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Arsene Wenger voted Britain’s first Public Language Champion

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been voted Britain's first Public Language Champion. The award, voted for by Guardian readers, recognises the commitment and passion shown by a public figure in the importance of language to British society.

The award, announced today alongside the British Academy's 2013 Schools Language Awards winners, is part of the British Academy and Guardian's language learning series and campaign to start a national debate on language learning.

Wenger is well known for his development of young players, and his commitment towards preparing them for football careers in the best way possible. In 1998, the Club established the Arsenal Double Club, an innovative education and football programme which offers a range of subjects, together with football coaching forming a fun way for young people to engage with their academic studies and football at the same time, with a particular focus on language learning.

Arsene Wenger said: "Being voted Britain's first ever Public Language Champion is an incredible honour. I am very proud that Arsenal and I can help raise the profile of language learning in schools. I hope that this award and Arsenal’s Double Club can show that learning a new language does not always have to be a challenge and sport can help make it enjoyable learning."

The British Academy 2013 Schools Language Awards are part of the new November Language Festival - a wider national campaign, in partnership with the Guardian, aimed at encouraging schools and organisations to get involved with, and to help raise the profile of, language learning and showcase its importance for the UK’s wellbeing. The joint campaign is running until March 2015, and includes a new dedicated website, providing a forum for language debates and discussions.

Schools and colleges – or institutions supporting them – were asked to submit proposals for increasing the numbers of students learning languages at higher levels.

Dr Robin Jackson, Chief Executive at the British Academy said: “The aim of these Awards is to find imaginative and effective ways of encouraging more learners to take languages to higher levels, and to address the social imbalance in the profile of language learners. It is clear from the response that mainstream and supplementary schools around the country share our concerns and we are delighted to have received so many high quality applications. We heartily congratulate the winning projects, whose progress we will follow with great interest. We hope they will become beacons of good practice and inspiration and help to turn the tide on Britain's language deficit.”

The Guardian’s Wendy Berliner said: "As a nation we lag behind much of the rest of the world in our language capability and we need people who are willing to go out of their way to get the message across that learning languages can not only be fun and intellectually absorbing, but are essential to our economic success and security. This award is a key part of a two-year commitment with the British Academy to raising public dialogue over language learning. There were five very worthy people in our short list which was opened to a public vote and it is wonderful to see the work of the multi-lingual Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal Double Club recognised in this way."

Presented by British Academy Language Ambassador actor Larry Lamb the 2013 Schools   Language Awards were awarded to schools that had shown originality and creativity in language learning. Larry presented 13 prizes of £4,000 each to the following schools: 

Supplementary schools category

  • Vietnamese Supplementary School, Deptford, London – helping parents and children to learn each other's first language.
  • Hamara Supplementary School, Leeds - helping under achieving ethnic minority pupils gain qualifications in languages, in partnership with South Leeds Academy.
  • Peace School, London – teaching Arabic through 'content and language integrated learning' and ICT.
  • Liverpool Polish Saturday School – integrating the development of children's English and Polish language skills with an understanding of finance and marketing.
  • EC Lighthouse, Barking – promoting an understanding of Lithuanian language and culture, particularly to children from mixed backgrounds who do not speak Lithuanian at home.
  • Arabic School for All, Lincoln - developing courses and materials for teaching about Energy, the Environment and Architecture through the medium of Arabic.
  • Polish School in Glasgow – focusing on qualifications and awareness of career opportunities, with placements in local businesses.

Mainstream category

  • North: Oldham Sixth Form College. A programme of taster sessions, careers talks, and booster classes for year 8 and 9 pupils in local schools.
  • South East and South West: Devonport High School for Girls, Plymouth. Languages and careers awareness and training programme for years 8, 10 and 12.
  • London: Deptford Green School. 'Language passport' scheme to raise awareness of the importance of language and intercultural skills for employability.
  • Scotland: University of Strathclyde and Glasgow City Council schools.  HE students act as Ambassadors for languages in local secondary schools.
  • Northern Ireland: Foyle College, Londonderry. Hearts and minds project involving story-telling in French.
  • East and Midlands: Northgate High School, Ipswich. Weekend workshops for potential A level students across Suffolk.

Oldham Sixth Form College received the National Award for language learning with an additional prize of £4,000.

For more information on the Schools Language Awards please visit the British Academy website.

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