The Language of Learning

Welcome to the website of Mary Mason, the author of Breakthrough to Learning. This is a linguistics – based course for secondary schools, which teaches the language needed for academic success. When used systematically in Wigan 1984-91, the program had the effect of doubling the percentage of pupils gaining five or more GCSE’s grades A-C across the curriculum. (See Mason, Mason and Quayle 1992 under downloads.)
In 2012 Matthew Moss High School, an 11-16 comprehensive school in Rochdale, took up Breakthrough to Learning with enthusiasm. By July 2013 all pupils have worked through all or part of the course and the results are now being analysed. A first account of this experience can be downloaded on this site: BTL at MMHS
The three books (for years 7, 8 and 9) and the Fasttrack (a one-year shortened course) can be downloaded FREE from this site.
A companion website is, an interactive computer course for post-16 students, based on the same linguistic research. This is a prize-winning course commissioned by Birmingham City University. It is available on the above site FREE.
Information about the author, the course, its history and articles can be accessed on the two sites.
This site is set up as a “blog”. Every week I shall put up news of books on linguistics, cognitive psychology, neuroscience and other subjects with direct relevance to the language of education.


2 thoughts on “The Language of Learning

  1. Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine (2002) “Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World’s Languages”, OUP, USA

    This is a wonderful read. First, the authors’ evocation of the pre-literate, fluid world of hundreds of languages co-existing in a limited area, such as Papua New Guinea. These are the languages which are endangered by the modern world.

    Second, the authors pull no punches in describing economic reasons for the death of languages, namely colonialism by the European powers (and now the United States), which robs tribal peoples of their resources in the search for raw materials.

    Third, they make an interesting case for bi-lingualism as a way of saving the hundreds of languages currently under threat, giving Denmark as an example. Here Danish remains the language of home and give s people their identity, but resources are poured into schools to make sure that Danes also have an excellent command of the world language, English.

    The effect of the written language is mentioned, but it would be interesting to read more about the impact of literacy in saving endangered languages.