Secondary Languages - Working holiday

12th December 2008 at 00:00
Expand your pupils' horizons and improve their linguistic skills with a taste of working abroad. Wendy Adeniji reports

Sheffield teenager Sam Brown was immortalised in a computer game after two weeks' work experience in Germany. The 15-year-old spent time working at CipSoft - an online games company - as part of the groundbreaking overseas work experience trip. He found his first day a nerve-wracking experience, but says: "I learnt to become independent and how to be myself."

The company must have been impressed - it created a new character called Sam with his own island and inserted it into its Tibia game.

Sam was one of nine Year 10 NVQ language pupils from Yewlands School in Sheffield to go on the trip, funded by the European Commission's Leonardo da Vinci programme for work-based learning.

It was the first fully-funded overseas work experience trip and pupils spent two weeks in the medieval town of Regensburg in Germany.

During their first week they carried out business activities to build their confidence. The second week was spent on work experience with companies. The pupils underwent a challenging and demanding programme that at times pushed them beyond their comfort zones.

During the first week, they interviewed shoppers about where they were from and what job they did, recording their answers on PDAs (personal digital assistants), video cameras or mobiles.

The second week saw them working in local companies including a software company, florist, hotel, football club, music store, kindergarten and language school.

A programme of activities was written for each pupil and supported by business mentors. These included a speaking test with their business mentors in which conversations were recorded as evidence for assessment.

All nine pupils said they lacked confidence and felt self-conscious before the trip, but felt the experience had raised their career aspirations and made them more culturally aware and self-assured.

Juliet Park, director of modern languages at Yewlands, planned and managed the trip with a language consultant with the support of Gemma Knowles, a Regensburg-based colleague. Both said the outcomes exceeded their expectations.

"We targeted pupils who were not at GCSE level and who had much to gain from the trip," says Juliet. "It was amazing to see how they progressed over the fortnight in terms of confidence, social skills, cultural awareness and linguistic ability."

Juliet is now planning trips in Germany and Spain, and also to provide support to other schools interested in running a similar trip.

Eva Lamb, director of languages at King Edward VII School and Language College in Sheffield, hopes to run a similar trip to Austria, with all placements in the hospitality sector. She says: "All the pupils involved come from backgrounds where language learning or international experience does not normally feature high in individuals' lives and ambitions. Some have never travelled abroad before and would certainly not normally consider seeking employment abroad.

"This could be a life-changing experience for my pupils - widening horizons and opening opportunities that none would normally consider as within their reach."

Wendy Adeniji is a modern languages consultant. For more information about the NVQ Business Languages course, or how to organise a fully-funded work experience trip abroad, contact Juliet Park on


"It was exactly what I wanted. It refreshed my knowledge of French and widened my understanding of French culture . I found the content useful and thought-provoking."

These are the words of a teacher who spent a week in Lille on a course run by CILT, the National Centre for Languages.

CILT offers training courses abroad for primary and secondary teachers of French, Spanish, Italian and German, giving them the chance to brush up on languages skills while picking up teaching tips and resources to take back to the classroom.

The courses include languages classes with native speakers, cultural excursions and practical teaching workshops. Teachers can apply for funding from the British Council to contribute to the course fee, subsistence and travel costs.

The next funding deadline for the courses is January 16. For more information, visit

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