Centre for Modern Languages
The Centre for Modern Languages was established in 2013 to reintroduce modern language teaching to Richmond University London. As part of the implementation of the university’s new vision and internationalism strategy, the Centre, through its provision of language and culture courses and involvement in wider communities, enhances the profile of the University as a truly international university.
The importance of language learning and language teaching in today’s higher education is self-evident, both for the development of individuals, especially from the point of view of a liberal arts education which characterises the University, and for the preparation of these individuals for the future job market. This is because “languages play a key role in expressing the cultures and identities of the places in which they are used” (Languages and Related Studies, 2007, AQQ), and “the UK needs more of its people to speak foreign languages – for employability, for trade and the economy, and for our cultural life” (Language for the Future Report, 2013, British Council). Languages also form an essential part of intercultural competence, a quality that is increasingly vital in the present multicultural and multilingual world.
As planned, the Centre for Modern Languages has so far introduced courses in Arabic and Mandarin Chinese, with Japanese being planned to start very soon. All these courses are combined with related cultural studies with an aim to foster both awareness and competences in intercultural communications on the part of the course participants. As the Centre also acts as an interface between the University and its neighbouring communities, evening language courses are designed and offered to both the university and neighbouring communities, including joint business Chinese language courses in collaboration with the Confucius Institute for Business based at the London School of Economics (LSE). In addition, the Centre also organises other relevant activities such as professional development programmes for language teachers and themed public lectures, either independently or jointly for audience coming from both within the University and the communities and institutions in the surrounding areas of the University. The Centre also hosts visiting scholars and visiting professors from other countries.
For the accredited courses that can be part of student’s degree study, the Centre has built up four consecutive courses in Chinese language and culture, which form the constituent language basis for the Minor in Chinese Studies, a new minor that became available in 2016. Moreover, the Centre also launched two MA programmes – MA in Applied Linguistics: Language Teaching (English and Chinese), and MA in Language Education Leadership and Management, which is the first of its kind on the market. Similar development is planned for other languages when there are enough demands and needs.
Centre Director: Professor George X Zhang
Visiting Professor: Tim Connell
What our students say
I have always enjoyed learning languages whenever I have free time, so when I saw that Richmond was offering Chinese at The Centre for Modern Languages I was more than ecstatic. Languages are helpful at any age, and having them available to take while at university was great.
The Centre for Modern Languages has experienced and helpful faculty – useful because learning a new language is hard for anyone. Although this is taught at university level, the Professor makes you feel comfortable with the content and pace, while still having you understand the basics in a semester. An example of the quality of professors available is George Zhang, the chair of the Centre for Modern Languages. We used a textbook that was written by George himself, in the class. Therefore he understands what needs to be tackled throughout the course.
This has been a great experience in my journey at Richmond and it has proven to be a valuable skill now and no doubt will be throughout my life and career.
My experience so far at Richmond has been nothing short of incredible! The professors are exceptional and possess unique landscapes and objectivity within their courses. Additionally, I must say that the classes are comfortable and garner a comprehensive selection of subjects. As a Financial Economics Major, I have particularly embraced the Modern Language Programme here at Richmond. I am fluent in Mandarin, and thoroughly appreciated the study of Chinese literature and culture which is helpful in bridging cultural gaps. Richmond prides itself on its expertise when it comes to creating programs to satisfy students’ goals – Richmond, Simply Amazing!”
Meet the professors
Professor George X Zhang, PhD, Hon FCIL
Director, the Centre for Modern Languages
Dr George X Zhang is Professor of Chinese and Director of the Centre for Modern Languages, in the School of Liberal Arts of the university. He has over thirty years’ experience in language teaching in British and Chinese universities as well as commercial experience in management consultancy and training. He completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies in China and obtained his PhD from the University of Nottingham in 1991. He was first appointed as a professor in language education by a Chinese university in 1994.
Before joining Richmond University, Professor Zhang was the Director of SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) Language Centre, University of London and the Director of London Confucius Institute (the first Confucius Institute in the UK). He has participated and managed quite a few projects on Chinese language learning and teaching, including EBCL (European Benchmarks for Chinese Language), the first EU funded non-European language CEFR benchmark project (2010-12), which he coordinated between 2010 and 2011. He was the Chair of British Chinese Language Teaching Society (BCLTS) between 2006 and 2008.
Professor Zhang is an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, and an associate researcher of PLIDAM, INALCO (institut national des langues et civilisations orientales). He also serves as a vice president for the European Association of Chinese Teaching (EACT). As a language specialist, Professor Zhang sits on a number of national and regional language education boards or organisations, and he also lectures extensively all over Europe and other parts of the world.
Professor Zhang has researched and published on language policy, language learning and teaching, teacher training, intercultural communications and cross cultural business management. He is an author of a number of books, including several Chinese language textbooks, of which the Chinese in Steps series won the Outstanding International Chinese Teaching Material Award at the Fifth Confucius Conference in December 2010.
Professor Tim Connell
Professor Tim Connell is an Emeritus Professor of City University London where he served as Director of Language Studies for nearly twenty years before his retirement. With over forty years’ experience in higher education in London, much of which is related to language learning and teaching.
He Professor Tim Connell is a graduate of Oxford, Liverpool and London universities, and has also studied in Spain and Mexico. His particular languages are Spanish, French and Portuguese and he has extensive experience of both Spain and Latin America.
Professor Connell’s expertise extends far more beyond language learning and language teaching. As he said himself, he has “a lifetime’s experience of operating in multi-lingual international teams, dealing with a wide range of students across all disciplines, and liaising with different types of organisation”.
Professor Connell also enjoys a high profile in language learning and teaching both domestically and internationally, working not only within the UK university sector, but also with both European and overseas institutions and professional bodies. Professor Connell know the language market very well, and is often ahead of change in the field. He is Vice-President of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, which offers examinations in 35 countries and is currently expanding in the Far East and also served as the chair the Institute of Linguists’ Educational Trust Board. Professor Connell has also delivered numerous guest lectures and been involved many consultancy assignments concerning language learning and language teaching.