MFL Mentoring goes to Brussels

Jonny O'Rourke

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.

Language Learning Opens Doors to Other Worlds: Memory Acts through Digital Technologies

Jonny O'Rourke

Author: Lucy Jenkins
Published: 10th April 2019

Summary of research: To understand the applicability of the Digi-Languages and mentoring methodologies implemented by MFL Mentoring in Wales to wider languages communities, above all, in European partner countries.

Funder: AHRC Languages Acts and Worldmaking – November 2018

Summary of outcomes:

  1. Presentation of outreach projects at APPG for Modern Languages in October 2018. This event involved mentors, mentees and teachers involved in the project from across Wales.
  2. Meetings with European colleagues at the Welsh Higher Education Bureau (WHEB) in November 2018 which resulted in a partnership between Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages and the Castilla y León Regional Government. This resulted in eight final-year undergraduate students being recruited and trained to mentor in Spain as part of a final-year module, the Student Teaching Module. Click here for more info.
  3. Invitation to attend the Welsh Government St. David’s Day celebration event in Brussels (March 2019) with the First Minister of Wales. Representatives from the MFL Mentoring, colleagues from Physics Mentoring, students engaged in the Castilla y León project and colleagues representing Language Horizons all attended. Click here for more info.


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Evaluating the Effectiveness of E-mentoring as a Digital Languages Resource for FLL in Wales

Jonny O'Rourke

Author: Lucy Jenkins
Published: 27th January 2019

Summary of research: An evaluation of Digi-Languages, an online experience which encourages its users, year 8 or 9 learners, to engage in questions which challenge mono-lingual and mono-cultural perceptions. This experience takes a blended approach to mentoring, as an online and face-to-face activity and was developed by MFL Mentoring in 2017.

Funder: AHRC Open World Research Initiative – Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS) – January 2018

Summary of outcomes:

  1. 3-minute film for OWRI pop-up museum which was launched at the end of 2019. Click here to view.
  2. Policy report by Gorrara, Jenkins and Mosley: ‘Modern Languages and Mentoring: Supporting Digital Learning across Language Communities in Wales’. This was published on the MEITS website and offered to Welsh Government. Click here to view.
  3. Policy paper by Gorrara, Jenkins and Mosley: ‘Modern languages and mentoring: Lessons from digital learning in Wales’, published in the Languages, Society & Policy Journal. Click here to view.
  4. Stakeholder workshop on outcomes of first iteration of Digi-Languages in May 2018 with Welsh Government and Department for Education (England) in attendance. This began discussions about how the Department for Education may look to fund a similar project in England to support their ambition to have 75% of students studying an MFL at GCSE by 2022 and 90% by 2025. MFL Mentoring later won a contract of £100k to deliver the Language Horizons pilot in November 2018 and then went on to deliver a larger project 2019-2020. Click here to view.


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Digital Languages Writing Sprint

Jonny O'Rourke

Author: Lucy Jenkins
Published: 13th August 2019.

Summary of research: The Digital Modern Languages tutorial writing sprint is a physical and virtual event designed to create a variety of open educational resources demonstrating the critical and applied use of digital tools and methods for teachers, learners and researchers interested in modern languages and cultures. This initiative is led by the ‘Digital Mediations’ strand of Language Acts & Worldmaking, which explores interactions and tensions between digital culture and modern languages research. Click here for more info.

Funder: AHRC Open World Research Initiative – Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS) – July 2019

Summary of outcomes:
1. Jenkins, L. 2020. Preface. ‘Special Collection Critical Digital Pedagogies in Modern Languages – a Tutorial’. Modern Languages Open. Click here to view.

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Body Languages: Drawing Your Multilingual Self

Jonny O'Rourke

Author: Lucy Jenkins
Published: 5th December 2019

Summary of research: This event built on work by MFL Mentoring to explore the theme of the multilingual self. It included a pupil workshop with activities focused on exploring the relationship between identity and language. Creative research methods were used to research how pupils view their multilingual selves. The event concluded with a roundtable discussion involving teachers who have participated in the project for two or more years to examine the wider impact that the project has had on the school body and culture.

Funder: Economic and Social Research Council – June 2019

Summary of outcomes:
1. Workshop with Willows High School. The findings from this workshop about how pupils conceive themselves as linguists have been fed into an article for British Educational Research Association written by Gorrara, Jenkins, Jepson, and Machin 2020. ‘Multilingual perspectives: preparing for language learning in the new curriculum for Wales’, The Curriculum Journal, special issue, ‘Re-educating the nation: the development of the new curriculum in Wales’ (April 2020). Click here to view.

2. Workshop with teachers from secondary schools involved in MFL Mentoring for two or more years. The outcomes from this workshop were used as evidence for the external evaluation conducted in 2019, to evaluate the impact of the project on wider school cultures and approaches to languages, when a school has engaged over an extended period of time.

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Rethinking the Languages Pipeline in the Age of Brexit

Jonny O'Rourke

Author: Lucy Jenkins
Published: 17th January 2020

Summary of research: To investigate the factors impacting on the decline of language learning in the UK and champion new partnership models for the promotion of linguistic and cultural diversity. The event aims to challenge the assumptions underpinning populist denigrations of multiculturalism in the UK, magnified by Brexit, and contributes to debates on the future of modern languages as a discipline and field.

Funder: AHRC Languages Acts and Worldmaking – September 2019

Summary of outcomes:
1. Languages summit hosted in Cardiff on 27th September 2019. Funded by a small grant from ‘Languages Acts and World-making’, GW4 Consortium and Routes into Languages Cymru, this event discussed the challenges facing languages from primary school to university and across England and Wales. Increasingly, students are opting out of studying a language, often unaware of what they will lose (or never encounter) as a result of such a decision. Multilingualism is an integral part of our everyday lives and allows us to communicate, interact and learn from others beyond our linguistic community. The openness that this promotes is needed more so than ever in an era of Brexit. The event aimed to bring together key language stakeholders involved in a student’s language journey to reflect and consider how we might reconfigure the language landscape in the UK to make language learning more appealing to young people.

2. A graphic illustration of the outcomes from the Languages Summit.

3. Article for British Educational Research Association written by Gorrara, Jenkins, Jepson and Machin 2020. ‘Multilingual perspectives: preparing for language learning in the new curriculum for Wales’, The Curriculum Journal, special issue, ‘Re-educating the nation: the development of the new curriculum in Wales’ (April 2020). Click here to view.


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Pobl Communications: A Social Sciences Venture

Jonny O'Rourke

Author: Lucy Jenkins
Published: 15th May 2021

Summary of research: To investigate the potential for the development of a commercial venture from the research conducted by MFL Mentoring in order to grow and develop its activities. This activity directly links to and complements work being undertaken to consider the commercial pathways for the project via the ASPECT ARC (Aspect Research Commercialisation) Programme. This is a prestigious and first-of-its-kind accelerator for social sciences, offering vital training and support for researchers to help facilitate progression of innovative ideas through to translation and venture creation. You can read more about this here.

MFL Mentoring is currently looking for ways to sustain and scale-up its activity to allow it to deliver its inspirational activities in multiple contexts and with a variety of partners. This is following its success in developing multiple other ventures such as Languages Horizons and the partnership with Castilla y León.

Funder: Cardiff University ESRC Impact Acceleration Account – April 2021

Summary of outcomes:
1. The development of Pobl Communications, a new brand identity for the venture. The new branding will be available shortly.

2. The commissioning of Oxentia to conduct market research to identify the market scope for the activities of the venture. This includes looking further at the UK education sector, the global education sector and at the corporate training sector. Findings from this report will be available shortly.

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About Me: Lucy

About Me: Lucy.

Author: Lucy Jenkins
Published: 4th June 2021

I joined MFL Mentoring at the end of 2017, inspired by the mission underpinning this project and with a wish to support all young people to see the central importance of languages and cultures to everything we do. I remain inspired every day by our young people, by our university students, by my colleagues, and by the possibilities for languages here in Wales.

I am a graduate of Cardiff University undertaking my BA in English Literature and Italian and my Masters in European Studies. On completion of my Masters, I joined a Community Interest Company (CIC) based in South-West Wales which used music and technology as a way to re-engage people in learning, training and employment. Through my work, I worked with young people with physical and mental disability, with young offenders, with young people in Pupil Referral Units, young carers and adults struggling with long-term unemployment, to mention just a few. Delivering workshops, developing curriculum and new tools to engage these people, as well as delivering accreditations, made me reflect again on the role of languages and cultures, and their pivotal role in developing social cohesion, personal confidence and as a driver of aspiration. I knew I needed to ‘go back’ to languages and after a couple of years honing my skills of engagement, delivery and partnership management, I found myself appointed as the Project Director of MFL Mentoring.

I have spearheaded the development of different activities, including most recently the transformation of the project to a fully digital programme. I have also led the expansion of the project to include working with over half of the secondary schools in Wales, and in developing project streams which target post-16 learners and creating teacher resources. I have also led the development of a partnership with the Spanish region of Castilla y León, adapting our model to look at how to support their linguistic context.

With great belief in the project, and a whole wealth of evidence to support its efficacy, I developed a sister project, Languages Horizons, in 2018 which received funding from the Department for Education, England. I led this project until its conclusion in 2020, following the Covid-19 pandemic. Language Horizons was a highly successful blended mentoring experience which involved developing partnership between Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield, Warwick University and Coventry University. Through this project I developed extensive experience in designing and creating online experiences as well as honing my understanding of user-testing and evaluation frameworks. I also learned that I thoroughly enjoy working on the interface between face-to-face and online experiences.

I have also had the pleasure of supporting multiple research grants associated with the project, everything from identifying potential funding sources, to delivering against our outputs. I have also published on matters relating to languages education, languages in Wales and mentoring as a tool to increase learner motivation. I enjoy enormously presenting our engagement and research at events nationally and internationally as both an invited and keynote speaker over the last 4 years.

Most recently, I’ve been involved in a prestigious programme called ASPECT which supports universities to develop their social sciences research into viable business propositions. As part of the programme I have learned new business skills that will allow us to grow and develop the project to reach more and more young people. Take a look at this blog or find out more about the training programme here. In our case, this is to ensure we can keep delivering our project and deliver more of it in more places, which in itself is a hugely exciting prospect.

Beyond my role at Cardiff and MFL Mentoring, I have recently been employed as an Education Consultant by the London School of Economics to develop a schools programme to support the British Academy SHAPE initiative, which aims to increase the visibility of social sciences, humanities and the arts subjects across society. This project takes a four-nation approach to the struggles facing SHAPE subjects and intends to find new ways to engage young people in the value of these subjects. We are developing learner resources and teacher training to support this ambition.

For me, working across education to disrupt and challenge perspectives is the most rewarding part of my job. As we look to reshape our world as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, the central role of languages and communication can’t be overlooked. We will be there reminding the world of their importance – you can count on that!

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About Me: Glesni

About Me: Glesni.

Author: Glesni Owen
Published: 4th June 2021

I’ve been with MFL Mentoring since 2017 when I joined as a language mentor whilst I was completing my BA in History and German at Cardiff University. I enjoyed my time so much that I continued as a mentor during my Masters in Medieval History at Cardiff University the following year. In the summer of 2019, I was then given an opportunity to intern with the project before jumping at the chance to join the project full time in September 2019. I went straight from handing in my MA dissertation to working with the project.
Since September 2019, I have been working as a Project Coordinator and have enjoyed every minute. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I helped to create a fully digital and immersive transformation project for post-16 learners due to school closures across the UK. This part of the project was created with the aim to develop a positive experience around digital learning, as well as expand learners’ knowledge about the opportunities available at university in terms of degree choices.
I grew up bilingual, with Welsh being the language that I used with my friends, family, and in education. This has made me passionate about bringing all languages together and not creating a language hierarchy. Championing the importance of each language equally within the education sector is especially important to me. All languages are valuable in their own right and I hope that our learners and mentors grow to understand this during their time with the project.
This year, I am looking forward to working with our schools and mentors again, and to inspire the next generation of linguists. After the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on education, it is important now more than ever that we support our learners on their language journeys, helping them to find their intrinsic motivation for taking a language. We hope that this will inspire and enthuse learners to recognise that languages exist everywhere!

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About Me: Becky

About Me: Becky.

Author: Becky Beckley
Published: 4th June 2021

I joined the team in January 2020, initially to develop the Language Horizons project in the West Midlands. I graduated from Cardiff University with a BA in Spanish and Italian before completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting and Translating at the University of Bath. I went on to complete my PGCE in secondary education at UWIC and gained over twelve years of experience teaching Spanish and French at a Welsh medium secondary school.

Since joining the team, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed helping to boost GCSE language take up, delivering the immersive transformation project for year 11-13 learners during the Covid-19 pandemic, and also creating digital resources for teachers that not only promote the ethos of MFL Mentoring but also facilitate schools’ transition to the Curriculum for Wales.

I’m really looking forward to working with both mentors and schools in Wales for the 2021-22 mentoring cycle to help boost learners’ enthusiasm for languages, which has undoubtedly been impacted by the pandemic. I also can’t wait to get my teeth into creating exciting digital resources for Year 7 learners this year. I firmly believe that everyone has the potential to love languages; it’s just a matter of finding the spark that will set them off on their language learning journey.

Follow @k_beckley on Twitter.