If you have always wanted to inspire the next generation of linguists, then there’s no time like the present!  We urgently need help from anyone who can participate at these school language events:

 lagnuage events
Wednesday 28th June Flying High at RAF Museum in Cosford, Shropshire. As you can see we are moving into the West Midlands, so we realise that this will be too far for most of you. However, do you have any language contacts in the West Midlands that might be able to help? In particular we are looking for people with German – the level doesn’t need to be particularly high as the students are year 10, so first year of GCSE. We are able to pay reasonable expenses. French and Spanish will also be involved.


Wednesday 5th July International Day at Bishop Stopford School in Kettering for Year 8. We run a World Trade Game in the morning, where we welcome volunteers with any international experience or language. In the afternoon we are asked to run language tasters in more unusual languages, particularly Chinese. We can help with a template for this. If you can do either the morning or the afternoon, that would be really helpful, and if you could do the whole day, that would be fantastic. Our budget for this is rather limited, so we would prefer  volunteers living within a 30 – 40 mile radius of Kettering. The school is within walking distance of the station.


If you are free on either of these days and would like to get involved please contact us or feel free to share amongst your multilingual friends and colleagues!


Thank as always for your support 🙂




Business Language Champions’ Sally Fagan, who recently won the Threlford Memorial Cup, was delighted to receive another accolade recently, when she was made an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists.


Sally was presented with the fellowship following the delivery of her inspiring Threlford Lecture on leadership in languages, in which she made the case for anyone who was in a position to encourage and motivate others as to the importance of learning languages to take every opportunity to do so.


Sally Fagan delivers Threlford Memorial Lecture


We are all very proud of Sally and the hard work she and the rest of the BLC team and volunteers put in to help raise awareness of the importance of language skills and though Sally admits it was totally unexpected, we are delighted that she has been rewarded in this way and there has been lots of positive feedback so far.  Well done Sally!



The BLC team are old hands at running the European Challenge as it is one of our most popular language events but every year we are amazed by the enthusiasm of the students taking part and the brilliance of their end results.  This year’s European Challenge was no different and we’d just like to share a few of the best moments from the day with you.


European Challenge

The Brief:

Students were split up into groups to include a good mix of students from different schools and with two different languages (as we like to make things as challenging as possible!).

Once divided into their groups, the students were then given a variety of marketing tasks around the basic premise of selling Stilton cheese overseas, including:

  • Choosing a trade fair
  • Booking a hotel for the fair over the phone – with a volunteer acting as the hotel receptionist
  • Making a mock-up of their trade stand
  • Creating a 30 second advert in the target language
  • Creating a flyer in the target language
  • Giving a 4-minute presentation: with two minutes allocated to ‘selling Stilton to Lidl’ in one of their group’s languages with our volunteers providing a Dragon’s Den style board and the other two minutes talking about what they have learnt during the day in their other language.


European Challenge


Students also had to put their culinary knowledge to the test by devising a new speciality pizza with Stilton and other ingredients sourced from around Europe.  There was nothing stinky about the end results and as usual we had a difficult task in choosing a winner! Eventually we settled on:


Winners: Breadsticks team with students from ACS International School and Guildford High School

Runners-up: Flatbread team with students from King Edward’s Witley and Therfield School.

Business Language Champions European Challenge event

The feedback

We’ve had some great feedback so far from the schools who took part, including these kind words from the teachers who accompanied their students:


Thanks for running such an enjoyable day!” – Ali


Our pupils really enjoyed the day, so thank you very much. I think they particularly enjoyed the speeches at the start and felt they could understand much better how they might be able to use languages after school.” – Catherine


students participating in our European Challenges language event


For more information on how you can get your students involved in similar events please contact us on 01949 860167 or email Sally today.



Espionage came to Oundle School last Tuesday as BLC were proud to co-host ‘The Word is not Enough’ with our friends from GCHQ.


GCHQ languages event the word is not enough


10 teams took part. Befitting the secret nature of the task at hand, students were known only by their first names and represented sections from 001 – 010 – no fancy team names today.


students participating in the Word is not Enough



Tasked with cracking a drug smuggling ring in about 3 hours(!), the participating students faced encryption and decryption, coded audio messages, an introduction to a new foreign language and the kidnapping of their teachers (some were more bothered by this than others). Perhaps even more stressful was a 4 minute presentation of their findings to a panel of judges.


GCHQ languages event


One of the GCHQ representatives remarked that the reason he enjoys this challenge so much is because it truly represents much of the work that GCHQ linguists undertake, albeit with a swifter resolution than is usual. It also provides yet more proof, for those who need it, that the world of languages is a dynamic and exciting one, opening up careers in many fields beyond the traditionally cited ones of teaching and translation.


GCHQ languages event


All 60 students worked extremely hard, facing the tough challenges that were thrown at them with initiative, persistence and good humour. But every competition must have a victor, and the winners of a trip to Bletchley Park, kindly donated by GCHQ, were Birkdale School in Sheffield, with the runners-up coming from Oundle School.


The Word is not Enough winners


A final thought for you…is it pure coincidence that both times we have run this event, the winning team has been Section 007, or does someone out there know something we don’t…???


We recently held an event to promote all things Spanish and Latin American at the University of Nottingham.  Students from Tupton Hall School, St. George’s Academy, St. Saviour’s and St. Olave’s School, and Trinity Catholic School took part in the language event earlier this month and the feedback so far has fantastic!

Chile Chocolate and Cha Cha Cha










Here’s what St. Saviour’s and St. Olave’s School had to say about this event:


Thank you for organising such a brilliant day. Although our girls aren’t very used to be out of their comfort zone, the nature of the activities, in particular the afternoon one, encouraged them to integrate and work as a team with kids they had never seen before.”

Chile Chocolate and Cha Cha Cha languages event











“It was a healthy and necessary opportunity for them and I hope they will have more opportunities to take part in activities of this kind in the future.”

Students learn about Latin America

















The way the event was planned and organised was really good in my view and the contribution of your language students was brilliant. They were fun, dynamic, engaging and really supportive to the students. Some of them were particularly inspiring for my students and they definitely made an impact on them – my girls are now researching about language courses at university and career choices involving Spanish!”

Items on display at our Latin American event












Please contact us if you would like more information about taking part in events similar to this.


Sally Fagan accepts the Threlford Memorial Cup from HRH Prince Michael of Kent

Sally Fagan accepts the Threlford Memorial Cup from HRH Prince Michael of Kent


Business Language Champions’ Sally Fagan has been awarded the Threlford Memorial Cup – The Chartered Institute of Linguists’ highest award, in recognition of her promotion of the languages and cultural understanding in schools.

Let’s not put a huge downer on what was a great evening by making ‘The Donald’ the subject of this blog, but it’s worth noting that, in her Threlford Cup presentation speech, Ann Carlisle, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, quoted our company strapline on more than one occasion: ‘Business Language Champions works with schools to promote the importance of language skills and cultural awareness in the workplace.’

Unless I am very much mistaken, recent political events seem to be edging various nations towards what may kindly be called isolationism. So Sally was utterly delighted to be awarded the CIoL’s prestigious Threlford Cup on a ticket of cultural understanding, creating events specifically designed to encourage school students to look beyond the boundaries of the English language and the UK.

Sally Fagan awarded Threlford Memorial Cup

Sally’s acceptance speech (without notes, of course!) highlighted various issues that will be familiar to all working in the field of language education at secondary level: that school children find the curriculum dull, that they are more inclined to listen to the views of outside speakers than their teachers when it comes to careers, and that, when schools make decisions about where to put their budgets, languages are often way down the priority list – alarmingly, sometimes not even on it.

It seems to us very important that, as a nation, and despite (or maybe because of) Brexit and events across the pond, that we work even harder to make our children understand the importance of being global citizens, of placing cooperation above isolationism,  listening and thoughtfulness above knee-jerk, uninformed reaction, that language learning and cultural understanding, intertwined as they are, are not shunted even more into the wings.

So, a huge thank you goes to Alison Organ of York St John University who nominated Sally for this great honour, and to the CIoL who chose her to receive it. We are enormously grateful, and we look forward to continuing to play our part.

Students from across the East Midlands took part recently in our Marketing in the Making Business Language Champions event.  The day was aimed at promoting the value of language skills in the workplace, particularly in a marketing environment and the students produced some fantastic videos working with their BLCs.


Here are the results of their hard work:


Oakham School working with Long Clawson Dairy

Melton Vale Post 16 Centre working with ?

Melton Vale Post 16 Centre working with Loughborough University

Fullhurst Community College working with K S Composites

De Lisle Academy working with Community Heartbeat Trust

De Lisle Academy worked with Martin Fagan from the Community Heartbeat Trust, who put defibrillators into communities, to produce this clear video with great camera use!

Uppingham Community College working with Mars Food


It’s a funny old debate, this science vs humanities one. And now Mary Beard is weighing in. Her June 11th blog for the TLS bemoans the fact that of the 12 regius chairs created in the UK to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday, not one has been in the humanities or the social sciences. It’s not that she in any way begrudges the chairs that have been awarded to the sciences, but rather it feels to her as though humanities have been side-lined into the ornamental category, not a valued part of our thrusting, digital, ‘modern’ economy.

Students enjoy our International Space ChallengeSimilarly, there has, for some time, been concern within the languages community who feel that the entirely justifiable promotion of the STEM subjects through big, high profile campaigns has been to the detriment of humanities generally, and particularly languages. Sometimes it’s hard not to agree.

My daughter has just finished her GCSEs and has been choosing A levels. She is the only person in her sixth form to elect to continue with two modern foreign languages, Spanish and German. (Take up of languages at her school is generally rather low, despite excellent teaching staff.) But she is also continuing on with maths. Very many of her cohort has chosen to continue with 3 sciences at A level plus maths. She has asked several of them why they have made this choice. Some have a clear idea – a career in engineering or medicine, for example. Some, though, are taking them with a heavy heart, with the vague idea that they are ‘useful’ and will lead to well-paid jobs. Often parental pressure is at play.

I have two rather strong objections to this. Firstly, the notion that sciences are useful and languages are not. A quick Google search confirms my suspicions: the ability to speak English, Spanish and German fluently enables you to communicate with around 13% of the world’s population (vs 5.5% if you only have English) which includes 4 out of the 10 largest economies in the world. Can someone please explain to me why that will not be useful? And then there are the cultural implications. The study of a language usually entails going to live in another country, which, in turn, entails a greater understanding of the people – who they are, why they have the values they do, their history, their literature, their religion. It’s pretty self-evident in today’s global society why this is useful. If you have to ask, then you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog.

It’s clearly a total cul-de-sac of an argument to suggest that one body of subjects is more valuable or useful than another. Well taught, both will give you a high level of knowledge and each will bring you ancillary skills such as reasoning, research, communication, attention to detail – the list goes on.

Secondly, I find it altogether depressing that children from the age of 16 are being encouraged to study subjects that they don’t even necessarily like. Education is about so much more than being able to get a job at the end of it all, like some kind of awful, inexorable conveyor belt. What happened to the love or learning, education for education’s sake? Loving what you do is key to fulfilment in later years. You spend too much time at work to be miserable doing it.

But, in any case, STEM and languages are not mutually exclusive. I love the Renaissance ideal of a well-rounded education, the passion for learning which encouraged people of that age to develop their abilities in all areas of accomplishment: intellectual, artistic, social and physical. Man was considered limitless in his capacities for development, and thus should try to embrace all knowledge. (My thanks go to the polymaths at Wiki for pulling this together so succinctly for me!).

At BLC our events aim to showcase as many different options as possible. As well as discussing straight language learning, including ab initio at university, we also create events that combine languages with business, journalism, espionage (!) and, of course, STEM. So we have been delighted to work closely with the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the National Space Centre in Leicester to come up with an activity day that combines languages with physics, maths, engineering and architecture, all in one harmonious bundle. We have called this our International Space Challenge and we would love to share the resources we have created with you so you can run your own languages and STEM day. Please contact us today for more information.

In a recent House of Lords debate, Baroness Coussins, Co-Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, lamented the lack of access to Arabic. She began: ‘My Lords, language is the key to understanding different cultures, so the importance of Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages is obvious’. She went on to say, ‘Language is a gateway to cultural understanding and hostility is largely bred through ignorance. But only 6 state schools teach Arabic on the timetable and only 16 of our 130 universities’.

As language learning advocates, we can surely only agree. We know that language and culture are inextricably linked and would love to expose students to ever more languages – if only there were the space on the timetable! Whilst understanding that not all pupils want to be shoe-horned into language learning (at the age of 14 I myself was not receptive to the merits of physics, for example) we do believe that it’s important to show pupils early on how languages provide a passport to many and varied jobs, travel, understanding other cultures (many of which co-exist with our own here in the UK) and taking their place in a global society.

Regarding employment opportunities, Baroness Coussins quotes this statistic:

‘…15% of British employers want staff with Arabic and an understanding of business behaviour.’

In my other job, as Language and Culture Adviser for UK Trade & Investment, the Government Department tasked with helping UK companies to export, this is made evident to me on an almost daily basis as companies request information about business etiquette in the Arab world and my Business Arabic for Beginners courses are always over-subscribed. Sometimes it seems I am surrounded by closet linguists: business people who wish they had understood the value of language learning at school and lament their inability to say even the basics to their overseas customers.

In the meantime, the RAF, amongst many others, has to self-serve. They badly need able linguists who, even if they don’t currently speak the priority languages required by the forces, can be trained up to do so. To that end, their recruitment and outreach departments are busy showcasing the work of the service, engaging with schools to tell pupils that there is more to the RAF than flying (similarly, we are busy telling pupils that there is more to languages than teaching and translating).

Our Into the Arab World event is designed to address many of these matters. We have worked closely with colleagues based at RAF Cranwell to create an exciting day – a fairly accurate representation (with some liberties taken!) of the kinds of disciplines needed by RAF linguists working in the Arab world; a language taster mixed with a pinch of code-breaking, a handful of survival techniques and a sprinkle of coordinate plotting, all concluding with a (knee-trembling) presentation to your commanding officers. The day will be challenging but fun, eye-opening and memorable. This is the importance of language learning in the modern world. We would love you to join us.

Baroness Coussins’ final question remains, to my knowledge, unanswered: ‘We need a long-term strategy covering all ages and stages of education. Will the Government work with schools and HE to develop this?’ Inshallah…

For further information about Into the Arab World, please contact

Do you want to find out more about the Arab world?

What do you know about how the RAF need and use linguists?

Would you like to take part in an exciting challenge using language and code-breaking skills?

In collaboration with the RAF, Business Language Champions are proud to present: Into the Arab World, a day long event that will test your teamwork, ingenuity and initiative, as well as introducing you to the Arabic language.

step into the Arab world
We are looking for teams of 6 students from years 9 to 12 to take part in our challenge. During the day you will:

• Compete with other schools to win prizes, including a first prize of a special visit to RAF Wittering, where students can experience exciting career opportunities.
• Hear from RAF linguists about what it takes to make it in this demanding job.
• Take part in an Arabic taster lesson.
• Work your way through a series of RAF-related tasks, including code-breaking and learning how to apply the Arabic you have learnt.
• Have fun, test yourselves and learn a lot!

Interested? Please contact Sally on

This is a great day out for your students. But don’t just listen to us. Here is what some teachers who brought teams to our RAF day last year said:

RAF linguists
“Excellent day all round.”
“Would recommend your days to other schools in a heartbeat!”
“The day was exceptionally well organised.”
“The girls have had a fabulous day. Thank you so much.”
“Great event, great venue, students really gained from it.”

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