language news


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…???



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.

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