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Cardiff language learners meet Senegalese peers in virtual exchange project

1 February 2019

A new online platform to aid interaction between language learners and native speakers has facilitated its first exchange between students from Cardiff and Senegal.

French undergraduates at the School of Modern Languages and students at the Virtual University of Senegal and Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar first communicated with each other this January using the online platform Bili.

Bili is an online exchange platform, created by secondary languages teacher Charlie Foot. The platform is designed to help students break out of the classroom’s four walls and regularly interact with native speakers to put their language skills to good use.

The exchange between Cardiff and Senegal is part of the British Council’s new ‘English Connects’ programme, which aims to connect the UK to African youth through English.

Cathy Molinaro and Marie Gastinel-Jones who are leading the project for the School of Modern Languages said: "This is a really fabulous project which takes learning out of the traditional classroom. Students are excited to meet their counterparts from Senegal and find out about a part of the French-speaking world which they would otherwise not have had the opportunity to discover during their studies. They will be consolidating their linguistic skills whilst exploring new cultures which will prepare them for their upcoming year abroad studies and for their future careers.”

Alison Devine, English in Education Lead for the British Council in Sub Saharan Africa, said: “By connecting students in the UK directly to their peers in Senegal for the first time, this project will not only support both English and French speaking undergraduates with their language skills but also motivate them to broaden their horizons with new friendships in new places. Online technologies are providing innovative new opportunities for the UK to connect to Africa and foster intercultural relations.”

Bernardette Holmes MBE, campaign director of Speak to the Future, the national campaign for languages, said at the project launch: “Future success worldwide will rely on young people who can connect with others and cooperate effectively across borders, forging and sustaining relations built on trust and mutual respect. Bili makes such connections possible through its innovative international learning platform.”

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