Routes into Languages Cymru is a pan-Wales outreach project funded by three Welsh universities, the regional education consortia, and British Council Wales. Part of a wider UK network under the auspices of the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML), since 2016 Routes Cymru has operated as a two hub structure – one in Cardiff University and the other at Bangor University. Two project coordinators are based in the School of Modern Languages at both. Since 2019, the Academic Director of Routes into Languages Cymru is Liz Wren-Owens from the Cardiff School of Modern Languages and Translation. Increasing the visibility and promoting the benefits of language learning is at the core of Routes Cymru’s mission, and never has the need for this been more relevant than now.
Routes into Languages Cymru Ambassadors
The contribution of our Routes Cymru Language Ambassadors from all levels – primary, secondary, higher education - plays a key role in raising the profile of languages and linguistic diversity in their schools and local communities.
Our own personal language journeys are all different, and this is where lies the power of the support that our Routes Cymru Student Language Ambassadors provide. Every year we train enthusiastic undergraduate and postgraduate language students to support the project’s activities. From learners to facilitators, by telling their unique stories, our Student Ambassadors provide young learners with role-models they can relate to, showing the relevance of languages to the wider world outside the classroom. Our Student Ambassadors come from a range of backgrounds – from Wales, England, Europe and beyond. Being bilingual and multilingual themselves they are able to demonstrate through their varied stories and global mindsets, the exciting prospects that studying languages can offer.
Supporting the New Curriculum
The introduction of international languages as part of the new Curriculum for Wales with its focus on multilingualism and plurilingualism is an opportunity to improve perceptions of language learning.
Beginning the language journey in primary school, using the linguistic flexibility of primary-aged pupils, and linking bilingualism as supportive of multilingualism will help learners to have a positive outlook on languages for the rest of their education journey.
To support primary teachers in thinking through how international languages might be taught alongside Welsh and English, we are currently developing a more systematic support for schools in the creation of our ‘Primary Toolkit’. This will provide teachers with a resource pack and pedagogical guide on how to use the resources to support the introduction of the new curriculum.
We also hope to roll our International Languages Superheroes ambassadors’ scheme further this year, training primary ‘superheroes’ to become the voice of international languages at their school, championing the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism.
Developments for the future
These two primary initiatives will feed into the continuum of activities between primary and secondary, passing on the baton for promoting languages to our Pupil Language Ambassadors in the secondary phase. By taking advantage of our new digital reality, we hope to engage more with our Pupil Language Ambassador teams this year, supporting them with their task of enabling others in their school community to think more positively about the languages that they speak at home and those that they’re learning at school. We also hope to organise a national virtual conference at the end of the summer term to celebrate their achievements and to share good practice.
By strengthening our Routes Cymru Language Ambassadors schemes and our targeted support for the primary sector, we aim to promote the positive benefits of languages and highlight how our unique bilingual identity in Wales will enable our pupils and students to become multilingual and plurilingual and ultimately ‘ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world’.