Connecting the Dots

As Bili Connects draws to an end, we delve a little deeper into the project and the exchanges between students spanning the UK, and 8 African countries and involving 35 different universities. Here we will look at the structure, the tools used and most importantly focus in on the real connections between individual participants.

Bili Connects forms part of the British Council programme English Connects that connects African youth and the future generation of leaders with the UK through English.

Duration: December, 2019 => March 2020

Participants: UK French undergraduates paired with students learning English from Cameroon, the Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

Through the Bili platform every student had their own profile through which they were paired with a partner according to the interests they selected. With input from participating UK universities, Cathy Molinaro lecturer in French studies from Cardiff University (and our original partner in the pilot project) designed tasks for the French undergraduates. The English tasks for the African participants were designed by the Bili team. Each task (to be completed over a two week period) was broken down into several short subtasks and included instructions and support for the students. An overview of the task titles can be seen below.

English Tasks French Tasks
Using a Foreign Language with Confidence Première prise de contact
Getting know your partner Moi
You and Music Les élections en Grande-Bretagne
You and Sport La vie étudiante
Your attitudes to fashion La vie en dehors de l’université
Celebrations in my country Votre culture
Your ambitions Cinéma,télévision et musique
Identity: Who are you? Voyages
Reflecting on your exchange Réflexion

The extracts below will hopefully give you a flavour of the exchanges which took place across the previous months, and the connections which have been formed as a result of it.

Profiles

When each student logs in for the first time they set up their account and create their profiles. They are matched with a student from the partner class according to their interests.

BiliChat

In addition to the structured exchange provided through the task each student was connected directly to their partner through Bilichat, our live video chat app (accessible through their accounts on the site, and as IOS and Android apps). This is a private forum between participants where they could exchange in either language, with individuals in the corresponding class and in small pre-assigned groups. We also sent out regular prompts to spur on discussions, and support interactions.

Exchanging in English

Most tasks were broken down into short subtasks which were to be completed sequentially (in roughly two week intervals, with some allowance for holidays, university closures etc.). As with any task, it was specified whether each would be a written task or if they needed to upload an audio or video file.

English Task 8: Each of these subtasks was displayed as an individual activity for students.

Here we will showcase a selection of exchanges from students talking through each of the different stages: sending a task, marking a task and responding (we have removed images and media recordings for privacy reasons).

Students highlight any mistakes in their partner’s work and can add comments to support each other in their respective languages
This is Chrystabelle Frank Agbota’s (from Swiss UMEF University of Niger) response to the ‘Identity’ task above, including an audio recording of her speaking in her local language. Jane has highlighted some errors and left a few comments.
Finally, Jane’s response including an audio reply to her partner

“I most enjoyed practising the French language and learning about the culture of others. It is more authentic to communicate with someone who speaks French rather than practising grammar points through the likes of an app or computer program.”

Jane Major, Stranmillis University College, Queen’s University Belfast
A response to task 3, “You and Music” by Hassane dit Kindo Aminatou
Emma Rampton’s (from the University of Bristol) response to her partner

Exchanging in French

Baba Kaba’s (from the Université Général Lansana Conté in Guinea) comments to his partner in Mia in Nottingham
Mia Hubbard from the University of Nottingham responding to her task “La vie étudiante”, with Baba’s marking. This did include a video which has been cut from the blog.
Finally Baba’s audio response to Mia, with a short comment

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this provides a glimpse of the interaction between students going on in the black box of Bili; and more importantly the relationships established between the students.

A final reflective task from Mamady Kallay from the Université Kofi Annan de Guinée

Structuring the exchange through short tasks, and enabling ongoing informal interaction aimed to put the emphasis on the cultural exchange, the enjoyment of their respective languages and the forming of friendships between the students in the UK and Africa. It seems to have worked for Mamady and Alana 😊

Alana Lagido O’Neill from the University of Edinburgh’s final response to her partner

  1. First, thanks you bili,you’re giving me a chance to improve myself. I discovered many things such as cultural understanding, speaking snills and so on. I encourage this project,it’s very helpful.

  2. Le projet bili était très intéressant car il nous a permis d’en apprendre d’avantage de ce que nous avions déjà ,aussi de se faire de nouveaux amis depuis le UK chose extraordinaire que nous avons tous aime alors j’emprofite pour remercier les initiateurs de ce brillant projet qui était très intéressant mais de courte durée et mon souhait est que cette initiative puisse renaître prochainement , très bientôt pour permettre un bon échange culturel entre Afrique et le UK enfin qu’ils apportent de changements concrèts pour un prochaine fois pour un meilleur épanouissement !!! Merci beaucoup !!!

  3. Really it has been a great pleasure for me to take part to that wonderful program (Bili English connect). I thank all the team who has done a great job by having that useful idea. Yeah, I learned many thing from Bili exchange such as from my first partner who gave me a singer’s name that was looking for. But, I’m a bit sad knowing it too end now . Frankly, I enjoyed it because through Bili exchange I was really connected to an English-speaking country which is one my dreams.

  4. First of all I have To thank those who had the opportunity to initiate this wonderful and useful program (Bili English connect) which consists to make a connexion of exchange between UK learners of French and students of some African french countries who are learning English as a foreign language in order to exchange about their cultures and life learning process. In fact it was really a brillant program that I enjoyed with happiness and through the program I have learn many worthwile things such as How students are living in the UK I also had the opportunity to share many information about my country with my partner (Sarah) . To end up the program had been for us an opportunity to learn new things from each other . Once more thank you very much all the team.

  5. Really I thank all you because I have discovered many things which helped me and will always be benefit for me in my life.

  6. Biliproject was the first project that I study in my life. Sincerely, it is an important exchange for everyone. It helps me to know many things about United Kingdom. It is a platform for increasing our level for English and French. Thanks you bili, you are giving me the opportunity to improve my English skills.

  7. It’s has been such a great experience for me to take part to this wonderful cultural exchange… Liked the network.

  8. I’m glad to have been member of this project. For my class i was late doing my tasks and this situation has not allowed me to finish my last task.
    This project has allow me to know some quality that i have, to improve my english and acquiere a lot of knowledges . At the end of my words, I can say thank you for all and thanks for this experience 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼✨✨

  9. Ce programme d’échange a vraiment été bénéfique pour moi cela m’a appris la culture de mon partenaire et m’a surtout exercé dans la pratique de la langue anglaise c’est vraiment mieux que de l’apprendre juste,pendant le cours!!

  10. The exchange at Bili was very interesting and satisfied by me. I know New things About UK. I think that is a most important projet that i lives because more people are participated at that exchange and it helps us toi learn English language, spelling and how we call things in English. The challenge, my challenge is to be bilingual and this projet help me to realise my objectif more than at thé beginning of the projet.
    I want to Say thanks to the member if that projet. I am very happy to have been a participant of the projet.

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