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Promoting the take-up of languages and student mobility

York St John University Host Languages and Careers Event

Yorkshire and the Humber

Careers using Languages conference

York Saint John University July 2014


On Friday 4th July the Languages team ran their third annual Careers using Languages conference, welcoming Millthorpe and Joseph Rowntree schools from York as well as schools from further afield: Morley Academy, Leeds, Carleton Community High School, Wakefield and Lady Lumley’s from Pickering, a total of 107 students accompanied by 10 members of staff.


The day started with a keynote speech from Christine Elliott, Chief Executive of the Institute for Turnaround, an independent body for professionals who transform organisations and formerly Director of Bletchley Park for 8 years. Excellently placed to speak on Why Languages Matter, she spoke of the many situations where knowledge of a language gives you an added edge as well as the benefits to the individual such as access to other cultures, puzzle-solving and mental sharpness.


After this the students dispersed to parallel sessions, with a choice throughout the day of attending 4 sessions chosen from a possible 8. These included both internal and external speakers. Caitlin Green and Alexandra Kirkham (a YSJU alumna!) from International Service, a York-based charity working in South America, Africa and elsewhere ran a session called The Value of Language Connections: Travel and Employability, emphasising how having even a small amount of language can help make connections to people overseas and connections to other languages.


Ben Dobbs, a freelance trainer from York Associates, specialises in interpersonal and intercultural skills, and in his session Working internationally; what competences do we need? encouraged the students to think beyond communicating with language but rather to think about contexts and people, culture and stereotypes and what makes for effective communication - some of the students provided excellent examples!


Esther Wolff is a freelance environmental consultant whose language skills have been vital in her career. She spoke on Languages as a Strategic Choice, explaining the impact of her language knowledge on her career then encouraging students to use their own foreign language skills in a role-play activity where they needed to be a holiday rep mediating in a crisis situation between a group of tourists and a hotel.


Last year’s keynote speaker, Sally Fagan from Business Language Champions, spoke about Languages and Marketing and set the pupils a challenge of promoting Yorkshire Blue cheese in their target language. Despite some pupils’ less than positive reactions to the cheese itself when given the opportunity to sample it, they entered into the activity with relish and produced some highly imaginative work.


Dr Svetlana Carsten and Nathaniel Elcock of the National Network of Interpreters, ran their ever-popular Do you have what it takes to interpret? session, during which the school students had a go at interpreting and despite some reluctance, most of them were so impressive that Svetlana gave the assembled students a special ‘thank you’ at the end of the conference.


York St John lecturers also contributed: Dr Dai O’Brien ran a session on BSL in the workplace: Signs for success, with video clips to demonstrate different situations in which BSL is used as well as teaching fingerspelling and how to introduce yourself, which kept the students busy and engaged.


Marion Martinez’s interactive session Study Abroad - why take the plunge? sowed seeds in many student minds about the benefits of spending some of their time as a student in another country, while Mizumi Nango’s Orient Express introduced them to Japanese culture and gave them a taste of the language.


The day went smoothly with no hitches and there was a great buzz around De Grey Court that day. Feedback from the accompanying teachers is very positive: “The organisation of the day was very impressive!” “Interactivity was great - more of it!”  “It gives them a new dimension on languages outside the classroom - a multiplicity of options.”


Feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive with the vast majority thinking that the event was good or excellent. “Very entertaining, it was a good day, I feel like I learnt a lot,” said one and “I really enjoyed this event, it has made me look further into studying languages.” Having a language “helps you stand out against other people” and the event “showed me that there were more job opportunities if you have a language.”


Many thanks to Alison Organ and the rest of the languages team and to Lucy and Betsy for excellent administration and to Ruth for taking photos and gathering feedback.


Alison Hayes, July 2014