Wednesday 30 January 2019

The very first online language exchange initiative between students from Cardiff University and universities in Senegal

French undergraduates at Cardiff University are to work with students at the Virtual University of Senegal and Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar. Using Bili, an online exchange platform, the students will get to know one another and learn directly from each other’s languages and cultures. The exchange is part of the British Council’s new ‘English Connects’ programme, which aims to connect the UK to African youth through English.

Alison Devine, English in education lead for the British Council in Sub Saharan Africa, said:“By connecting students in the UK directly to their peers in Senegal for the first time, this project will not only support both English and French speaking undergraduates with their language skills but also motivate them to broaden their horizons with new friendships in new places. Online technologies are providing innovative new opportunities for the UK to connect to Africa and foster intercultural relations.”

Bili (, an online platform created by secondary languages teacher Charlie Foot, will coordinate these exchanges between 180 students in this first phase. The platform is designed to help students break out of the classroom’s four walls and regularly interact with native speakers to put their language skills to good use. He said: “We are delighted to be leading this exciting project, as a pilot not only into higher education but building important links between Senegal and the UK.”

Claire Gorrara, head of French at Cardiff University said: “This is a really fabulous project and will provide a fantastic opportunity for our first and second year students to discover Senegal through direct connections to students their own age.”

The project will launch on Wednesday 30 January at Cardiff University, with a live video link to the partner universities in Senegal. Bernardette Holmes MBE, campaign director of Speak to the Future, a national campaign to advance language capability in the UK, will speak about the significance of this first exchange, she says: “Future success in a global economy will rely on young people who can connect with others and cooperate effectively across borders, forging and sustaining relations built on trust and mutual respect. Bili makes such connections possible through its innovative international learning platform.”

Notes to Editor

English Connects

English Connects is an innovative new programme to connect the UK to African youth and the future generation of leaders through English. Commencing in 2019, the programme will improve the quality of English language learning and teaching and facilitate digital literacy, particularly in non-English speaking African countries, creating opportunities to enable young people to fulfil their potential while improving their employability, resilience and networks. Working with governments, the private sector, young entrepreneurs, future leaders, educators and learners in formal and non-formal education, we will reach a wide audience through face-to-face interaction, media and digital channels. The programme will connect UK English language teaching providers, institutions, media and educational technology agencies with countries in Africa; showcase UK expertise, creativity and innovation in education; and build trust and new partnerships. English Connects will work with UK partners to improve the English language and digital skills of young urban and rural Africans, focusing on countries in francophone and lusophone Africa. Programme activities will be grouped under three main strands: Engaging young Africans with UK broadcast, digital, online and offline, and blended English language learning materials; Providing UK technical assistance to ministries of education; and building English teacher capacity through UK professional development frameworks. We will expand opportunities for young Africans to learn English through a variety of channels in both urban and rural communities. We will partner with technology providers and national and state governments to use mobile and digital platforms to inspire young people to connect with UK ideas and innovation. 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.