Professor Pam Moores, Executive Dean of the School of Languages & Social Sciences, has received an OBE for her contribution to excellence in Modern Languages in Higher Education, and her promotion of language learning in schools and colleges.
Aspects caught up with Pam to get her thoughts on receiving this prestigious title.
How did you hear that you were receiving an OBE?
‘The news came as a complete surprise. I received a letter through the post and, on seeing it was from the Cabinet Office, I imagined it might be a request for me to join another national language working group. It came as a very pleasant surprise when inside I found a letter informing me that I had been recommended for an OBE.’
When did your interest in languages start?
‘My parents were linguists and also loved caravanning, so I was lucky to be taken to France nearly every summer. I’m one of five children so this was an easy way to keep us entertained throughout the summer holidays! It meant that I had the chance to experiment with using another language and gained experience of other cultures from an early age. I went on to study French, German and Latin at A’ level and it was always clear to me that I wanted to continue to use my languages.’
Tell me a little about your career history
‘During my PhD years, I came back to England to ‘write up’, and I started some part-time teaching in secondary schools as I found being a research student here quite isolating. I took a job at a Canley College of Education in Coventry, where I was very much engaged in thinking about teaching and learning processes for languages because I was working with students who wanted to become language teachers.
I also did some work as a tutor-counsellor for the Open University, which reinforced my interest in pedagogy, learning approaches and development of course materials. I was experimenting in various roles around that time to see where my interests really lay. For example, I combined university lecturing with administrative work in the Registry at Warwick, and this led on to my applying for an academic post at Aston.
I’ve been at Aston now for over 30 years and throughout that period I have taken on one leadership role after another. I have always enjoyed working in a group and taking people forward together as a team. This is an essential part of all my current roles, within Aston and externally.’
Do you have any career highlights that stand out for you?
‘Recently, it would have to be the success, with Annie Bannerman, in putting together the bid to HEFCE for Aston University to lead one of the four pilot regional consortia for the Routes into Languages project. This led on to the DCSF agreeing to fund Routes into Languages consortia in every region of England. It was a fantastic coup and since then I’ve been delighted to advise Welsh colleagues who are now setting out on a similar path, and also to see the Links into Languages network for teachers develop from the success of Routes into Languages. Providing support to teachers is a vital step as, whatever work is done to encourage learners, without building up the language teaching profession, it will not be possible to implement any long term programme of language learning.
I feel that this phase of my career has been particularly rewarding as I now have the chance to exert an influence, and feel that I am doing something concrete to raise the profile of languages.’
What does this award mean to you?
‘I see it as a sign of national recognition, and currently the modern languages community in the UK certainly needs to achieve greater public recognition. We need as many passionate advocates as possible out there persuading people that learning languages is important, that it is empowering in terms of personal self-confidence, mobility and career opportunities. We live in multicultural Britain and work in a global marketplace. To be multilingual is a great asset.
What I’m currently spending a large part of my time doing is promoting language study, whether with pupils in schools and colleges through Routes into Languages, or working with teachers through Links into Languages, or here at Aston in my role as Executive Dean of the School of Languages & Social Sciences, or more generally through my role on various national bodies. So I am constantly promoting languages at a local, national and international level.’
Since Spring 2007, Professor Moores has been Chair of the University Council of Modern Languages, the overarching national organisation which represents the interests of languages, linguistics, and cultural and area studies in Higher Education throughout the United Kingdom, and which also works with corresponding bodies in other countries.
‘What is important is that everyone has the opportunity to learn about other languages and cultures. It doesn’t matter what language you start with – it’s just important to get started and to enjoy the experience of interpreting the foreign and sharing new perspectives!’
The award ceremony for the OBE will take place in the autumn.
Words by Louise Russell