What Connects and what Divides ? Liverpool’s Hidden Culture.

‘Hats off’ to the fantastic cultural work of the language teachers in Liverpool.

Over the past month I’ve been amazed at these unsung heroes and heroines, the champions of Merseyside’s Cultural heritage and a driving force to push the study of languages into the forefront of education.

The seventeen Supplementary Language schools in Liverpool, had a showcase of culture recently at Broadgreen International School. Here the different cultures in Liverpool provided a showcase of talent in singing, dancing, cuisine and art.

I was enthralled with the Wirral Multicultural evening at Wallasey Town Hall, meeting the Mayor, headteachers, governors and leaders of cultural organisations; discussing and networking future festivals and seminars in the pursuit of our cultural goals and diversity.

The Liverpool school improvement ‘EMTAS’ Awards ceremony at the Devonshire House Hotel on Monday was a feast of delights with performances from Liverpool Malayalee Association, Chinese Poetry, dancing and a performance of young children singing in Arabic.

On Friday I was in London giving a report to the British Academy of Schools Language Awards and was proud to receive an accolade for a second year involving a project developing language skills at the Liverpool Polish School.

In tandem, South Sefton College, Litherland also received an award from the British Academy for their ‘Love Languages’ Project, which is a student-driven programme aiming to develop the student’s experience of a varied range of languages and cultures. It also aims to develop the skills and confidence of students to broaden their horizons through partnerships with schools, universities, employers and schools abroad.

Throughout Merseyside I have witnessed the brilliant work of the language teachers in both Primary and Secondary. Imaginative language studies which bring ‘Snow White’ alive on the stage in German, visits to Chateau and the pupil exchange initiatives which enhance pan-European experiences.

As part of a global economy and increasingly multilingual and multicultural society, I feel it is essential that we equip the next generation of students with vital skills which allow them to succeed. Language skills are an integral part of this.

I was amazed to see so many children at the EMTAS Awards, receive Fast Trackers Language Awards, Traveller Awards, EAL Awards, Grade A GCSE & A- Level Awards in Polish, Chinese, Bengali, Somali and Arabic.

Events like this across Merseyside, celebrate the efforts of staff and children and give well-deserved recognition for the important work they are doing.

I spend well over three months of the year in Europe, travelling, teaching, lecturing, developing projects and working through diplomatic agencies. The cost of living in Europe is not that demanding and undergrads overseas this year saw a 17% rise in UK students considering studying overseas. The US was the most popular destination, followed by Australia, France and Germany. Germany surprisingly is the most affordable study location, with costs of £4,200.

With UK universities charging up to £9,000 a year for tuition fees, an increasing option is to study abroad for a fraction of the cost.

Once a month I’m in Bruges. Language is no problem if you have a simple understanding of French or German but in the case of Maastricht University for example, 11 out of 16 undergraduate programmes are taught in English.
As an example-
Netherlands Fees-£1,500 (£4.500 for a standard degree)
Monthly Rent £357 (student flat)
Tutorial Groups-12-15 students
Teaching Hours- 14
Worst Thing- Health Insurance is a must at £80 a month
Value- Excellent, you get lots of education for your fees!.
“It’s like Cambridge, with warmer weather, and the fees are £1,500 a year”.

With so many Primary schools taking up a modern foreign language now, it’s well worth seeing through that particular language to a higher level, and using it to advantage in todays competitive jobs market. There is strong evidence to suggest that the UK is suffering from a growing deficit in foreign language skills at a time when global demand for language skills is expanding.

With the evidence I have seen in Liverpool this month, the children of Liverpool are indeed one step ahead in the game, and there is a hidden culture that certainly connects.

As we move towards a New Year, I would like to think that some of our readers may take up the pursuit of a language, renew its acquaintance or support a younger member of the family to see how language learning translates to employment.

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