Become a mentor
What do I need to become a mentor?
All we ask for is an enthusiasm for languages and a positive outlook on where they can take you. You don’t even need to be a languages student!
How does the application process work?
The first you’ll hear from us will be an email telling you about the project towards the start of semester two. You’ll need to fill in and submit the application form and then sit back, relax and wait until June or July when you’ll receive either an invitation to training or an invitation for an interview (please don’t worry about this, it’s completely informal - we just want to be able to form a bigger picture of who you are as a person). Then, you’ll need to complete a DBS application form, which checks you for any criminal convictions or cautions. We’ll pay for this and guide you along the process every step of the way. Finally, you’ll have to bring your A-game along with you to training in September after which you’ll be either placed on the reserve list or offered an allocation to become an MFL Mentor at a school near you (due to the geography of Wales, some mentors will have to travel further than others to reach their school. Which academic year you’re in, which modes of transport are available to you, as well as how long the journey from your university to your school will last all will be taken into account).
Why should I apply? What do I get out of being a mentor?
If you are enthusiastic about languages and the places they can take you, apply. If you’re thinking about a career in teaching (languages or another subject), apply. If you feel that university education is important and something that school pupils should consider, apply. If you do end up applying and successfully become an MFL mentor, you’ll benefit from a second-to-none professional experience with a supportive management team, an experience which bridges the gap between university education and the world of work. You’ll be part of a larger community with a shared mindset regarding the importance of languages. You’ll also be able to engage with the local community and gain a sense of serving a greater purpose. What you should be asking yourself is ‘why shouldn’t I apply? What don’t I get out of being a mentor?’
Why did previous mentors apply?
Previous mentors applied because they were enthusiastic about languages and wanted to share that enthusiasm with pupils in schools across Wales, hoping to change their attitudes on languages, as well as increase the MFL GCSE uptake. They applied because they were considering a career in teaching and wanted to see if it was for them. They applied because they received an email explaining what it is the project does, thought it sounded really up their street and thought ‘why not?’. The real question here is ‘why are you thinking about applying?’ and with potentially so much to gain, 'what’s stopping you?’
Will I have to undertake any training?
Yes, you will. Training will be either online or in-person, depending on the advice from the Welsh Government regarding the Covid-19 pandemic in schools at the time. Rest assured that either way, we will equip you with everything you need to become a wonderful mentor.
Being a Mentor
How does the allocation process work?
We know all of the schools we work with really well, so we are able to figure out which mentor would work really well alongside certain schools. We pair up the personality of the mentor with the ethos of the school and its pupils. Other factors taken into account are the schools’ and mentors’ requirements. We try to meet all preferences as best we can and give everyone the fairest deal possible. Those mentors who have cars are often placed in schools where public transport links are less than ideal. Welsh-speakers are often placed in Welsh-speaking schools. Second-year students are placed in schools located further away, so that final-year students with more work to do and a dissertation to write have more time to do just that without having to think about allowing larger amounts of time to travel to and from their schools. A lot of thought goes into who goes where.
How can I manage being a student and being a mentor?
Good time management and organisational skills are crucial to being both a student and a mentor. Make sure you only schedule your mentoring sessions to be outside of your lecture or seminar hours and allow enough time for travelling to and from your school, as well as a little bit of time for planning your sessions, as well. Outside of this, mentoring shouldn’t take up much more of your time, leaving you plenty of time for study during the week. In short, if you plan well enough, managing being a student and a mentor shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you do have any problems at all, make sure you communicate them to us and, if relevant, to the MFL teacher in your allocated school; we’ll try to help you as best we can.
What are the weekly themes?
The weekly themes have been carefully designed to showcase to your mentees the more holistic aspects of language learning. The themes are:

Week One: ‘Language as Identity’, asking mentees what it means to be Welsh and/or British and exploring the role language plays in your identity.
Week Two: ‘Language as Multi-’, exploring the multiplicity of languages (and language groups) as well as the multiple different reasons for learning them. Cultures are interdependent. Nothing in this world is truly mono.
Week Three: ‘Language as Connection’, discussing languages as a connection point between all sorts of subjects and how, for this very reason, there’s something in languages for everyone.
Week Four: ‘Language as Performance’, demonstrating to your mentees how to “perform” languages not just through words, but through tone, gestures and facial expressions too. Even just knowing a few words in another language helps. Fluency isn’t the be-all and end-all, communicating is.
Week Five: ‘Language as Translation’, discovering how word-for-word translation isn’t enough and how translation isn’t just word-for-word equivalence. Technology isn’t enough to translate meaning.
Week Six: ‘Language as Journey’, showing your mentees how languages are a journey which you choose to engage with over your lifetime. Through your interests, hobbies and aims, you find motivation to continue learning them.
How do I plan my sessions? How do I incorporate the themes? How do I incorporate theory?
Before you go into your school to deliver the first session, make sure you’ve planned it well. Read the mentoring handbook before you plan - it provides many details and handy tips for each weekly theme, as well solutions for any problems you may face, suggestions for activities, reminders of relevant mentoring theory and much more. It should always be your first port of call. Apart from this, you’ll also receive a planning sheet for each week, which you’ll need to submit to us before the relevant session. This sheet encourages you to consider how your activity is relevant to the weekly theme and how you’ve incorporated theory. As ever, if you’re struggling and have any questions, our mailbox is always open.
What sort of activities am I allowed to lead?
As long as the activity is linked to the weekly theme, has a relevant educational aim and doesn’t involve your mentees taking part in anything dangerous or inappropriate, the only limit is your imagination! Feel free to share your ideas with us and ask us for our opinion, we’re always more than happy to help.
Are there any examples of successful activities past mentors have used with pupils?
There are so many activities which mentors have used in the past successfully. For your first port of call, be sure to check the handbook, which provides rough ideas for some of our favourite activities on the relevant pages for each week. For the first session, there’s always the Welsh cake activity, for example. Here, after asking pupils what it means to be Welsh, you present them with a photograph of a Welsh cake and ask ‘is this Welsh?’. After encouraging and leading a discussion, you discuss how without all the ingredients which make up the Welsh cake, which come from all around the world, the Welsh cake wouldn’t exist. We’re all culturally interdependent. There’s no such thing as ‘pure’ Welshness. For week five, for example, there’s the activity where you match the translation of film titles which have been literally translated back into English with their original English-language title, showing how literal word-for-word translation isn’t always the best option. If you’re struggling for activity ideas, ask your fellow mentors as well as asking us, there are so many fantastic ones that have worked really well before.
What should I do if a pupil misbehaves? How do I award good behaviour?
Be sure to check out the school’s behaviour policy before your first session. The easiest way to do this is just to have a quick conversation, in person or via email, with the MFL teacher you’ve been put in contact with at the school. Some schools use a house point system, others award merits; some schools are more than happy for you to award pupils for their good behaviour, others aren’t. Every school’s behaviour policy is different. The most important thing to bear in mind regarding behaviour is that for your mentees, taking part in your sessions should be seen as a privilege. This privilege can be taken away very easily. If a pupil misbehaves and disrupts your session, your priority would be to encourage them to join in more productively. However, if this doesn’t work and in the case of severely disruptive behaviour, you’re very much within your rights simply to send the pupil back to their classroom.
When will the sessions take place?
After we’ve put you in contact with an MFL teacher at your school, it’s down to you to figure out and decide upon a time for your sessions which works well for both of you. Don’t miss your university lectures so that you can mentor at certain times, that’s not the point. Instead, make your involvement with this project works alongside your studies. We always suggest that you take the initiative and highlight to the teacher specific times which work well for you alongside your university timetable. If you’re experiencing problems making it work, send us a quick email - we’ll be more than happy to help!
What should I do if the teacher and I can’t agree on a schedule?
Sometimes, things just don’t work out and that’s okay. First things first, don’t worry. Just pop us a quick email and we’ll respond as soon as we can. We can always switch you to another school and place a different mentor in the school where things just weren’t going to plan for you. It’ll all work out in the end.
How do I try to ensure that my sessions go as smoothly and stress-free as possible?
Plan your session well beforehand. Being over-prepared and having too many activities or discussions planned is much better than being under-prepared and struggling to come up with relevant ideas to fill the rest of the time. Another important factor in ensuring that your sessions go as smoothly as possible is to be prepared to be flexible. Working with school pupils, you have to be prepared that sometimes you won’t complete every activity or discussion you had planned. Equally, sometimes you may not complete any and your session may take a different tack. This is completely okay. As long as you’re handling the theme appropriately, all is fine.
How do I try to ensure that pupils properly engage?
Cater to their interests. Use your first session to find out what they’re interested in and incorporate their interests into your upcoming sessions.
How do I make the sessions as fun as possible, but still ensure that pupils learn?
Make sure that your activities are catered to your mentees’ interests as much as possible and make sure that they’re also on topic and have an educational aim. After you’ve completed the activity, ask pupils about it to see if they can figure out what the point was you were trying to get across to them. If they don’t know, be sure to explain it.
What should I do if I encounter any technological problems?
Try not to panic. These things do happen sometimes. If you’re running a session in person, we’d advise to make sure that you always have a backup which isn’t dependent on technology. However, if you’re running a session solely via video call, then that, of course, isn’t always possible. If this is the case and you’re experiencing a connection issue, try to be calm and wait and see if the connection improves. If it doesn’t and it’s dramatically hindering your session, worst come worst you can always explain the problem you were experiencing to the MFL teacher at the school and reschedule. Just let us know about any rescheduled arrangements you make.
What should I do if I am not able to hold a mentoring session one week?
We appreciate that sometimes you’ll have a rescheduled lecture or an exam which takes place at the same time as your mentoring session. These things happen and, naturally, your university work has to take precedent. The most important thing is that you contact the MFL teacher at your school as soon as possible to reschedule the session. By giving them enough notice, you minimise any disruption to the school, enable them to pass the message on to your mentees about your rescheduled session and give the school time to come up with alternative plans for the mentees for the duration of the session you can’t make. Once you’ve rescheduled, simply pop us a quick email and let us know of the change to your timetable. Equally, if you’re having problems rescheduling, feel free to contact us.
What should I do if I can’t continue my involvement with the project?
Come and talk to us if you’re uncertain at any point. We’re more than happy to listen and help you figure out the best position for you.
Beyond Mentoring
Where can being a mentor take me?
Being a mentor can take you so many places from completing your PGCE and becoming a teacher to further academic study at master’s level and beyond. However, being a mentor with us is not just useful if you want to teach or study, it’s useful for so many other careers as well. Translation and interpretation. Business. Management. Travel and tourism. Marketing. Sales. Intelligence. HR. Logistics. Journalism. PR. Working abroad. The skills you gain really can take you anywhere. Just look at some of the things previous mentors have gone on to do.
Which transferable skills have I gained through being a mentor that employers will appreciate?
Thanks to your involvement with the project, you’ll have gained or developed skills in such a vast array of areas: communication, problem solving, time management, organisation, to name but a few. Past mentors have mentioned an improvement in self-confidence, a better ability to deal with unexpected situations and think on your feet, as well as an increase in patience. Being involved in the MFL Mentoring Project bridges the gap between university and the world of work and also enables you to improve your networking skills, something that always proves useful in the world of work.
What have previous mentors gone on to do?
Past mentors have gone on to all sorts of exciting places. For some, working with the project has highlighted that, despite previous thoughts, they don’t want to go into teaching, which is completely fine! Mentoring isn’t teaching and you will have gained so many other crucial and highly valued skills through taking part. For others, it has simply consolidated their teaching dream and their involvement in the project has made their PGCE application all the stronger. Outside of PGCEs and teaching, other previous mentors have decided to continue with their academic careers, going on to pursue masters courses. Some have even considered PhDs. Others have taken up private sector jobs in exports, marketing, IT and finance, respectively. For some, mentoring reignited their desire to go abroad again - these people have since successfully found work in Spain, Italy and beyond, where they continue to use their languages and the skills they gained through their involvement in the project. The opportunities really are endless.
Can you be my reference?
Of course we can! Please let us know with enough notice, though - we’re busy people and will need a little bit of time to be able to write you the reference you deserve.