The event, organised by Matthew Turner, a Year 13 student at the school in Chester-le-Street, focused on tackling the misconception that studying languages is just for girls. With this in mind, he decided to use his initiative, choosing football as a means to engage with a group of Year 8 boys at the school.
The activity took the form of a football tournament in which the students were split into three nations (Germany, Spain and France) and then taught vocabulary specific to the sport, before battling it out amongst themselves for the ultimate prize… bragging rights in the lunch break! Our job, as the three selected university students, was to teach them how to scream at the referee, command a pass or motivate their teammates in a foreign language.
The opening session comprised of the teaching element as we briefly introduced ourselves and explained the advantages of studying a language at university, dispelling the myth that it may be a useless endeavour.
Then, as you might imagine, as soon as the word football was uttered, energy levels skyrocketed amongst the year 8s. I took charge of organising the French team, Jack Pooley, the German and David Solomons, the Spanish, as we attempted to marry a love of football with a love of languages. A group of Year 8 boys missing class were always inevitably going to be in uncontrollably high spirits, but Matthew’s initial linguistic goal remained at the forefront and the boys’ enthusiasm was ever-present amid choruses of “allez les bleus,” as they learnt vocab in the school’s sports hall.
Then for the tournament itself. Matthew’s ingenious way of ensuring that the language element was not completely forgotten was to score each team both on footballing ability and linguistic prowess, the overall winners demonstrating the greatest enthusiasm for the language.
Overall, the project was a real success with all the boys thoroughly engaging in the activity and displaying genuine enthusiasm for the languages spoken. If just one year 8 was inspired to study Modern Languages at GCSE level and potentially beyond,then Matthew and Park View can say that they have had a significant impact on someone’s future.
The Definite Article managed to get in touch with Outreach Officer for MLAC, Lucina Stuart, and the event organiser, Matthew Turner, for their thoughts about the event.
Lucina Stuart: "When Matt contacted me in the summer to ask whether we could help out with his project I was really impressed with his idea and promised to help in my capacity of Outreach Officer for MLAC. Finding three willing volunteers wasn’t difficult and I am glad David (Solomons), Jack (Pooley) and Roy (Manuell) – all finalists - were equally enthusiastic and eager to collaborate. I went along on 4th November when the tournament took place and was delighted to witness the excitement of the Year 8 boys who took part, as well as the energy displayed by David (who coached the boys in Spanish), Jack (in German) and Roy (in French). All in all a great success and one I was glad to have been involved in. Any outreach event which promotes the study of Modern Languages is worth exploring in my book!"
Matt Turner: "I began my project in July. For me, languages are simply amazing. The ability they have given me, as an A Level Spanish student, to travel the world and meet all types of people is simply invaluable. However, it has always played on my mind that not many of my male friends and peers think that speaking a language is worthwhile. I started A Level in a class of twelve as the only boy, and there is a similar trend year upon year in my sixth form. Therefore, I wanted to actually do something active about it.
The idea of football came about when I was asked: "why do you enjoy languages?" Whilst my answer would always be “because I have met many people and seen different cultures”, the stem of that is the fact that languages are useful and can be applied. So I sat thinking to myself: what would be fun, but would allow pupils of my school to apply the subject and not just learn it? Looking at how popular football is in the lower years of my school, it seemed obvious that this was the way to go.
The next challenge was how to actually pull off an event. I wanted to involve all three of the Modern Foreign Languages taught in my school; and give the students an opportunity to play a football match/communicate in the language they had studied during the event. To achieve this I needed help. This is where Jack, Roy and David came in.
I wrote an email to Durham University asking if they would be willing to help, which is when I met the Outreach Officer for MLAC, Mrs Lucina Stuart. After an initial meeting, I was sure that we would be able to get the right university students on board and achieve something that would positively influence the Year 8 boys. I loved the idea of getting living proof of the advantages of languages. Having done their Year Abroad they were able to tell the boys that you don't only speak French, German or Spanish in a classroom.
On Wednesday 21st October I was able to meet the Year 8 boys who would be taking part in the event. I showed them a short clip from 'partido del día' where Gary Lineker speaks about his time in Spain, speaking Spanish, thanks to football. At this point, the boys became very enthusiastic, they were given a letter to explain the event in detail to their parents and told when and where to meet. That afternoon I met the university students taking part and I was over the moon with their enthusiasm.
Two weeks later we held the event. Meeting at North Lodge the boys were in an excitable mood, however, Roy, Jack and David were able to get them on side and channel their excitement. The actual football match went really well as the students shouted (enthusiastically) everything they had learnt.
Since the event, I have spoken to the teachers who normally teach the boys who took part in the event. I couldn't be happier to say that the boys are more interested in lessons and want to learn the languages. Whilst the event was about teaching the boys vocabulary, the main aim was to change the way they thought about learning a language: to prove that it's applicable and will pay off in the future. I am planning to meet with the boys in the near future to speak to them and find out what they enjoyed most, with the aim of applying what I have learnt to lessons or activities that can be held in the future.
I would like to thank David, Jack and Roy for all the help they gave - they managed to make the event what it was for the year 8s."