TCD Researchers Win Awards for Innovative Approaches to European Language Learning

Posted on: 26 October 2010

Two Trinity College projects, Language Trap: An Adaptive Language Learning Video Game designed by Professor Vincent Wade, Head of Intelligent Systems in School of Computer Science and Statistics at TCD and Deputy Director of the Centre for Next Generation Localisation, along with PhD student, Neil Peirce, and SpEakWise, initiated by Dr Gillian Martin and Dr Helen O’Sullivan in the Department of Germanic Studies of TCD’s School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies together with Dr Breffni O’Rourke of the Centre for Language and Communication Studies, School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Sciences, were recently awarded with European Language Label Awards.  The awards recognise creative and innovative ways to improve the quality of language teaching and learning and is presented on the basis of excellence, creativity and the projects ability to serve as a model for others.

The Language Trap project is an adventure game that uses speech dialogues combined with cutting-edge state-of-the-art personalisation system.  Trialled with over 80 leaving cert students in five schools, the Language Trap adventure game provides a deeply immersive, engaging and fun way for students to learn the German language whilst supporting the diversity of language abilities.  It is hoped to offer multiple languages versions of the game and the next version will support learning the Irish language. The research for the project was funded as part of the outreach programme of the Centre for Next Generation Localisation at TCD which is pioneering technology in innovative multilingual collaboration and interactive content delivery.

Professor Tom Collins awarding Neil Peirce and Prof Vincent Wade with a European Language Award at the Leargas Award Ceremony.

SpEakWise uses online technologies, including Moodle, Survey Monkey and video-conferencing, alongside more traditional approaches to teaching and learning in a blended course aimed at raising cultural awareness and pragmatic competence.  SpEakWise matches final year Business Studies and German students with a group of students from the Institut für Interkulturelle Kommunikation at the University of Hildesheim.  These students work together over one semester on a range of awareness-raising activities, including a video-conferenced negotiation, which encourage them to consider their attitudes to other cultures, to examine their own implicit cultural values, to reflect on how culture shapes how they use their first language and the foreign language, and how they behave in certain settings.  The course, which has been running since 2007, was commended for challenging students with “a series of well-designed activities to develop their reflection about and skills for intercultural communication”.

Professor Tom Collins awarding Dr Helen O’Sullivan and Dr Gillian Martin with a European Language Award at the Leargas Award Ceremony.

At the event, Professor David Little of TCD’s Centre for Language and Communication Studies was also honoured with a Language Ambassador award which aims to recognise the achievements of individuals in the promotion of language learning, essential for building an inclusive multicultural society.  Chair of the Irish National jury for the awards, Dr Muiris Ó Laoire, commented: “The range and depth of Professor Little’s activities and achievements confirm his enormous contribution to the field of language learning.  He is recognised worldwide as a leading proponent of the theory of language learner autonomy, and has been a driving force behind many significant language education initiatives nationally and internationally.”

The European Language Label and Language Ambassador awards are run simultaneously in over 20 EU countries and are administered in Ireland by Léargas, Ireland’s National Agency for the management of national and international exchange and cooperation programmes in education, youth and community work.