Institute of Education


Q&A with Professor Li Wei

1  What is your role and what does it involve?
I am Chair of Applied Linguistics and Director of the Centre for Applied Linguistics. I lead the applied linguistics and TESOL (Teaching English to speakers of other languages) group. We offer three Master's programmes and PhD supervision in a range of topics in applied linguistics. My own specialism is in bilingualism and multilingualism. I work on language development of bilingual and multilingual children, multilingual practices of individuals, families and communities, and creativity and criticality of multilingual language users.

2  How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I joined the UCL Institute of Education in January 2015, though I had been a professorial research associate in UCL's Deafness, Language and Cognition Centre since 1996. Before joining UCL, I was Pro-Vice-Master of Birkbeck College, University of London.

3  What's the most important thing you've learned from your students about the subject you teach?
The creativity capacity of bilingual and multilingual language users.

4  What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Launching the series of International Symposia on Bilingualism in 1997, now a key international conference that takes place all over the world every two years, and the International Journal of Bilingualism (SSCI, A&HCI).

5  Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list.
I am working on two major projects: An AHRC funded large grant project on Multilingual practices in diverse cities, as part of the Translating Cultures programme, and a British Academy special project on the Cognitive Benefits of Language Learning. The former is a four year empirical project involving a huge interdisciplinary team of researchers in several universities across London, Birmingham, Leeds and Cardiff, and the latter is a systematic review and synthesis of research evidence to promote language learning.

6  What other piece of research outside of your own subject area interests you?
I am particularly interested in any research on the evolution of the human brain in relation to the environment and the relationship between culture and thought.