The Roadshow

What is the Linguistics Roadshow?

The Linguistics Roadshow is a fun and interactive showcase about the science of language, presenting the big questions and the little-known facts about language for high-school students. The Roadshow consists of a team of linguists from the University of Melbourne and the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language who are passionate about bringing their knowledge about language and linguistics to rural Australian high-school students.  Roadshow school visits include fun, hands-on workshops that engage and enlighten students about language in Australia and across the world. The Linguistics Roadshow is supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

How will the Linguistics Roadshow visits be structured?

The Linguistics Roadshow is a two-hour session aimed at all Year 10 students in your school. For large schools, we recommend scheduling two separate sessions so that all students in the year level can attend. The broad focus will be on the diversity of human languages and communication, and the tools that help linguists unravel the most puzzling problems about the languages of the world. Topics will be accessible and interesting for all students, and relate to their everyday experience with language while complementing a range of existing curricula across the sciences, English, LOTE, maths, history and geography.  Activity groups include:

  • Seeing Sounds – We’ll explore some of the mysteries of human speech sounds, and how the workings of the vocal tract can be represented visually. Students will learn about anatomy and speech production, and see examples of speech in waveforms, spectrograms, and video clips including MRI and ultrasound.
  • Babel in your own Backyard – There are lots of different sorts of Australian English, and diverse influences contributing to it as it grows and changes. Students will be given a taste of some of the variation in spoken and written English, and will be able to contribute their own input on local and individual usages.
  • Languages of the Land – Students will be taken on a tour of the Australian linguistic landscape, focusing on the many Indigenous languages from across the country. They will learn about the diversity of these languages and their structures, and use this knowledge to solve a puzzle in an Indigenous language.
  • From Rugrats to Robots – How do we define language? Is it something that only humans can learn? Students will find out about the differences between human, animal and machine communication, and what it takes to learn a language as a child and as an adult.

How can I get involved?

The Linguistics Roadshow is just taking off, and we are currently scheduling our first visits with selected schools in regional Victoria. Unfortunately, we can’t schedule additional visits at the moment, but we plan to expand the program soon, so stay tuned! In  the meantime, we are adding lots of information and resources to these pages, including links to classroom activities, so feel free to make the most of these and keep an eye out for new posts and discussions via our Twitter and Facebook pages. If you have any questions along the way, get in touch.


Who are we?

We’re all early career researchers from the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language and the University of Melbourne:


Katie Jepson

Katie has an interest in languages’ sound systems, and is particularly fascinated by the melody and rhythm of spoken language. At the moment Katie is investigating the sounds of a language spoken in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, though also has a passion for languages spoken throughout the Pacific.




Rosey Billington

Rosey does research in phonetics, which focuses on working out the finer details of speech sounds like vowels, consonants and tones in different languages. Rosey has previously worked on Australian English, and at the moment is particularly interested in the sounds of Nilotic languages from East Africa.




Jill Vaughan

Jill is a sociolinguist – she researches how we as individuals make linguistic choices to say something about who we are and the kinds of groups that we belong to. Jill is especially interested in multilingualism, and currently does research in Arnhem Land in Northern Australia, one of the most multilingual regions in the world.