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Answering general comments and questions about UKLO

Why should I choose UKLO for my classroom?
The United Kingdom Linguistics Olympiad is currently growing with an increase of over 30% in subscription count. An annual linguistics competition, UKLO seeks to improve the standard of linguistics education in schools by presenting language as a mystery to be described, analysed and solved, rather than rote-memorised and forgotten later. It is a new take on language learning sparked by the enthusiasm of its participants, as well as being an invaluable tool for general problem solving skills. Students from many disciplines and age groups do UKLO. Find out more reasons on why you should choose UKLO.

I don’t need to speak another language
The skills learned from the language analysis provided at UKLO are applicable to a student’s life in general. The ability to discover and be critical on the nuances and details that make up the world will benefit a student’s outlook and prospects as they make important decisions in life and in the workplace. On top of that are the linguistic skills and fundamentals that make learning another language easier. The demand for critical problem solving, languages and cultural understanding are extremely needed in a diverse UK workforce.

Linguistic skills are not exclusively applied to speaking a language, they are multi-disciplinary in the benefits they bring to students. Like learning to ride a bike, linguistics skills are essential life skills that are not easily forgotten.

Emeritus Professor Richard Hudson emphasises the thinking skills that are given to students in his chapter on ‘Linguistics for Schools’:
“The rigorous thinking promoted by UKLO is an important argument in the ongoing debate about foreign languages – but one which is rarely mustered. If foreign languages were taught as complex systems, where the complexity was addressed head-on with clear and rigorous teaching, then they would have as good a claim as mathematics to mind-training. A foreign language is as good a gymnasium for the mind as any other complex system – and a good deal better because of its direct relevance to human thinking.”

How do I incorporate linguistics into my classroom?
Introducing linguistics to students can be an informal process, says Professor Billy Clark as he details probing questions to students in his chapter on ‘Linguists in Schools’:
“Working on linguistics in schools and universities can be understood as developing ways of finding out about aspects of language and communication which are more systematic than informal discussion and sharing what you find out with others. A natural way to develop discussion of this is to look at similarities and differences between various kinds of informal discussion of aspects of language and the more systematic approaches taken by linguists. This can be approached by starting from general questions…as well as by comparing informal statements with the findings of linguists.”

In addition to this, UKLO as an annual package to give to students is strong evidence that linguistics as a subject can be taught actively and not passively. Students are capable of finding linguistics patterns themselves without any instruction or preliminary teaching. The magic formula seems to be teachers enabling students to be made aware that language can be analysed in the same way that a plant can be analysed in biology by looking at its cells and structure.

I don’t know any linguists or what it is all about
One of the initiatives of UKLO is to provide a bridge between linguists in universities and teachers at UK schools. It is a necessary initiative to keep teachers informed of current developments and new ways to inspire their students. As Billy reassures us in his chapter about linguists, as a linguist himself:
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with students and teachers…like many linguists, I’m very happy to talk about language and linguistics in any context. Luckily, there is lots of interest in aspects of language and communication, and so many people are keen to join conversations.”

In terms of how to run UKLO in schools, there is plenty of information on the UKLO website tailor-made for teachers including resources and advertisements. At UKLO we believe in learning by doing, and what makes a linguist is someone who analyses language patterns. So if you are able to work through a question with your students, you will be doing the work of a linguist.

Why have I not heard about UKLO before?
UKLO held its first competition in 2010 from a small base of schools, and it has been gradually growing ever since. There is a good chance you have not heard about UKLO before. We have received lots of positive comments from teachers and schools on the impact of UKLO on their students. We are still questioning how big of an out-reach UKLO will have with schools, considering all the success it has played in changing the lives of students. It is one of our missions for UKLO to be available in every school.

So, UKLO is for languages?
UKLO is for everyone, the ability to understand our own language and the languages of others is beneficial to all students. Students from disciplines such as Geography, History, Modern Languages, Mathematics, Science, English etc. are known to have taken part in UKLO. UKLO is breaking ground in the stereotype that stuff for languages is only for linguists and language enthusiasts. Students who have had no inclination in language analysis or have not shown much interest in languages at school have given UKLO a try and loved it. There is no way of telling if your students will enjoy UKLO until they give it a try themselves. It unlocks a part of education that has been lacking in UK schools. It is different and challenging, and teachers have been amazed seeing their students lighten up with UKLO. So UKLO is about languages, but it’s not just for people who like languages.

We hope you give UKLO a chance in your classroom

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