Languages workshops at Oxford Brookes

On Friday 13th January, L6 Spanish and French students went to a languages workshop held at Oxford Brookes University.

The workshop explored the importance of language when travelling, and had a competition which asked us to create a presentation in Spanish or French about a country which speaks that language, complete with an itinerary of activities to do if we were to travel there.

We started the workshop with a discussion of the advantages of being able to speak the native language whilst travelling to a new country; something which we discovered to be particularly important when trying to understand the local culture, meeting new people and ensuring ease of travel. The activity, led by Dr Ana Castaño Arques and Emilie Hauzay combined students studying French and Spanish, allowing us to see the different advantages each language has and why we consider modern languages to be so important when travelling, working or holidaying abroad.

To put our knowledge of our respective languages to the test, we then did a quiz focussing on Francophone and Spanish speaking societies across the world. Despite the teachers coming out on top, one Headington group came in a close third! The questions ranged from the national flower of Provence region to the time of year the Mexican celebration the ‘Day of the Dead’ occurs, providing further insight into French and Spanish cultures.

After a short break, we split into two groups to begin our presentations on itineraries: one group was made up of French students and the other of Spanish speakers. Once we had moved into separate rooms, we were allocated a city to begin planning our itinerary, which included the likes of Strasbourg and La Rochelle in France, and Puerto Rico on the Spanish speaking side. As well as being tasked with planning daily activities, we even looked into accommodation and travel to make our trip seem the most realistic, environmental and cost effective to the Brookes’ lecturers. Not only did we work with other schools, including Aylesbury High and Matthew Arnold, but we gained really valuable geographical knowledge, relevant vocabulary and information on tourist hot spots for our allocated location – great preparation for interrailing around Europe or exploring other areas of the globe in the coming years.

We worked collaboratively with students from different schools, and wrote a script in Spanish/French to pitch to the judge why our location was the most interesting to travel to. In the process, we ourselves learnt more about the different countries and the key historical and cultural locations of each place.

As the French and Spanish sections regrouped, awards were handed out for the clarity of our presentations, the quality of language and our overall performance. We rounded up the day with a talk about studying languages at university level, led by Dr Esteban Devis-Amaya. This not only gave us more insight into the format of the Languages in Translation course at Brookes, but also gave details about what a degree in Liberal Arts might look like.

As language students, the workshop was extremely useful; we found the talks presented by the staff at Brookes to be very engaging, and we found that presenting in the language to a group of people was a very beneficial experience.

Overall, we were very lucky to have this experience as it allowed us to understand more about the culture in the different regions of French and Spanish speaking countries, but it also gave us a chance to practise our speaking skills with a language expert. Speaking another language is such a key part of travelling. Being able to understand and interact with people in their own language is one of the most important and useful skills a person can have, as it allows you to fully embrace the culture and connect with a person on a deeper level. Moreover, in the business world, it aids you significantly in business deals abroad and widens your future opportunities. This workshop was very useful to all the A Level students as it allowed us to practise our speaking skills for travelling, but also widened our minds to the importance of languages and the utility of a language degree at university.

By Esther and Zara (L6)