Not Just Words: Learning languages through art and objects

11th Jan 2023  -  7th Jun 2024
Free. Open Tues - Fri 1-5pm
Term time only

 Exhibition graphic with the text 'Not Just Words: Learning languages through art and objects' in large dark blue font against a pastel yellow background.

Not Just Words is an invitation to be curious and get talking. This showcase in the UCL Art Museum presents an innovative approach to language learning at UCL that takes artworks and objects as a starting point.

Have you ever wondered how new trends emerge in children’s names, or which languages can be easier to learn for English speakers and why? Explore this showcase to enjoy a growing video library of language tasters and discover surprising facts about language, culture and how the two are intertwined.

Initially conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic by tutors at the School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS), the language taster videos on display were produced to support and promote language awareness and multi-lingualism beyond the university. The series has since expanded to the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies (SSEES) and the Centre for Languages and International Education (CLIE), with Finnish, Mandarin and Arabic subsequently joining the project.

A special display of plaster casts of ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs also celebrates the ongoing role of objects in ancient language learning at UCL.

The showcase has now been extended to Summer 2024 to accommodate the ever-growing taster library, which now includes Romanian, Hebrew, and Ancient Greek, with more coming soon. The exhibition also complements Lost & Found: Mapping European Literary London, a nearby display in the South Cloisters, UCL Wilkins Building, highlighting European literary responses to London. Keep an eye out for related events below.

Taster library

Visit the taster library available on the School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS) website.


Thanks are extended to all the UCL tutors who created the language tasters featured in the showcase, the Sutton Trust for their initial funding to develop resources for the Y12 Languages and Cultures Residential Summer School 2020 and 2021, and UCL Access and Widening Participation for their ongoing generous funding and support.

Past Events

Not Just Words: Learn More about... (Wednesday lunchtimes)

Are you learning or thinking of learning one (or more!) of the languages featured in the showcase? Would you like to practise with language tutors and fellow learners? Come along to our free, drop-in lunchtime events and learn more about these languages, get chatting and ask questions.

Danish - 10 May 2023, 13:30-14:30
With tutor Anne Grydehøj

Portuguese - 17 May 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Joana Jacob Ramalho

Mandarin - 24 May 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Li-Yun Liao

Italian - 31 May 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Cristina Massaccesi

French - 18 October 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Marie Fournier

Italian - 25 October 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Lucia Rinaldi

Norwegian - 1 November 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Elettra Carbone

German - 15 November 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Dagmar Paulus

Hebrew - 22 November 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Alinda Damsma

Ancient Greek - 29 November 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Antony Makrinos

Norwegian - 6 December 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Elettra Carbone

Dutch - 13 December 2023, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Christine Sas

Danish - 17 January 2024, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Anne Grydehøj

Icelandic - 31 January 2024, 13:00-14:00

Latin - 7 February 2024, 13:00-14:00

Arctic Languages - 27 February 2024, 13:00-14:00
With Dr Riitta Valijärvi - part of a wider programme of activities from UCL Scandinavian Studies celebrating International Polar Bear Day

Slovene - 6 March 2024, 13:00-14:00
With tutor Maja Rančigaj Beneš

Romanian - 13 March 2024, 13:00-14:00

Faroese - 20 March 2024, 13:00-14:00 (hybrid event)

More than Words: Symposium on Language Learning and Teaching

14 June 2023, 09:30–16:30

Join us for a networking symposium on language learning and teaching, with representatives from UCL and external partners. This full-day symposium will focus on language teaching and learning at UCL and in schools and is hosted by the Languages Stream within the newly founded UCL Centre for Humanities Education, with members from the School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS) and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES).

Have you thought of learning...? Languages of the wider world

26 September 2023, 11:00 am–1:00 pm

A group of language tutors involved in the exhibition are hosting a special drop-in session for the European Day of Languages at the UCL Art Museum where you can meet them and explore the showcase. Come along to find out what it's like to study languages such as Dutch, Portuguese, Romanian, a Scandinavian language, or Latin and Ancient Greek at UCL! Find out more on the SELCS Event Page.

Languages Across Generations: Former and current students work together to appeal to future applicants

Friday 6 October 2023, 17:00-18:00

Come and join current and former students for the launch of 20+ short video impressions that are the outcome of a project to promote less-taught languages at UCL. Funded by the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, the project asked current students and alumni to record 60-second videos highlighting SELCS uniqueness in the British university landscape through a focus on a number of languages that are not widely taught in the UK such as Dutch, Portuguese, and Danish. The UCL Art Museum will also have extended opening hours for this event, closing at 18:00. Get more information on the SELCS Event Page.



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