Links into Languages West Midlands held a celebration event at Aston University to mark the end of a highly successful two-year project.
The aims of the national Links project, which formally ended on 31 March, was to enhance the quality and breadth of language teaching in schools across the UK and offer high quality support for the languages community.
Links into Languages has been managed by a consortium led by the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS), in partnership with the Association for Language Learning (ALL) and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT). The programme was funded by the Department for Education with the aim to provide high quality continuous professional development courses and support for teh languages community. Aston University acted as Links’ Regional Centre for the West Midlands, and an extensive programme of teacher training, meetings, and networking has been completed at the University and across the county in its 18 Local Centres.
The Links into Languages West Midlands Showcase held at Aston Business School on 21 March highlighted good practice in language teaching from across the region and included project presentations from language teachers from schools in Malvern, Stoke-On-Trent, Solihull, Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin. These presentations were part of the LinkedUp Award scheme, funded by the government to support innovative learning and teaching projects. Over 100 projects were supported across England, and all resources are freely available for teachers to download on the project website.
One of the participants commented: “Lots of interesting projects and I look forward to all of them being available online.”
Award-winning comedian Shazia Mirza also spoke at the conference and recorded a podcast about her experiences of speaking Urdu, Punjabi, French and English and the benefits that being multi-lingual have brought to her life and career.
A trained biochemist, Shazia was born and educated in Birmingham and is the daughter of first-generation Pakistani immigrants. Raised in a Muslim family environment, her parents had ambitions for her future, and Shazia reluctantly pursued a career as a science teacher whilst secretly honing her writing, acting and comedy skills part-time at drama school and at gigs across the country. Her hit shows have included The Last Temptation of Shazia Mirza and Portrait of Shazia Mirza.
‘As a comedian I’ve done shows all over the world and I’ve been able to do some of my comedy in Urdu and Punjabi,’ she explained. ‘I do some shows in Paris and I perform half the shows in French.
‘I became a science teacher in an East End comprehensive in Tower Hamlets which is a very multi-cultural area. I used to communicate with some of the girls in Urdu or Punjabi when they didn’t understand. Sometimes they’d just arrived from Bangladesh or Pakistan and couldn’t speak a word of English, so I was able to speak to them in Urdu or Punjabi about some of the science that I was teaching the rest of the class who could speak English. So speaking other languages helped me in my teaching.’
Professor Pam Moores (LSS) who is the Regional Director for Links into Languages West Midlands said: ‘It’s an enormous asset to be multi-lingual. On the one hand there is empowerment and fulfilment as an individual, and on the other hand there are plenty of career opportunities that stem from that.’
Although the funding for Links into Languages ended on 31 March, the networks, professional links and opportunities to share good practice that have been built up in universities and among the schools during the project will continue through a new network which will be managed by the universities themselves. This new Network for Languages will build on Links’ successes and continue to support teachers through a network of nine universities offering high quality CPD courses, support and advice. Aston University will continue as the regional lead for the West Midlands, working closely with CLERA, Centre for Language Education Research at Aston.’ To listen to the full version of the podcast click here.
For further information about Links into Languages and free resources visit: www.linksintolanguages.ac.uk
For further information about Network for Langauges visit: www.networkforlanguages.org.uk
Words by Alex Earnshaw
31 March 2011