Adopt a Class - a Route into Languages

Adopt a Class - a Route into Languages Safe Places to Play and Hang Out by National Assembly For Wales / Cynulliad Cymru

This article was written by Sam Shervill, published on 26th July 2012 and has been read 5392 times.

Sam has just finished his second year at Cardiff University studying French and Spanish and is about to embark on his Year Abroad to Chambéry and Valencia. Alongside his Year Abroad, Sam is involved with the Routes into Languages 'Adopt a Class' scheme. Here he discusses what's involved, the school he's been paired with and how he will keep them in the loop with his year abroad adventures.
It is rather impossible to ignore the publicity on the dire state of language learning in the UK. With falling numbers of language students, schools are unable to provide classes, therefore hindering those who do wish to study a language and forcing numbers to fall further.

There appear to be a number of factors for this decline. For instance, many students see languages as a difficult study field (I often get the ‘’ followed by a straight face when asked what degree scheme I follow,) while others believe no need to learn another language as everybody speaks English (with holidays to anglicised seaside resorts on the continent not helping to deconstruct this image). For me, the final nail in the coffin is that language studies are not compulsory at GCSE level.

Being educated in Wales, Welsh is a compulsory subject at GCSE and while I was happy to have this opportunity, many students failed to attend the classes. However, Welsh is everywhere: Road signs, in shops, in public buildings and the announcements at train stations are in Welsh before in English. Therefore, being brought up in this bilingual environment certainly enables me to have a greater understanding: I know which train is arriving before those who don’t understand, for example. My Welsh may only be basic, but it helps nevertheless.

As a result, it is down to initiatives such as Routes into Languages to promote and encourage the study of languages from GCSE to degree level.

The project is split into regional consortia, with CILT Cymru (The National Centre for Languages in Wales) running the Welsh branch, Routes Cymru. One of the grassroots schemes organised by Routes Cymru is the Adopt A Class Scheme, which I will be participating in whilst on my 2012-2013 year abroad in Chambéry, France and Valencia, Spain. The aim of the scheme is to raise pupil awareness of language study and demonstrate how what can be learnt in the classroom can help them survive life in another country. It also aims to raise the awareness of the year abroad and of schemes such as Leonardo and Erasmus.

During my year abroad, I have been paired with a year nine French class in a Welsh school. After being introduced via email with the teacher of the class, I arranged to visit the school in the last week of term in order to introduce myself, tell the class where I am going, what I am going to do, what I am looking forward to and to hopefully engage them into wanting to ‘follow me’ on my journey across Europe.

Throughout my year abroad, I will keep in contact with the class by writing a blog. However, anything can be agreed with the class teacher: Video diaries, letters, postcards, newspapers, magazines or even a link to the current number 1 song in the country: whatever you think may interest the class and whatever is convenient. Perhaps during the school year the class will study places around town and I can walk around Chambéry taking photos of my local boulangerie, gare or commissariat. Seeing real life places rather than images in a text book should hopefully engage the students as they see how I once sat in a classroom like them and am now living in France.

Following my return and start of my 4th year at University, I will then re-visit the pupils who will be embarking on their GCSE studies, hopefully many of them opting for French, to give a presentation on my year and my experiences.

Hopefully, seeing how someone has taken what they’ve learnt in a classroom to survive real life in a foreign country will show them what great opportunities come from language learning, the year abroad itself being one. While most of my friends are about to return to Cardiff for their final and most difficult year, I’m off to the continent to put into practice what I’ve learnt. Jealous would be an understatement of how they feel...

It’s important to add that there is no financial implication as a small grant is awarded to cover postage costs or internet costs should an internet café be used while abroad and upon completion of the scheme, a second grant is awarded to cover any other fees incurred. What’s more, this scheme provides a rare opportunity for me to perhaps change someone’s outlook on languages, encouraging them to pursue with their study and perhaps in a few years, they could be in the position of organising their own year abroad, not to mention it looking great on the CV!

I’d encourage every language undergraduate to consider signing up for the scheme and I’m sure it would be beneficial for both you, the teacher and the class you’re paired with.

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