Connecting Language Learners After Brexit and Covid

Last Monday, 5th July, Joe Dale and Bili Languages joined teams and hosted an in-depth discussion about language learning and how virtual exchanges can be the solution to keeping the spark and buzz to languages especially in the current context plagued with Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Special guests included: Joe Dale (our host, of course!), Charlie Foot (Founder of Bili), Bernadette Holmes MBE (director of the Speak to the Future) and Emily Gasche (National MFL Lead at Oasis Academies).

First up, we heard from Charlie about how Bili works from signing up as a school, to finding a partner, to benefiting as a pupil – it really is that simple!

👉Find a partner
👉The Bili Teacher
👉The Bili Student

“Students are learning with the structure from the teacher but with the engagement from their partner on an ongoing basis” – Charlie Foot, Bili Founder

Charlie spoke about how Bili tasks (planned by teachers) match their curriculum, potentially even saving time marking (!) while also giving pupils an authentic exchange experience. Supporting teachers has been one of Bili’s key objectives from the start and as a result – it is easy for teachers to track progress, export transcripts to PDF and share their tasks in the topic bank (meaning teachers don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every topic!). Bili’s user-friendly dashboards help students to complete regular asynchronous speaking and writing tasks, and reply & support their Bilipals, while teachers can moderate all interactions in a light-touch way, time-efficient way. There was also a discussion of the features of the forum and live chat. All safety concerns raised were swiftly alleviated- Bili is GDPR compliant and teachers have complete visibility of all exchanges between their pupils (whether completed tasks, live chat transcripts, or forum posts).

“We want to make online exchanges accessible to all pupils” – Charlie Foot, Bili Founder

As a result of Bili trying to be as accessible as possible, we are launching a mission to connect schools in September: – this means that partner schools to the UK schools can partner up for free!

We then had one of our favourite questions to answer!

Question: Do you only work with France or go further than the Francophone world?
Answer: We do go further than France!

Check out our Bili Connects project which ran between the UK and 8 various African countries, this was at university level but we are keen to continue. In fact, if you already have a partner school outwith (or in) Europe – why not join Bili and use this existing partnership? We always say the stronger the partnership, the easier the process is and the more engaging!

Then, we heard from Emily Gasche!

Emily Gasche, National MFL lead at Oasis Academies

Emily said she loves Bili because “students can speak authentically, spontaneously to someone their own age”

Emily also gave us some top tips for how to make the most out of Bili:

  1. Mirror the GCSE criteria to the Bili tasks
  2. Get children excited about learning languages!
  3. Check in with the teacher at the partner school regularly

This saves teachers time and sets the expectations at the same level but also means that pupils can engage in the target language and be excited about learning! Emily also referred to our little Bili animation (below) to enthuse students before getting started on the exchange and make it clear what it’s all about!

One comment to Emily’s interview was: “Totally agree with Emily. I get just as excited as the pupils when a parcel/padlet arrives! In Covid times with some of my lower ability classes this has been the most motivating all year!”

After, we heard from Bernadette Holmes MBE:

“I am a dedicated European, global citizen, linguist” – Bernadette Holmes MBE

Bernadette picked up on something Emily had said: “understanding the world beyond your postcode”, both Emily and Bernadette highlight how Bili promotes this via online interaction which is made easily accessible to everyone. Another comment which was made in the chat was: “…making international links has been transformative at my school, taking kids who spoke other languages from hiding it to wanting to share it with others, and giving children a reason to speak Spanish – they’re not all going to get to visit Spain”. This is very true, Bili recognises that not all pupils will get on school trips or afford family holidays which give them an interest and buzz for language learning – this is why Bili exists!

Bernadette brought the evening to a close, rather perfectly:

“This accessibility is given via online exchanges and allows children to learn this without even leaving their town – we can expand the parameters linguistically and culturally, the incidental learning motivates the pupil”

The evening was so inspiring, sometimes it’s not about making everyone change their minds but remembering that we are all on the same side wanting the same goals: to inspire our pupils, to give them that buzz for languages, to open their minds and hearts to other cultures, peoples and a world beyond their own postcode. Sometimes evenings like this re-inspire us, as teachers and educators to also reignite the spark and love we have for languages and our pupils – it reminds us why we do what we do, and that the effort is totally worth it.

Thank you to everyone who took part or contributed. If you missed it, why not view the recording here?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to the Bili newsletter