A UNIVERSITY in York is preparing to offer free community language classes for families in the city and surrounding areas to stop heritage languages dying out.

The School of Education, Language and Psychology at York St John University will work out of the Communities Centre in the university's Lord Mayor's Walk Campus, and offer free classes to children aged five to 16.

Pupils will have the opportunity to learn their parents' or grandparents' home languages and have a space to practice and improve their language skills.

Programme lead in Taught MAs in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) 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.”

The university said research has revealed loss of heritage languages and how they’re often not being taught in the home, mainly due to the belief that English enables socio-economic mobility.

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.

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.”

Any members of the public who are interested in enrolling their children to the school are invited to fill in the questionnaire at: https://bit.ly/3xdz5GA

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

They can be contacted by emailing: cls@yorksj.ac.uk