Sir Robert Taylor Society: Event round-up

The Sir Robert Taylor Society, our network bringing together teachers and academics in modern languages, met on September 25 for its annual conference.

Due to the pandemic, we replaced our normal conference with an online version featuring talks, discussion, Q&A, as well as recorded materials and other resources on the society’s website. Over eighty delegates signed up for the event.

Our guest speaker was Sir Simon McDonald, who has recently stepped down as Head of the UK Diplomatic Service. In conversation with Prof Julie Curtis, he discussed the role of language skills in international diplomacy, and the importance of target-language fluency for UK soft power around the globe. We were then joined by academic and undergraduate representatives from all nine of the European languages taught in the modern languages faculty: Spanish, German, Greek, Czech, Polish, Portuguese, Italian, French and Russian. In two lively Q&A sessions, we discussed issues from remote teaching under the pandemic to the impact of Brexit on language learning.

We’re delighted that our annual Teachers’ Conference managed to soldier on despite the coronavirus; we’re grateful to all those who joined it, and whose participation made it a success, and we hope that everyone who attended found it a useful and interesting evening. Next year we will hopefully be returning to an in-person conference, scheduled to take place from Friday 24 to Saturday 25 September at St Anne’s College in Oxford. You can find out more details at our website,, and you can sign up to the mailing list for our teachers’ network at

Subscribe to Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages