As part of our activities to celebrate the European Day of Languages, three of our current final year students (Ellen Ingram, Charlotte Cavanagh and David Vescio) went along to local secondary school Wallace High to talk to pupils and teachers there about studying languages at University. Here’s their account of the day:
“To commemorate European Languages Day 2016, we went along to Wallace High School to promote the benefits of language learning to the pupils. Having all had a ball working and studying abroad, we were keen to talk to the pupils and encourage them to stick in with their modern language studies.
The school organised many different workshops, speakers and activities throughout the building across different departments, including a French cuisine sample session arranged by the Home Economics department. Our workshop was designed to work with small groups of students and tell them about the opportunities that learning a language have opened for us. Working in small groups allowed the students to ask us questions and also tell us their ideas about their future and if learning a language would be part of their plan.
For Ellen, it was particularly good to “hear the thoughts of the different pupils and it was interesting to hear how many of them felt that language learning might enhance their job opportunities in the future. Many pupils told me that they would like to be able to speak another language but they find their language classes very difficult. Having studied French since high school, I have been through (and I am still going through) the struggle of language classes and the difficulty in grasping certain concepts, so I hope that I encouraged them to be tenacious and power through. In my opinion, the biggest piece of encouragement that I gave the students was that language allows you to travel. I told them about my experience working as a language assistant in France and my study abroad semester in Quebec and how I would not have been able to do those things without studying French. We talked about all the places that you can go if you have a basic understanding or even a few words of French and Spanish to show that there is more to learning these languages than just visiting France and Spain.
I really hope that I have inspired some of the pupils to continue learning a modern language and that they can see the benefits that I have gotten out of learning French and the experiences that I have had. To this day I still find learning French very difficult but it is my love for the language and my interest in experiencing other cultures that make it worthwhile.”
For Charlotte, “as a subject that means a lot to me, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the pupils of Wallace High School to promote the study of languages. What struck me the most was that although many pupils liked the idea of learning another language, they were put off by the idea that it takes a lot of time and effort to master and that they found learning languages extremely challenging. I really enjoyed discussing these thoughts and concerns with pupils, and I hope that by sharing my own stories I have reassured them that although learning a language is not easy, there are so many advantages to studying languages and that it can provide them with so many opportunities.”
David is planning a career in secondary teaching when he graduates so, for him, “it was fascinating both to talk with individual teachers and prospective language students, as well as to try to engage with pupils with no interest in languages whatsoever. Although they were quiet at first, some eventually started asking questions and I could see that they knew there was something to gain. I loved trying to explain to the pupils how languages gave me the opportunity to travel as well as meet new people. Although I thought that speaking of my own experience would not captivate the pupils’ attentions at first, I eventually noticed a spark of interest and one question led to many more. I think what it really showed me was that the pupils see a language only as an academic subject rather than a way to communicate. This truly opened my eyes as to how teachers not only have to teach a language but also have to engage the students. I left the school more determined than ever to become a teacher!”
Thanks to Ellen, Charlotte and David for having given up their afternoon to meet with the Wallace High pupils and staff and for this blog post. We’re hoping to continue to develop our connections with schools in the local area and beyond over the weeks and months ahead so, if you happen to be reading this as a secondary or primary Languages teacher, do feel free to get in touch!