An inspirational and very busy week is coming to an end with the last visit of our unforgettable Catalonian experience. This morning we visited the Institut de Nautica de Barcelona, located on the beautiful waterfront in a new and very impressive building. The college specialises in nautical courses ranging from nautical sports to boat building and maintenance. They have 316 post -16 vocational learners who mainly fall under the dual system. As with the other colleges we have visited this week, a big emphasis is put on practical application of knowledge within a vocational setting. The college has increased the number of hours’ learners spend out in the workplace from 350 hrs over the duration of the course to 1000 hrs.
The learners complete their studies mainly through the medium of Catalan with some Spanish. English is introduced as a 3rd language as a response to sector demands for English speakers. The nautical industry has become truly international and multilingual workers are highly sought after.
Xavier Cuerpo, Head of Languages at the Institut de Nautica de Barcelona, explained to us that all learners receive additional English lessons but that certain vocational units are also delivered in English to enable the learners to apply their language skills in a technical environment. Xavier explained that the learners have more difficulty with using technical English than conversational English, which is, of course, also sometimes true for Welsh speakers and learners. The more opportunity learners have to use and apply their language skills the better. Learners here often do this through project work and other means.
There is a big emphasis on teacher support and training in using other languages, especially English. Senior management encourage and make it easy for staff to attend English lessons so that they are able to deliver some units in English. The group felt that we need this level of engagement with the Welsh language in our colleges to increase the number of staff able to deliver some elements bilingually or in Welsh. Much support is offered to staff in the use of technology to support language acquisition within a vocational context and Zavier supports staff with the creation of English resources. Something that many of us do on a day to day basis back in Wales. We are more convinced than ever that there needs to be some element of Welsh learning as part of the PGCE so that all teachers are able to deliver bilingually to some extent.
Xavier is excellent at using technology and interactive means to make his language lessons fun and interesting for the learners. He demonstrated the use of vocabulary dominoes and the Thinklink website which is created by learners and links language resources to subject specific images. We were all interested in the Present.me tool which enables learners and staff to create presentations in any language at home. This helps to build confidence gradually until the learners feel ready to present in person. A great tool that we want to explore when we are back in our colleges. Xavier has bounds of enthusiasm for language teaching and learning and he left us all feeling motivated and excited about using new ideas at home.
We had a brief visit to the boat building and maintenance workshop where the leaners ‘learn their trade’ and apply their new language skills. What a setting, right by the water!
After a lovey walk along the beach we had our final meal together as a group at a seafood restaurant, where we had to part ways with Maria, our fabulous host for the week. I think it’s safe to say that we are feeling inspired, tired and a little sad that the visit is coming to an end. What a fantastic group of hard working, energetic and positive people that are eager to implement some of the many things we have learnt from our inspiring hosts this week.
Our final few hours before the flight home were spent visiting the sights of beautiful Barcelona and having some time to evaluate the week and discuss some collaborative ideas after we return to our colleges.
Thank you Erasmus+ for an unforgettable experience, let’s hope these learner and staff mobility opportunities continue to exist post Brexit.