Every year, French at Stirling students are invited out into local schools to act as Language Ambassadors, to talk to school pupils about the benefits (and challenges) of studying languages at University and the opportunities it offers. This year is no different and a group of our Year 3 and 4 students (Stefano, Heatherlea, Natalie, Meg and Eilidh) were invited to Wallace High in September for their annual activities organised around the European Day of Languages. As ever, it was a fantastic experience for both our students and the pupils at Wallace High, as the students themselves can explain for better than I can. As Stefano says:
‘Studying languages is not only very useful nowadays, but it can also entail a lot of fun! This was certainly the main message we all tried (and perhaps even managed) to convey for this year’s Languages Day at Wallace High School, in Stirling. So, what was it exactly all about?
On Friday 21 September, a group of five students from our University, myself included, acted as Language Ambassadors at one of the key events organised by the Wallace High School in Stirling, not far at all from our beautiful campus; we were there to show, talk about and share our experiences in relation to the study of languages in order to encourage S3 pupils to undertake this amazing multilingual learning path. Our main role was indeed to promote how beautiful, rewarding and mind-opening studying one or two extra languages can be.
From the moment we arrived at the school, we could really feel the enthusiasm of teachers and pupils alike and the excitement for the activities to come over the afternoon. Before the main workshops started, we all had the chance to attend the welcome reception in the main hall where one former pupil has delighted the audience with his passionate stories of learning, travelling and teaching across most Asian countries thanks to his commitment to languages.
As Language Ambassadors, we were then asked to run a series of quick workshops with eight different groups of 18-20 pupils at a time, each lasting around 10 minutes. In this way we managed to talk to a significant number of S3 pupils, being able to both present our stories and answer any questions they might have. Since the five of us represented a cohort of university students who had either just come back from a semester abroad (to a French and/or Spanish-speaking country) or are preparing to go for next semester, we were all able to share our first-hand experiences on how empowering the study of languages can be; by covering topics from great perspective career options to exotic journey destinations, all the workshops gave us the possibility to encourage students to pursue a multilingual curriculum both at the secondary and university levels.
We all had something to share: a story to tell, an experience to present or even some fun-facts about the different idioms we could speak. And this resulted in a very pleasant afternoon for all the people involved.
So, it is true; studying languages does open doors in ways sometimes we are not even able to foresee. As I said during the workshops, being Italian myself and knowing different languages has made my presence and my contribution at Wallace High possible and I certainly had a lot of fun there; once you start studying a language, where is no limit to where you could end up being, trust me!’
Heatherlea adds: ‘For me, it was really enriching to share my experience of learning a language and all of its benefits with the future generation. To know that I, and my peers, may have had an impact on just one person is truly touching. It was also really great for me to learn about the fourth years’ various experiences whilst studying abroad as my own semester in France is fast approaching!’
And Natalie explains: ‘As a Student Language Ambassador, I recently had the opportunity to participate in the S3 Languages Day at Wallace High School. The event which takes place every year aims to promote both the importance and fun of language learning. Throughout the afternoon, we conducted a series of short workshops aimed at third year pupils to discuss the advantages of learning a new language, our personal experiences of living abroad and we even had the opportunity to test their language skills! Furthermore, we were also able to learn about their own experiences abroad and their hopes for the future after high school.
We found that the pupils were extremely interested to hear about language learning from a different perspective that included real life experiences. In addition, they asked many questions and they were also surprised to find out that learning a language has allowed us to travel to a wide range of places. Moreover, I was thrilled to hear that so many pupils at Wallace High School are already thinking about studying another language beyond high school and for those who had not yet considered it, we hope that our presentative has given them some food for thought.
Overall, the European Languages Day at Wallace High School was an excellent afternoon and I would love to take part in this experience again!’
Many thanks to Stefano, Natalie, Heatherlea, Meg and Eilidh for their help with this and to Mrs Bell and her pupils at Wallace High for the warm welcome.