Free keep-fit, language tasters and the story of how a former Bishop Auckland pupil has used her language skills to advise US Presidents are all part of an exciting line-up at a regional language festival this month.
Schools, families and communities can enjoy a host of fun events, activities and inspirational stories from the likes of Dr Fiona Hill, at the first annual Express Yourself – North East Festival of Languages.
The celebration, which has been organised by Durham County Council’s International Relations Team, in partnership with International Newcastle and organisations across the region, encourages people to learn about the diverse languages, cultures and communities in the North East.
Through a programme of live and pre-recorded online content, families, teachers and their pupils can access a range of free events, activities and resources, including language classes in Turkish and Arabic, keep fit in Spanish, cookery in French, and dance and music workshops in Spanish, Tamil and Punjabi.
People can also find out how languages are used in the workplace as Dr Fiona Hill, a former pupil of Bishop Barrington School, shares her journey from County Durham to the White House as a specialist in Russian and European Affairs. Fiona took part in the council’s exchange programmes to Germany and France as a teenager and has even had the chance to interact with some of the people she met on those in her professional life.
Many activities and opportunities are already available for people to get involved in and a busy schedule of live events will take place between Monday 22 and Friday 26 March.
People of all ages and backgrounds are invited to share their own languages and cultures and to learn about others. Speakers of other languages, including young people who speak a language other than English at home or who are learning a second language at school, are also encouraged to submit a poem as part of the Mother Tongue Other Tongue celebration.
Declan Baharini, director of International Newcastle, said: “Our partnership with Durham’s International team has been key to developing this festival. It is a celebration of the languages and cultures of people who are from or have come to live in the north east and our connections with the world.
“As well as all the free, fun and interactive activities on offer, we are asking people to share their stories over the coming weeks of how languages changed their life, to inspire others and raise awareness of the impact of learning or speaking other languages can have on your life and career.
“We have been amazed at the enthusiastic response to the festival already and that what we are doing is also an inspiration to other cities and regions in the UK. The north east is leading a languages revolution.”
On Tuesday 23 March, secondary school pupils are invited to join local business ambassadors for an online languages and employability workshop. Speakers from a range of areas including pharmaceuticals, engineering and translation, will explain how they use language at work in an interactive question and answer session.
Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “Events like this are a fantastic way to introduce young people to the role languages can play in the workplace.
“Learning a second language greatly improves people’s understanding of different cultures and ability to do business in an international market. Being able to communicate effectively and build relationships is hugely beneficial in a modern business environment and can open up employment opportunities in a number of roles, including those with exciting travel and expansion prospects.
“Learning another language can also help to improve your memory and your confidence, as well as being good fun too.”
Further information can be found and places for all activities can be booked via the festival’s website, https://expressyourselfne.com