Inspiring a love of languages

A successful mentoring initiative that has been developed and pioneered in Wales is to be piloted in England.

The Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) Student Mentoring Scheme, which is led by Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages, has been given funding by the Department for Education to introduce the project to 10 schools and 200 pupils in South Yorkshire.

Working in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield University, the initiative will work to increase the number of students choosing to study a modern language at GCSE.

The six-week programme is a mixture of face-to-face learning and online activities. Participating students will be assigned a mentor, who will support them to explore the benefits of language learning and to enhance their inter-cultural understanding and confidence.

Since the Welsh Government began funding the project in 2015, the team has achieved great success, working with nearly half of all secondary schools in Wales. Partner schools have reported on average a doubling in the number of pupils choosing languages at GCSE as well as improved motivation to continue studying and go to university.

Academic lead Professor Claire Gorrara said: “We are delighted to be working with partners in England to roll out our successful mentoring scheme.

“The current levels of students opting for languages at age 14 in the UK is worryingly low. Our project is designed to show young people the many opportunities that can come out of speaking another language. The aim will be to increase uptake of modern foreign languages in the partner schools in England by between 20%-40%."

Simon Nicholls, Senior Lecturer in French and Catalan Studies at Sheffield Hallam University and Regional Coordinator for Mentoring in Sheffield, said: “This provides a prime opportunity for our Undergraduate students to work on raising the aspirations of young people in the Sheffield city area, not only in yielding an enhanced enjoyment of language study and celebrating their usage, but also in smashing the class-based glass ceiling and demonstrating that university study is completely attainable.

“The staff and students of Sheffield Hallam’s Languages and Cultures Subject Group are pleased to be part of this mentoring project and to enhance the university’s role as a key stakeholder in shaping the futures at the heart of local communities.”

Dr Paul O’Neill, Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at the University of Sheffield and Regional Coordinator for Mentoring in Sheffield, said: “The University of Sheffield is very pleased to be participating in this excellent scheme which complements and builds upon many of our current outreach activities with local schools.”


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