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Passion for languages ignited at university study day

21 January 2016

Enthusiastic students participate at the language study day
Enthusiastic students participate at the language study day

In December we reported news of an initiative supported by Welsh Government to tackle the decline in modern foreign language learning. The scheme, which sees students go into schools to promote languages to younger pupils, is called the Student Language Ambassador Scheme and Megan Martin, a final year French student at the School of Modern Languages has become involved. Megan was recently taking part in a ‘Study Day’ as part of the scheme and kindly offered to cover events.

“As a part of their final year, modern foreign language students have been taking part in the Student Language Ambassador Scheme, which sees them working closely with pupils in the local area in order to inspire them to pursue a foreign language. This promotes sustainable connections between the School of Modern Languages at Cardiff and the surrounding secondary schools, as well as improving undergraduates’ employability.

The number of pupils choosing to take a GCSE in a foreign language in Wales has declined from 55% in 1995 to 22% in 2013 and the scheme hopes to address this worrying trend.

As part of the scheme, students gain teaching experience within the schools through observation of professionals, taking part in classroom activities and generating their own learning materials. On 6 January 2016, Year 9 pupils from local schools including Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School in Barry were welcomed to the University for a ‘study day’. This study day comprised of a number of student-delivered sessions, aiming to ignite pupils’ passion and encourage the uptake of modern foreign languages. A wide variety of sessions were delivered, including tasters of French, Spanish, Italian, German and Japanese which are all languages offered at Cardiff University.

Dr Liz Wren-Owens, Senior Lecturer in Italian and Translation Studies and academic leader for this scheme said, “The study day has been a resounding success, and the students have done a superb job. The aim of the day was to promote language study to school pupils at a time where take-up of languages at GCSE and beyond is in decline, and the students did a brilliant job of showing pupils the exciting doors that languages can open. It was a fun-filled day, including taster sessions for new languages, interactive games based on some of our students' experiences of living abroad, and above all, the opportunity to think of languages beyond the classroom. We had a team of students who organised every facet of the day in an incredibly professional way. This is the first year we have included the study day in our teaching module, and based on the glowing feedback from schools, pupils and Cardiff students, it will be an annual fixture from now on!”

Through events like this, we hope to help school pupils realise that taking a modern foreign language at GCSE and later at A level or degree level will offer them a range of educational and career opportunities. Despite current trends, schemes such as this are tackling the problem and actively supporting the development of modern foreign languages here in Wales.”

Well done to Megan and her fellow students Alex Peters, Alex Bliss, Hannah Purdy and Ellie Van Klaveren who all worked together to organise the study day.

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