Athletics star Kriss at languages festival in Stevenage

A conference aims to give an Olympic boost to language teaching.

Former world champion and Olympic athlete Kriss Akabusi will be getting on his marks to launch Hertfordshire’s Festival of Languages tomorrow (Friday).

The event is being held at the Hertfordshire Development Centre in Stevenage.

Kriss, who is a fluent German speaker, will set the tone for the day with a keynote speech to inspire schools to link language teaching with the 2012 London Olympic Games.

He said: “Language is the gateway to culture which in turn is the gateway to people. A knowledge of, and openness to, other languages and cultures means you are never a stranger anywhere in the world.”

All seven to 11-year-olds in Hertfordshire learn a foreign language, and delegates from around 100 schools have booked in for the festival.

Pupils from Almond Hill Junior School in Stevenage will be taking part to share their enthusiasm for languages. The day’s programme includes:

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• Workshops with ideas and resources themed on the 2012 Olympics

• An exhibitors’ fair with the chance to talk to publishers

• The opportunity to network and share ideas with colleagues.

“We’re really pleased with the achievement of our primary school children and are working hard to build on this good work by encouraging more pupils to opt to continue with languages,” said Nick Nesbitt-Larking, modern foreign languages adviser in the county.

“In an increasingly competitive world we need to equip our children with languages. When I’m out in schools talking to children at Key Stage 2 they all believe that languages will be useful.

“Creative teaching is the key, and the London Olympics is a unique opportunity to inspire teachers to think about how they can use the Games in a fun, interactive way across the curriculum.”

For the second year in succession, the number of Hertfordshire students taking languages at GCSE has gone up. The number of boys taking French rose by 5.4 per cent and girls by 2.2 per cent. In Spanish the increase was an impressive 11.2 per cent for boys and 14.2 per cent for girls.

Knebworth and Codicote county councillor Richard Thake, executive member for education and skills, said: “All the evidence shows that there’s a tremendous advantage in teaching languages at an earlier age. As well as giving children a love of languages it also promotes an understanding and interest in other cultures.

“The festival is a great opportunity for primary heads and teachers looking for inspirational ideas and resources to start planning for the Olympics right across the curriculum.”

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