University of Exeter students help to show multilingual pupils value of their language skills

Seven student interns from the University of Exeter have been involved in the project.

University of Exeter students have worked with multilingual teenagers to help them see the value of their incredible language skills as part of a unique research project.

The study, a partnership between staff and pupils at Rokeby School, in Newham, East London, and the University of Exeter, emphasises the future job – and other opportunities – which come from speaking several languages.

As many as 80 per cent of Rokeby pupils speak English as an additional language and more than 60 languages are spoken in total. Multilingualism is celebrated, and the school helps pupils to understand the immense value of their multilingualism.

University of Exeter fourth-year students – after gaining knowledge of the school and its students – have helped with this work by producing teaching material such as videos and learning activities in Russian, French and Spanish, the three languages taught in the school, and also in Italian, Portuguese and German – taught at the University of Exeter, and widely spoken by Rokeby pupils. These materials are due to be used by teachers and pupils in the next academic year.

University of Exeter students have also shared their experiences of learning and using their languages. They recently gave two presentations to pupils at the school about studying languages at university, including what the experience is like and the career prospects after graduating.

Dr Francesco Goglia, from the University of Exeter, has been carrying out research with the school for the past four years. University of Exeter academics have taken part in teaching activities at Rokeby to mark the European Day of Languages, and Assistant Headteacher Dr Sarah Lawson has shared her research on celebrating multilingualism in communities with them.

Prior to the coronavirus epidemic Rokeby students visited the University of Exeter’s Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, and four Rokeby students won the Exeter Modern Languages 2019 schools essay competition.

Thomas Porter, Head of Modern Languages at Rokeby School, said: “I think pupils have felt the benefit of hearing about university and studying languages from people not that much older than them. We have a diverse cohort and it was useful for them to be told the languages they speak at home and being multilingual are really valued by employers. They don’t see this skill as being a big deal, but it is.”

Seven student interns from the University of Exeter have been involved in the project.

Ailish Farrell said: “I went to a similar secondary school, and I grew up nearby, so it’s been special to me to be involved in this project.”

Zoe Bazley said : “This project was really enjoyable to be part of. It is so important to promote the joy and usefulness of learning languages.”

Livvy Fife-Faulkner said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Providing students with the information they will find beneficial as they continue their studies has been an incredibly useful experience.”

Lucy Richards said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience. For me, the most meaningful outcome of this experience is the feedback received from students and their applauses at the end of our live Zoom!”

Dr Goglia said: “It has been very special to see the passion and dedication students have put into this project. I think it has been very useful for the Rokeby pupils to hear from people of a similar age, and our students have given them a new insight into the opportunities languages bring.”

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