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Promoting the take-up of languages and student mobility

Creative languages in the South West attract students from across the UK and viewers from 75 countries!

South West

By Irena Holdsworth

Recently, Routes into Languages South West held its fourth annual celebration of languages at the University of Bath bringing together the winners from three local finals of the MFL Speaking Competition and the shortlisted entrants in the 2014 Pop Video Competition – Celebrating Success:MFL Pop Video & Speaking Competitions Regional Finals.

The event celebrates the outstanding achievement and talent of secondary school students through two exciting and creative  language based projects organised in the South West.

The MFL Speaking Competition challenges secondary school students from across the region to demonstrate their language skills. By combining language and presentation skills they engage a large audience of their peers, teachers and a panel of judges by using various creative techniques that include drama productions, comedy and music. The competition is split into three age groups (KS3-5) and two categories: Non-native speakers and Near-native speakers (who have more than the usual background in the language – e.g. bilingual, or having lived for several years in the country of the language).

190 students from 36 schools and FE colleges took part in sub-regional finals hosted by three local secondary schools in Barnstaple, Bath and Swindon last March. The mix of languages was a delight for the ears – presentations were delivered in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, Polish and Romanian!

sw1All winners and runners-up from the local finals met again at the South West regional final in Bath on 25 June competing for cash prizes. They delivered outstanding presentations fluently and with confidence, engaging the audience and impressing the judges, among whom were Emma Green (MFL Development Editor, OUP) and Yves Letournel (Attaché de coopération pour le français, Institut Français).

The competition has won popularity among the secondary schools in the South West and is spreading beyond its regional borders – this is the first year when students from other regions also took part and competed in the regional final.

The Celebration Event also featured the Pop Video Competition, which invites entrants to produce an original pop video song in a foreign language of their choice. The competition is open to secondary students between the ages of 11-18 and runs in two age groups: 11-14 and 15-18. Judging on different criteria including originality, music, video, range of language, song’s theme and overall presentation, the panel of judges selects four nominees in each age group who are invited to attend the award ceremony. In addition, each song is posted on the RiLSouthWest YouTube channel and entered in the online voting poll to compete for the most popular and sought-for ‘Online Viewers’ Award’, decided by the public over the course of four weeks.

An excellent selection of 35 video entries including seven from outside the region was received this year. It was gratifying to see such enthusiasm for languages amongst these young people and how effectively they combined their musical, artistic and technical talents with foreign languages!


The winners in each category, including the ‘Online Viewers’ Award’, were announced in an Oscar-style award ceremony. The first prize in the 11-14 age group went to the Ralph Allen School in Bath for ‘El Corazon’, a powerful, emotive and occasional graphic portrayal of the issues surrounding bullying. Horizon CC, a secondary school in South Yorkshire, won the 15-18 category with ‘Le cycliste – le tour de france’, which marked the Tour de France Grand Départ 2014 from Yorkshire.

Passions rose in the final week of this year’s online voting which saw tough competition between the two top songs competing for the ‘Online Viewers’ Award’ – ‘Le Train de la Liberté’ by Highcliffe School and ‘Mon Zoo’ by Howden School, the latter eventually winning the much coveted award by a margin of 62 votes.

And a special touch, a lovely tradition of this annual event which raised a smile on the faces of everyone present, was the wonderful performance of his song ‘La Playa’ performed live by Ben Martin from the Park Community School. Ben won the 11-14 age group category in 2013.

sw3This year’s Pop Video competition received 13,902 online views on YouTube from 75 countries in just four weeks! The total number of views on the RiLSouth West YouTube channel has climbed up to 72,144 since the start of the competition in 2009.

Routes into Languages Co-Director for the South West, Dr Steve Wharton said:

“The regional finals proved what’s a vibrant and engaged community of young linguists there is in the South West and is a tribute both to their commitment and to that of their teachers”

We would like to say a special thank you to Oxford University Press, which has been the main sponsor of the Speaking Competition for the last two years, for donating foreign language dictionaries for winners and runners-up and also a special thank you to Institut Français, Goethe Institut and Spanish Embassy for providing small prizes for all participants.

For full list of winners, please visit our Routes South West website.

To watch this year’s Pop Video entries, please visit our RiLSouthWest YouTube channel.

Irena Holdsworth is Project Manager for Routes into Languages South West at the Universities of Bath and Bristol.