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Promoting the take-up of languages and student mobility

Staffordshire Pupils Get a Taste of Languages

Region: 
West Midlands

Keele University, in conjunction with the Staffordshire Languages
Group, organised a two-phase awareness-raising event. The first phase of our
event at Keele University consisted in an informal
introduction to the importance of languages for more than 100 Year 8 pupils (12
to 13 year olds) from Stoke and Staffordshire schools, their parents and
teachers. On Tuesday 6th of November 2007, an evening for pupils
from 14 different local schools, their families and teachers took place at Keele University.
The programme included talks by businesspeople and former Keele graduates, and a
PowerPoint presentation highlighting the importance of foreign languages in
today's world. This was followed by a buffet of German food to be enjoyed by
all.

The
second phase of the event, in April 2008, took the form of a themed supper for
parents and the pupils who had visited Keele in November, followed by an
overnight stay for pupils only, and language taster sessions the following day.
All pupils attended German sessions in small groups in the morning, and after
lunch there were ten languages on offer: Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Japanese,
Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tamil and Turkish. The idea was to give
the pupils some idea of the culture of the different countries and engage them
in some simple and fun learning activities, led by enthusiastic native
speakers.

In
total, 100 pupils from 14 schools were involved in the project, one school from
Stoke-on-Trent, and the others from Staffordshire (e.g. Stafford, Rugeley, Newcastle, Cannock,
Uttoxeter, Leek). The organisation of our event was supported by a number of
people: Keele Widening Participation supplied student mentors to guide the
groups of children around campus, German tutors from Keele University undertook
the German sessions in the morning, and the afternoon language taster sessions
were staffed by visiting international students from Keele University, staff
from the Modern Languages Department at Keele, and students / proctors from
Coventry University.

The
taster sessions were a great success, and the pupils enjoyed the variety
offered to them by enthusiastic native speakers. The tutors engaged the pupils
with songs, visual material, tongue-twisters and interactive games that
enthused the young people for learning a foreign language.

The
school teachers took part in the afternoon language taster sessions, but in the
morning they had their very own programme: a PowerPoint presentation as a guide
to on-line languages teaching resources, conversation sessions in French and
German, and a wine-tasting session which was very popular with staff.

The
event was a great success, and we have had very positive feedback from pupils
and staff, as well as from the tutors involved in the language sessions. The pupil
questionnaires show a marked increase in the number of pupils who said that
they were "more" or "a lot more likely to study a language" - an increase of
22.5% compared to the November event. We are following up this positive and
motivating experience for the pupils with visits to the schools involved,
strengthening links and monitoring the uptake of languages in the groups of
pupils involved.