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Language students given opportunities to explore new cultures and maintain their skills during lockdown

11 May 2020

Teenager learning at home on laptop stock image
Year 13 language students can access interactive remote learning as part of an initiative led by Cardiff University.
In response to the Covid-19 restrictions, academics working on Welsh Government initiative The Modern Foreign Language Student Mentoring Project have created a programme of lectures, seminars and workshops that will be delivered online. The sessions, being offered through the medium of English and Welsh, are aimed at language students looking to continue studying languages at University.

Lecturers and students from Aberystwyth University and the University of Bangor are also involved in the project.

Claire Gorrara, Professor of French at Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages, said: “Students due to complete their A Levels have had their classroom teaching cut short due to Covid-19. Remote learning in any subject is a challenge, but for those studying languages, there is a real danger they could lose confidence and skills as it is much harder to practice and build language skills on your own.

“It’s well-known that there has been a decline in the numbers of people choosing a language at GCSE and beyond in the UK as a whole. That’s why we are working to ensure those who are due to start degrees that have a language component next academic year are given the best support and start possible.”

Lucy Jenkins, also of Cardiff University, who is coordinating the 11-week programme, said: “Being able to interact with others is one of the joys of studying a language. We hope our sessions will fuel students’ enthusiasm for learning and give them a taste of what to expect when they start University study in September.”

Amy Cutler, a final year undergraduate at Cardiff University studying Spanish and English Literature, is one of the mentors in the project. She said: “I think this project will be really beneficial for students who aren't sure what to expect from their classes in September. University is already a huge adjustment for so many students, so I can imagine some are feeling anxious about adapting to a new style of learning.

“A lot of language learning in schools focuses on grammar and sentence structure and tenses, and it can be a big change suddenly having classes about culture, history, and politics. This project will definitely introduce students to the idea that language learning is about more than just conjugation and help them adapt to the engaging discussion-based seminars at their own pace, ready for September.”

The project will be multilingual in approach and is therefore open to all students regardless of their language of study. It offers support for studying the culture as well as the language of other countries.

Each week will cover a different theme, including music, graphic novels, cinema, translation studies, and politics. It will involve three interconnected elements:

  1. A workshop/item to prepare – self-directed but released at a set time. Required preparation for the seminar scheduled later in the week;
  2. A lecture – interactive or pre-recorded
  3. An academic or student-mentor-led seminar – at a scheduled time for pupils to sign up to that builds upon the lecture and preparation work.

Conversation classes at A Level standard will be offered in French, Spanish and German and will be led by mentors and staff from The School of Modern Languages at Cardiff University. Taster sessions for other languages will include Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Welsh, Catalan and Arabic.

All sessions will be supported by trained mentors from the Welsh Government funded Modern Foreign Languages Student Mentoring Project. The mentors are all current or former university students of languages.

Each Year 13 pupil will also have access to a toolkit which will provide them with a variety of activities to undertake independently. These will vary in the level of difficulty to account for the different levels that will be present in the groups and will be primarily project based.

Access the full timetable here.

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