There has been a huge surge in interest in language learning through the Cambridge University Language Programme for Schools and Colleges (CULP4SC) over the past year. The possibility of learning Mandarin through RiL CULP particularly excited students from year 8 to year 13. There are now more than 15 learning partnerships for Mandarin across the region. A healthy uptake of boys and girls are embracing the challenge of learning this dynamic language spoken by over 850 million people and in so doing are developing fresh, cultural perspectives on the world around them. Standard Mandarin is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, so learning to communicate in Mandarin will certainly give our young people an advantage in developing their role in an increasingly global society and, what is more, they are clearly enjoying the experience!
In order to provide tuition across the region, the University of Cambridge Language Centre carried out a recruitment campaign to identify and train new tutors of Mandarin to teach in the CULP4SC partner schools. They attended residential training to enrich their teaching skills, using the award-winning integrated face-to-face and online learning approach developed by CULC. Through lesson observation and dialogue tutors are contributing to a community of practice where innovation in teaching and learning can be supported and evaluated by sympathetic peers. This creative and dynamic professional development is making lessons all the more exciting and effective for the students involved.
Students are genuinely learning how to live life through a different lens! Not only do they speak to each other in Mandarin but they also make contact with other Mandarin speakers, comparing their experiences and sharing new discoveries. They taste, see and read the culture of China, even mastering the Chinese characters and writing their own messages!
In addition to the significant increase in Mandarin, there are also rewarding opportunities to learn other languages from Europe. Students are engaged in Italian, Spanish, French and German classes, which simply could not take place if it were not through the provision that RiL can make available. In particular, the remote access pilot managed by the OU is enabling young people to learn from native speaker tutors, sometimes receiving their lessons direct from Italy through the Elluminate programme.
The potential to harness new technology to extend the range of opportunities for young people to learn languages through face-to-face and online learning is considerable and the successful expansion of the programme so far from 7 to 24 schools demonstrates that the sun is certainly rising on language capability in the East of England. Long may it shine!