Looking back on Linguastars 2016

Linguastars, the University’s annual languages summer school for Year 12 students ran at the end of June.

It was a fantastic few days, with 62 delegates joining us from across the country to enjoy a series of activities enabling them to experience what it would be like to study languages at university. Afterwards, we asked some of our delegates to tell us what they thought about Linguastars and what they learned over the two days.

Susanna, from The Grammar School at Leeds, was in the Russian ab initio language group at Linguastars. She reflects:

"When I applied for Linguastars I imagined it would be good – I could try out a new language for a couple of days and meet some new people. However, what made Linguastars even better than expected was all the extra sessions on many different subjects. For example, as well as having sessions in my chosen language, Russian, I was also able to try out Mandarin, a language which has always interested me. There were even talks on studying languages at university and what to expect on the year abroad. The talk on translation which I went to was particularly good and has now inspired me to study translation as part of my degree. Not only did I learn about the theory of translation, for example having to compromise when translating, but I was also able to have a go myself. In my particular session we were looking at how to translate a cookbook and the different techniques you had to use."

The whole event was run at the University of Leeds and by the staff there; many of the language sessions were even led by students. My Russian sessions were led partly by a student and partly by a teacher from the University. This was really helpful because you were able to talk easily to the students about their experience at the University of Leeds, as well as practically being shown the level of language you will reach through the teaching there. This gave me an impression of the very high level you would reach when going to the University of Leeds. You were also able to get a feel for the University itself and the facilities they had, especially their language specific facilities.

It would be incorrect to say that I have always wanted to study languages at university; however, over the last few years I have been seriously considering it. I was quite sure that I would want to study languages at university before I went on the Linguastars course. However, Linguastars gave me a real taster of what studying languages at university is like, in particular at the University of Leeds. I am now convinced that I want to study languages at university, after having a great time at Linguastars, meeting new people, exploring the prospect of studying languages and learning new languages. I would recommend Linguastars to anyone considering studying languages at university.

Henry, from Wyke Sixth Form College in Hull, learned Italian ab initio for the two days and writes about his experience:

"My time at Linguastars was really enjoyable and I loved being able to learn a new language with great teachers who were very helpful. I would say that my favourite aspect of Linguastars was the lecture I got to take about Mandarin Chinese because it allowed me to try something that would not normally be available for me to try out and the teacher was really enthusiastic. Mandarin is something I would like to do at university and so this lecture helped me to confirm my thoughts about what I wanted to do in the future.

Before the event I was nervous about having to learn a new language, Italian, from scratch as I didn’t know any Italian at all prior to Linguastars. However all the teachers and lecturers were extremely chatty and understanding and helped you at any point if you were stuck. Additionally I was expecting that the time at Linguastars would be filled with awkward ice-breaker activities, however that wasn’t the case, gladly, and you got to know other people as you learnt with them. Before the event I was also expecting that there would be many people in each session however there were only eight of us in our Italian group which meant the lecturers could focus on us individually.

At first sight I really liked Leeds University as it was in the city centre but not noisy or overly busy at all. The university was very grand and easy to find and in a part of the city with many students which would be good for getting to know other people from other universities. As well as this I liked how it was only a very short walk from one building to another and that the university wasn’t too spread out over the entire city meaning 10 minute walks between sessions. Also I liked the accommodation and thought that it was a lot better than other accommodation I had seen on open days.

At the moment I get the impression that studying a language at university would be fun but also hard work and rewarding. All the lecturers and helpers I had during the Italian course were extremely eager to help and also assisted with our presentation. I enjoyed the talks about the year abroad and I liked the amount of freedom you got on your year abroad to move around the country and to explore and to travel. Studying a language would be a multi-disciplinary experience as you would learn all sorts of things whilst studying, one of the reasons I wish to learn a language at university."

Gaby, from St Peter’s School in York, was also in the ab initio Italian group and thinks back about what she learned from coming to Linguastars:

"At school French and Spanish have always been my two favourite subjects so when it came to choosing A Level subjects there was no doubt in my mind that two of my four options would be taken up by languages. Now I am at the point of selecting a degree course, a combined course of two languages has been my number one choice. However when it came to choosing the languages there has always been a question mark as to whether I should start a new one from scratch and give myself an extra challenge. I was contemplating this when I applied for the Linguastars event, so I decided, what is a better way to make up my mind than test it out?

Therefore I applied for my target language to be Italian. Although in the end I have decided Italian isn't for me, I now feel as though I can speak some very basic Italian and what I don't understand I could possibly work out from my knowledge of French and Spanish (they're all quite similar which is the confusing part!). These sessions were definitely the highlight of my time there as not only were we learning something new but the workshops were interactive and harnessed the knowledge we already had of the Italian culture.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't know what to expect of Linguastars before I arrived. I think I imagined more of the full student experience but looking back on that now, I realise that wouldn't be realistically feasible.
Personally I have never considered Leeds to be one of my five options, simply because it is too close to home. This hasn't changed for me, however the facilities available were very good and the fact that it is a campus university in the centre of a big city also appeals.

When considering if I should take a language at university, I always knew that it would be a yes. Languages will always be useful, especially in the 21st century when crossing language barriers is becoming ever more important. They can be used not only in translation and subtitling but business, journalism and marketing. There is no end to the usefulness of being able to speak another language even if you do only use it when on holiday abroad.

Overall, my short stay in Leeds was incredibly worthwhile. Not only did I learn the basics of Italian and how to introduce myself in Catalan but I also experienced the feeling of being alone in a group of strangers, which I expect the first day of university will be like. By the end of the second day I had a group of friends I felt perfectly comfortable with."

Anna, from Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley, was in the French group and reflects on her experience:

"Linguastars 2016 was a great experience and an excellent opportunity to explore everything the University has to offer, as well as its language courses. On arrival, there were plenty of ambassadors to welcome delegates and show us to where we needed to be. The icebreakers at the start of the programme were a good opportunity to get to know the other delegates I was going to be spending the next two days with. I found that the days were very well organised, there were many activities packed in to the course and there was a lot of choice for the taster sessions.  The break times provided time to chat to the ambassadors who were happy to answer questions about the University itself as well as the courses they were doing.

Although I enjoyed the language lectures and activities, from which I learnt a lot and got a real feel about what a language degree would be like, my favourite part of the course was the Theatre and Performance taster which I chose as one of my non-language activities. We were informed on the course content and the wide range of languages you could study with it. We also got a chance to do some practical work similar to what is in the course.

I also enjoyed the interpreting taster. Interpreting has always interested me and I was very pleased to have the chance to get some experience of it. In this taster session, we discussed the skills required for being an interpreter and what to expect from a career like this. We also got to have a go at it ourselves using the professional equipment.

The Linguastars course was quite similar to what I expected. I thought the language sessions would be about the course content, however, they were more like lectures. This gave me a good opportunity to experience what it would be like to study French at university. The lectures were also more interactive than I expected as we did activities such as translating songs, and the lecturers asked us many questions.

My overall impression of the university was very good. I was also very impressed by the range of courses that can be done with a language. From the talks on finance and the Access to Leeds programme, I learnt that the university can offer all kinds of support so there is no need to be concerned about any problems you may have. I was also very impressed by the Students’ Union and the range of extra curricular activities you can take part in.

I have never intended to do a degree in languages, however Linguastars has made me consider doing French with another subject. Overall, I really enjoyed my time at Linguastars and I am very grateful to have had this rare opportunity and to all the hard work everyone involved put into organising it."