MFL Mentoring goes to Brussels

MFL Mentoring was invited to the Welsh Government’s St David’s Day reception held at the Ambassador’s Residence in Brussels. The project co-ordinators, academic lead and a selection of mentor’s past and present made the journey to Belgium to attend the event and introduce the project to the other guests.

The Ambassador’s Residence was full of people who all had a connection to Wales and over the course of the evening, we managed to speak to near enough everyone there. The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, started the evening off with a speech welcoming everyone to the event and highlighting what Wales has to offer to the rest of the world. From speaking to the First Minister, we found out that his degree was in Latin. We all enjoyed delicious food and drink which was produced and farmed in Wales, from oysters and gin to lamb and cheese. We spent an enjoyable evening, talking to the other guests, promoting and celebrating the success of the project while also making many new connections. It’s amazing where learning languages can take you.

We started the next day with a breakfast of croissants and pain au chocolat before walking to Rond-point Robert Schuman which is where you’ll find one of the European Commission buildings and the European Council. We were heading to another building on the roundabout: Wales House – Ty Cymru. We went to the Welsh Higher Education Brussels offices where we took part in inspiring workshops.

The first workshop of the day was ‘Using visuals in languages classrooms’ by Claire Gorrara, a Professor of French at Cardiff University and Academic Lead for MFL Mentoring. This explored the use of analysing images in a language lesson to help pupils with the new layout of the GCSE languages speaking exam where they will have to build a discussion with the examiner around an image, for example, a group of friends eating burgers which would perhaps lead on to discussing healthy living.
The second workshop was ‘MFL resources to scaffold learning’ led by Sian Brooks, a lecturer in PGCE Secondary MFL at University of Wales Trinity St David’s. In this workshop, we looked at many different types of activities that would instil confidence in a language learner such as answering questions about a text in Icelandic but being able to get the gist of the text from knowing English and other foreign languages. With these activities, it wouldn’t feel like you were learning because they were so much fun.

The final workshop of the day focused on translation in a mentor session and was led by Tallulah Machin, a MA translation graduate, and Regional Coordinator of Language Horizons. This workshop looked at how translation can be presented in a way that doesn’t always show the full picture of translation and that there are many fun aspects to translation.

After the workshops, some of us explored a bit more of Brussels while those who were part of the Castilla y León mentoring project stayed behind for a planning session. We met at the European Parliament for a talk about how the European Union was formed and how the European Parliament is run. We then went to see the Hemicycle which is where all the MEPs come once a month to spend the day voting on important orders of business.

As the sun was setting, we made our way to the city centre for dinner at a traditional Belgium restaurant. Many of us had the classic moules frites. We were just a stone’s throw away from the Grand Place, the main square in the city, so we made the diversion on our way back to see this famous square at night with the gold on the buildings twinkling in the lights.

On our final morning in Brussels, we made a quick dash back to the centre and this time, saw the Grand Place in daylight. Before too long, it was time to leave Brussels, but everyone left with plenty of motivation to carry on promoting languages and the MFL Mentoring ethos. These couple of days in Brussels, a multilingual city, highlighted once again the importance of language learning and the places that languages can take you.

Jessica completed a BA Modern Languages, Translation and Interpreting at Swansea University, graduating in 2018.