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The University of Southampton

Year 7 pupils show their language skills as University hosts Foreign Language spelling competition

Published: 26 April 2019
Foreign Spelling Winners
The top four from each language will move on to the National Finals

The Modern Language Department at the University of Southampton welcomed some of the brightest young linguists in the country as they hosted the South East regional final of the Routes Into Languages Foreign Language Spelling Bee.

This is part of a national competition for Year 7 pupils to practise and improve their vocabulary, spelling and memory skills in a foreign language (French, German or Spanish).

Dr Jane Lavery from the Modern Languages and Linguistics Department at the University of Southampton supported Routes Into Language with the organisation of the event and was helped by a team of language staff and  students from the University.

The decline in learning modern languages in schools has been widely reported in recent months and the CBI has expressed concern at the fall of language skills in the UK. It has also been suggested that Brexit has caused interest in foreign languages to drop at a time when the ability to speak other languages is in increasingly high demand in a globalised world.  

The Routes into Languages Foreign Language Spelling Bee is one of many initiatives looking to buck this trend and promote learning foreign languages to school pupils. Nearly 3300 pupils entered the South East regional qualifiers which began at the start of the school year. The final 60, representing 20 schools came to the University and had one minute each to translate randomly selected English words from the 150 that they had learnt and spell them out in their target language. The four highest scorers in each language then took part in a second round to determine their places which was a nail biting time as all three language finals featured a tiebreaker, including a penalty shootout in French!

All 12 finalists have qualified for the national finals which will take place in Cambridge later this year.

Dr Jane Lavery said “This event was an absolute pleasure to support and I found it so encouraging and exciting to see so many talented young linguists.

“I am really passionate about promoting the benefits of learning new languages to school children and reversing the current decline in the country’s language skills. It has been a pleasure to do our bit by supporting this fantastic competition.

“Many congratulations on everyone who made it to today’s final and I wish the best of luck to those who are taking part in the national finals.”

Sarah Schechter, Director of Routes into Languages East at Anglia Ruskin University, said: "I'm very grateful to the Modern Languages Department at the University of Southampton for hosting such a great event, giving these talented youngsters a chance to showcase their all-important flair for languages.

“Evidence suggests that there are huge health, social and cognitive benefits to learning languages, and of course, getting an insight into the cultures that go with them, extending far beyond the practicalities of being a useful tool when abroad. It is very encouraging that we have had so many entries to this year’s competition in all regions of England.

We look forward to welcoming all the winners to Cambridge University on 1st July."


The winners in each language were:


Winner: Rohan, Royal Latin School

Other finalists: Maicie (Millais School), Stephanie (Petersfield School), Luca (John Hampton Grammar)


Winner: Sofian, John Hampton Grammar School

Other finalists: Prayksha (Royal Latin Grammar School), Noreen (Roseberry School), Lucia (Towers School)


Winner: Annabel, St Helen And St Katharine School

Other finalists: Peter (Woking High School), Nicole (St Pauls Catholic School), Jomima (St Pauls Catholic School)


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