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Our research impact at the School of Modern Languages

We work with policymakers, non-governmental organisations, schools, and the arts and heritage sector to co-create research that makes a difference to people’s lives.

In the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) breakdown over 80% of our research, submitted to the Modern Languages and Linguistics Unit of Assessment, was deemed world-leading or internationally excellent. This brings together work carried out by School of Modern Languages colleagues and the School of Welsh, who share a distinctive interest in interdisciplinary and transnational approaches to literary and visual cultures, translation, heritage and sociolinguistics. This placed us 9th in the UK for research impact.

We are committed to developing the impact of our research, in Wales and beyond. Listed here are projects that highlight the scope and nature of our research impact.


families leave Paris

Reshaping perceptions of the Second World War in France

Individuals’ personal experiences are central to new understandings of this crucial period in history.

A mentoring model for language learning and beyond

A mentoring model for language learning and beyond

Cardiff-led research has influenced policy and practice and bolstered the uptake of modern languages in schools in Wales.

Influencing language planning and policy in Wales and Ireland

Influencing language planning and policy in Wales and Ireland

Research led by Professor Diarmait Mac Giolla Chríost on the efficacy of Language Commissioners achieved improved outcomes for Welsh and Irish speakers.

Past highlights

The Modern Foreign Languages Mentoring project, led by Professor Claire Gorrara explores effective ways to promote and deliver language learning. The goal of the research is to increase take up of languages at GCSE and to improve learner engagement with the benefits of multilingualism.

This project is funded by Welsh Government and has been developed in partnership with the Universities of Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea in collaboration with the four educational Welsh consortia.

The project trains undergraduate modern linguists to act as mentors to pupils in Year 8 and 9. It has been in place in 90 of Wales’s 203 secondary schools to date. The mentoring, training and ethos of the project are having a significant impact on the numbers of students choosing languages at GCSE, more than doubling the national average.

The research generated by this project also explores the broader benefits of intercultural communication and how schools and universities can encourage aspirations towards university study for more disadvantaged groups. The project was one of six short-listed projects to be celebrated for innovation and partnership building at Cardiff University in 2020.

Find out more about the project in Gorrara, al. 2020. Multilingual perspectives: preparing for language learning in the new curriculum for Wales. Curriculum Journal 31(2), pp. 244–257.

Hanna Diamond, Professor of French History in the School of Modern Languages, is the only British historian to be brought on to the advisory board of the Museum of the Liberation of Paris. She worked closely with Dr Sylvie Zaidman, chief curator and director of the Museum, in the design and implementation of a new permanent exhibition, bringing to bear her research focus on the ways French men and women experienced the Second World War.

She also worked with Zaidman on the museum's first temporary exhibition in 2020, to mark the 80th anniversary of the ‘Exodus’, when two million men, women and children fled Paris in just a few days, after word spread that the Germans were advancing on the French capital. Hanna's research has helped to inform the public about a key moment in the war that has been overlooked until now.

Prisoner Publishing develops prison publishing programmes in the UK and Mexico through methods that have been tried and tested in challenging Latin American environments.

The AHRC funded project is run by lecturer in Hispanic Studies, Dr Joey Whitfield and Lucy Bell of the University of Surrey and is facilitated through collaboration with grassroots Mexican publishers, the feminist Colectiva Editorial Hermanas en la Sombra, and the Cartonera publishers La Rueda Cartonera and Viento Cartonero.

Cartonera publishing is a movement that began in financial-crash-hit Argentina in the early 2000s, where grassroots collectives invented a method of mass-producing books cheaply, using upcycled waste.

The Cartoneras and the Hermanas en la Sombra use literature to promote positive social and welfare impacts in places where people face high levels of exclusion, stigma and violence, and help people and communities strengthen and change for the better. This project supports them to expand their work and explores how their models can be adopted and adapted in different prisons and marginal communities both in Mexico and the UK.

The ‘Empowering NGOs to Monitor and Evaluate’ project draws on Professor Gordon Cumming’s research and field experience over the last two decades.

Cumming’s research enabled him to identify obstacles that prevent smaller Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) from undertaking Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) of their projects, and to develop a new approach, the ‘1-2-3 method’, which equips NGOs to engage in M&E.

Having successfully trained Welsh and African NGOs in this method, Cumming was asked by Hub Cymru Africa and Welsh Government to make it more widely available. To this end, he created an accessible M&E website and a step-by-step toolkit, together with a video tutorial in six languages, a glossary, a Welsh translation, downloadable templates, worked examples, a compendium of traditional tools, plus full details of the Full 1-2-3 method, Quick 1-2-3 Method for NGOs and the Quick 1-2-3 Method for volunteers.

Now embedded in the Wales and Africa programme’s International Learning Opportunities scheme and in training programmes by NGO coordination bodies such as the WCVA, this electronic toolkit has enabled evaluating and evaluated organisations to secure more resources, use them more effectively on the ground and improve the wellbeing of target beneficiaries.