Avermaet ( We are grateful to the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASS) Internationalization Fund for the financial support.

Multilingualism: Language learning and testing

Please click here to download the abstracts

Day 1: Tuesday, April 18, Faculty Board Room, Blandijnberg 2, Ghent

8.30: Registration

8.45: Welcome

9.00: Vaclav Brezina and Dana Gablasova (Lancaster) : Lancaster corpus-based linguistic research: Advances in corpus tools and corpora  

9:50: Discussion

10:15: Aina Casaponsa (Lancaster): Foreign language comprehension achievement: insights from the cognate facilitation effect

10:40: Ellen Simon and Mieke Van Herreweghe (Ghent): Media-induced Second Language Acquisition

11:05: Discussion

11.30: Coffee break

11:50: Diane Potts, Lancaster University: Multilingualism, plurilingualism, translanguaging: Meaning-making in the field of applied linguistics

12:15: Fauve De Backer, Stef Slembrouck and Piet Van Avermaet (Ghent): Pupils’ perceptions on accommodations in multilingual assessment of science         

12:40: Discussion

13:05: Lunch break

14:15: Tineke Brunfaut and Luke Harding (Lancaster): Methodological and theoretical innovations in language testing

15:15: Frank van Splunder (Antwerp) and Catherine Verguts (Ghent): Language Policy and Language Testing in Flanders              

15:45: Discussion

16:15: Conclusions and futher cooperation

16:45: Reception

Day 2: Wednesday, April 19, 2017, Hiko PC-lab, corner Rozier – Sint-Hubertusstraat, Ghent

8:30: Registration

9:00: Welcome

9:00: Dana Gablasova and Vaclav Brezina (Lancaster): Corpus linguistics workshop

12:00: Lunch break

Portuguese Secretary of State for Education visits Lancaster University

Coverage of Saturday’s symposium with Portuguese Secretary of State Joao Costa on Lancaster University website:

Lancaster’s historic links with Portugal, dating back to John O’Gaunt, were rekindled at the weekend.

The Portuguese Secretary of State for Education, Professor João Costa, visited Lancaster University on Saturday (April 8) to take part in a conference on bilingualism and heritage language learning.

The event, opened in fluent Portuguese by Professor Sharon Huttly, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Education at Lancaster University, focused on Portuguese heritage language education across Europe.

It brought together policy makers from the Portuguese Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education, leading academics, journalists, school teachers and parents to discuss current trends and challenges in fostering bilingual competence in English and in the heritage language (the language spoken at home).

The event, supported by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences ‘Impact and Engagement Fund’ featured the presentation of successful case studies, including the innovative and award-winning Native Scientist project and the new Anglo-Portuguese School.

Portuguese national TV (RTP) sent a team to cover the event for a popular early evening news programme which is broadcast worldwide.

Event organiser Dr Patrick Rebuschat, from the University’s Department of Linguistics and English Language, said: “The conference was a big success. It is very rare for parents, teachers, researchers and policy makers to be sitting in the same room and engaging in a very constructive dialogue about education. The event demonstrates again the University’s commitment to both engaging with our local communities and to maintain a strong international outlook.”

Lancaster University is renowned for its research in the language sciences and is currently ranked 19th in the world for linguistics according to the 2017 QS Rankings.

In his keynote speech, Portuguese Secretary of State João Costa emphasized the importance of this initiative and outlined future challenges and opportunities in heritage language education.

The conference continued Lancaster University’s long-term links with Portugal.

In 1986 the then President of Portugal, Dr Mário Soares, who died earlier this year, received an Honorary Doctorate from Lancaster University. The occasion served to celebrate 600 years of the Treaty of Windsor between England and Portugal, the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world still in existence.

President Soares’ visit was seen as a big event for the City because it marked the first time Lancaster had received a foreign head of state. It was widely covered in the media in the UK and in Portugal.

“Professor João Costa’s visit on Saturday provided an opportunity for us to remember this event 31 years ago and to honour one of our Honorary Graduates,” added Dr Rebuschat.

For more information, please visit the Lancaster University website or email Dr Patrick Rebuschat,

Marije Michel: Invited talk at Ghent University

Lancaster’s Marije Michel gave an invited talk in Ghent on March 21, 2017, as part of the innovative “New Flavours in Second Languge Acquisition” seminar series, which is dedicated to cutting-edge research in second language acquisition.

Please see below for more information.

Location: Ghent Linguistics Department, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent.

Date: March 21, 2017, 19.15

Title: FB me 2N8! Taalleerprocessen tijdens geschreven computerchat

Abstract: Sinds de opkomst van sociale media heeft schrijven een nieuwe plaats verovert in ons leven. We smsen en appen veelvuldig en chatten met vrienden en familie over de hele wereld. Veel van deze chatinteracties vinden plaats in een taal die niet de moedertaal is van interactiepartners, bijv. het Engels of Nederlands als tweede taal (T2). In deze lezing zal ik uiteenzetten in hoeverre chatten in een T2 bijdraagt an taalleren. In verschillende experimentele studies heb ik gekeken waar T2-gebruikers hun aandacht op focussen tijdens het chatten, hoe interactiepartners elkaars taal hergebruiken en hoe dit bijdraagt aan het vermeren van hun kennis van de taal die ze leren. Op basis van onder meer eye-tracking data zal ik laten zien hoe wij in het taalonderwijs gebruik kunnen maken van schrijftaken via chat.


Impressions from the first Lancaster-Ghent Symposium

Today, we greatly enjoyed hosting a wonderful group of colleagues and students from Ghent University for the inaugural Lancaster-Ghent symposium. The symposium is part of our new research and teaching partnership (for more info please see our website).

The first event focused on “Discourse and Media”. A great thank you to our invited speakers for their excellent presentations and to our delegates for their thoughtful comments and discussion. The symposium clearly indicated many fruitful avenues for future research and teaching collaborations, and it will be exciting to strengthen the links between our institutions over the coming years.

Invited speakers:

  • Gent: Geert Jacobs, Jana Declercq, Eliza Kowal, Sophie Busschop
  • Lancaster: David Barton, Daniela Ibarra Herrera, Elena Semino, Karin Tusting

We look forward to next month’s Lancaster-Ghent symposium in Ghent – the event will take place on April 18-19, 2017, and focus on “Multilingualism: Learning, processing, teaching and testing.” The program will be uploaded shortly.

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the FASS Internationalization Fund.