Building Bridges with Foreign Languages

Posted in: Case Studies


This 2014-15, international, cross-university, collaborative, student-led project promoted and enhanced the learning of foreign languages through multilingual and multicultural interviews and case studies using social media.

5 students from the University of Bath studying Spanish as a foreign language were put in contact with 5 students from the University of Mar del Plata studying English as a foreign language. They were given a set of guidelines to conduct the project together with topics related to their syllabus such as personal information, university life, cultural differences, etc. Each student was allocated a partner to work with. They carried out interviews and arranged online meetings. All communication was conducted in their respective target language. Students exchanged experiences, learnt about different academic and cultural life, built new relationships and developed their languages skills in a real context.

They presented their findings in a variety of forms ranging from class discussions, a short oral presentation or a written report. The project was supervised by their Spanish tutor at different point of its course. When it was finished all students taking part received a letter certifying their participation and conclusion of the project. Overall the project was highly successful on different levels and easily transferable to other languages or departments.

Project Team

Ms Laura Izaguirre (PoLIS) ( Spanish):

Mrs Astrid Forsyth (PoLIS) ( German )

Ms Elke Pawlowski (PoLIS) ( German)

Ms Laura Sordelli (Modern Languages Department,  Universidad Nacional  de Mar del Plata , Argentina)  ( Spanish)

Aims & Outcomes

This idea came about because a lot of students studying Spanish expressed a great interest in the language but also in South American culture. Since our students usually don't have access to an exchange programme and it is quite expensive to travel, this would be the most effective way for them to get closer to a South American cultural experience. Students studying German are also interested in establishing contacts with native German speakers, be it for work experience or future career prospects

Students learning a foreign language at the Foreign Languages Centre (FLC) at the University of Bath are exposed to and they interact with a variety of activities, methodologies, techniques, topics, media, etc. but they are restricted to a classroom situation. This project is clearly a step forward for students to use the target language in genuine situations with native speakers where they will apply all different tools learnt in a class. They will acquire cultural knowledge which it not feasible to be taught in a classroom.

They developed new relationships, they taught their partners about their world, and they practised the target language in all its forms: writing, listening, reading and speaking. It opened doors for possible future job opportunities. All these examples highlight why it was important for our Department.

On the German teaching side:

  • We established a contact to the Sprachenzentrum (language centre) at the Universität Bayreuth;
  • Our contact, Mr Patrick Casler had a great impact in further shaping the format of the project, as his students had to pitch a business idea in English and were going to introduce their ideas to our students within the programme;
  • We offered the programme to our higher level students but as it was nearing the end of the academic year and our students take German as an extra subject, none of the students were able to take up the offer;
  • The same happened in Bauyreuth and we postponed the project to the beginning of this year;
  • The project is ready to go with new students who can take up the chance to take part.

On the Spanish teaching side:

  • We established an international relationship with UNMDP in Argentina to develop future projects;
  • We publicised the TDF activity within the University of Bath by publishing an article in the main newspaper in Mar del Plata  and consequently raising awareness of  both Universities;
  • We encouraged collaborative work with partners in the same institution or internationally;
  • We engaged students in motivational real communications using a foreign language;
  • We promoted the importance or studying a foreign language;
  • This model is highly transferable for all other languages;
  • Learner’s autonomy was increased.

Students were very motivated and happy to take part. I found it quite interesting when they shared the information in a class discussion how different their lifestyles and academic structure were and how little they knew about it. A true eye opener! [Laura Izaguirre]

Posted in: Case Studies