By Fanny Chouc
As part of this long-standing cooperation, S1 to S4 pupils visit campus several times a year and get a chance to consolidate their French and Spanish, but also to broaden their knowledge and understanding of languages and cultures.
This scheme was initially set up as a collaborative project to work towards the implementation of the government’s 1+2 policy, and it’s one of the many innovative ways in which LINCS engages with local communities in order to inspire young generations of learners. The project was initiated by Mr Meikle, one of LINCS’s graduates, who is now Depute Rector at Larbert High, and it has been beneficial to both institutions: young learners with a taste for languages get a chance to further their skills by working with native speakers and talented university students, while discovering our campus, and Heriot-Watt students and Erasmus students and interns get a chance to share their culture and passion for languages, whilst gaining some valuable teaching experience. This collaboration has benefited our graduates and students further, as Larbert High has welcomed some of them as volunteers for some shadowing and classroom experience, like Mrs More. She has been accompanying the groups to her alma mater and this experience enriched her CV; she’s since secured a place on a teacher training postgraduate programme of studies.
So what do pupils do when they visit LINCS?
They engage in a range of activities geared both towards practice, with applied classes in French and Spanish related to their curriculum, but since LINCS is a also very global department, with expertise in multilingualism and multiculturalism, we use the in-house expertise to broaden these young linguists’ horizons.
For instance, during their latest visit, S2 and S3 pupils got an insight into British Sign Language learning, thanks to two of our Honours students from the BSL degree in Interpreting, Translation and Applied Languages Studies. Lou and Louise explained how they came to study this language, how the learning experience is designed and the skills they developed along the way, and pupils’ curiosity was clearly peeked: they asked questions about the language, but also about the deaf community and culture.
Thanks to our Erasmus + intern from Mons University, Nathanaël Stilmant, these two groups also discovered another French-speaking country, Belgium. As part of this session, very much focused on the multilingual nature of this country, pupils also had a chance to learn some Dutch and Walloon.
S4 pupils, who are already thinking of exams, worked on their Spanish with two of our Honours students: Simon and Rachel devised activities around their curriculum, but also shared anecdotes about their experience as students at Heriot-Watt and as Erasmus students abroad, since the M.A. includes two semesters of study in one of our partner institutions on the continent or beyond. This helped young learners consider the importance of a global profile, at a stage when they are making important study choices and are starting to think about higher education.
As for S1 pupils, after a French session with one of our enthusiastic 2nd year, Samuel, they went on an adventure on campus: armed with audio clues in French, they explored the grounds, collecting information along the way, in a bid to crack a code to work out the secret message they had been given. This cross-disciplinary and fun approach gave them a glimpse into the daily life of students as they went from one place to the next, and this discovery experience is also part of a joint bid to make young pupils think about university studies from an early age. It was also a chance for them to realise that languages and STEM subjects often complement each other well: code-breaking has historically been done by linguists as much as scientists; for instance, many of the talented code-breakers who worked in Bletchley Park during World War II were linguists, and worked alongside mathematicians to crack and decipher codes used by enemies to communicate.
But more exciting opportunities lay in store: for their next visits, pupils will get a chance to visit the Confucius Institute for Business and to learn some Esperanto, to name but a few of the activities LINCS has in store for them.