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News article

York St John University establishing the region’s first free Community Language School to offer multiple languages

Published: 07 June 2022

  •   Community
Two young children studying at school desks

The School of Education, Language and Psychology at York St John University is preparing to offer free community language classes for families in York and surrounding areas to help stop heritage languages dying out.   

The School will work out of the York St John Communities Centre and offer free classes to children aged 5 to 16. Pupils will have the opportunity to learn their parents' and/or grandparents' home languages and have a space to practice and improve their language skills. 

Research has revealed loss of heritage languages and how they’re often not being taught in the home. This is mainly due to the belief that English enables socio-economic mobility. Other factors such as time constraints also play a key role in migrant families not passing on their heritage languages to the younger generations being schooled and brought up in English-dominant contexts.  

Academics would like to hear from families who are keen to pass on their home languages of first-generation migrants to children and adolescents growing up in Yorkshire. Potential languages already on the list include Japanese, Korean, French, Hungarian, Mandarin Chinese and Serbo-Croatian although more can be offered depending on demand.   

The team are keen to shape the School to fit around community need, so they want to work with the public from the beginning. They’ve designed a questionnaire for anyone who might be interested in having classes and are looking to expand on their list of what home languages- other than English- families are keen to teach to their children. Any members of the public who are keen to enrol their children to the school are invited to fill in the questionnaire via the link below. 

Programme Lead in Taught MAs in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics Dr Indu Vibha Meddegama said: “We know that the home remains a viable environment for language preservation, but we also know that some families need support with this. There isn’t the government funding available, so this support is needed at a community level and we’re really excited to be able to offer this to families in York.” 


Lecturer in Japanese and Linguistics Dr Maja Skender-Lizatovic has seen the benefits of a Community Language School first-hand, after working in one for several years in Japan.  She said: One of the happiest changes I saw in students was their shift in attitude and boost in confidence. The school provided them with another venue to use their home language and the students started seeing their background as something valuable.   

“We were even able to form a small community among students from same and different language backgrounds as they all shared a similar experience.  

If you’ve any questions about the Community Language School and how it could support your family, Drs Meddegama and Skender-Lizatovic would love to hear from you.  

Contact them via 

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Communications team

York St John University, Lord Mayors Walk, York, YO31 7EX

01904 876 466

To contact us out of hours, phone 07812 365 499