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 (bili.uk.com), 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.”