Monika Knapkiewicz, projects and partnership manager, and Michel Saad, intern, from the British Council Warsaw office share their experience of the European Day of Languages in Warsaw.
European Day of Languages 2010 in Warsaw = 8 days, 22 partners, €24,000 budget, 13,000+ unique website visitors, 1200 fans on Facebook, 67 lessons and workshops in 19 languages attended by 1500 students, 9 experts of multilingualism, 300 conference participants, 19 films in 12 languages, 100 street game participants and dozens of media mentions.
It looks a bit like Fermat’s Last Theorem, doesn’t it? The Theorem has been finally solved – and so were all the challenges we were faced with when organising the European Day of Languages events.
Ambitions were great. How can we promote multilingualism? Let’s have demo lessons in different languages! Workshops for teachers! Stage performances! Competitions! How about an international conference on multilingualism? Or a European film festival? Why don’t we have a language street game?
How can you accommodate all of those ideas in one day?
You can’t – that is why it took us a week to properly celebrate the European Day of Languages 2010 in Warsaw (see programme below). Apparently, the news caused quite a (positive) shock at the recent EUNIC Cluster Heads meeting in Madrid.
How can you work with all 22 partners on organising a venture like this?
We had a tight group of core organisers (British Council, Goethe Institut, European Commission, Foundation for Development of Education Systems). The group coordinated the work of other main partners, including the University of Warsaw, Warsaw City Hall and EUNIC members. We all had one face and spoke with one voice, which translated into a very effective promotional campaign.
How can you talk to audiences who don’t come to your events?
This year we have all taken a quantum leap in the way we were reaching our audiences and landed in the virtual world. The EDL website had over 65,000 page views and channelled registration for all the events. The conference was live streamed online in cooperation with Microsoft and Tweeted. The EDL Facebook page was brimming with competitions and facilitated interaction with our audiences and now is full of photos from all the events.
How can you make sure we remain visible in the midst of all that’s going on?
This was a tough one. Let’s see: demo lessons with children who refused to leave the classroom once the lesson was over, workshops for teachers, film screenings with additional chairs that had to be provided for audiences. Finally, our partners unanimously recognise that we were instrumental to the success of the European Day of Languages 2010.
How can you organise a successful European Day of Languages without partners?
“Without our partners it wouldn’t have been the same. Nowhere near the same” said one of the partners from the European Commission. The common goal, the enthusiasm, the resources, the pool of talent – that’s what partnership was all about and that’s what has made the European Day of Languages successful. Thanks to the partnership we have managed to secure sponsors, free venues and patrons, including the patronage of the Ministry of Education and the President of Warsaw.
How can you summarise the range of activities and the impact they made?
Mr Marczewski, Director of the Foundation for Development of Education Systems said about the conference “You’ve managed to gather the biggest names in the field of multilingualism in Poland in one place.”
Mr Filip Majcen, a director in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation was overheard telling the Polish Minister of Education that this was the best European Day of Languages he’d ever seen.
Michel Saad, British Council intern who worked on the events “To sum up, the 8 day celebration turned out to be amazing social and cultural event, and the experience I gained in the hours of preparation, was priceless and unforgettable.” You can read Michel’s full report here (please link to the document).
How can you cope with the success like this and the expectations you have raised?
There’s just one way to cope with the success – we have already started planning for next year. Expect more.
European Day of Languages, Warsaw, 20-27 October 2010
Programme of events
20 – 24 September
European Film Festival (Russian Centre for Science and Culture and Etno-Kino at the Ethnography Museum)
23 September Press conference (European Commission)
24 September Demo lessons (British Council Partner Centre in Warsaw)
25 September Street Game (around the trendy area of Warsaw)
- International conference ‘Intercultural Communication: Languages Integrate’ (University of Warsaw) – Demo lessons and workshops for teachers (University of Warsaw)
- Stage performances of dance, theatre and music groups (University of Warsaw campus)
- Information stands of all organisers (University of Warsaw campus)
My European Day of Languages 2010
by Michel Saad
The European Day of Languages 2010 started out for me early in the morning on Monday the 27th of September. The preparations for this incredible day had started almost a year ago, so everything had been carefully planned and arranged for the events that were soon to come. And believe me when I say that there was so much to see!
The University of Warsaw had provided the School of Foreign Languages building for our lessons, which had later been carefully adapted for the series of lectures and language lessons that were free to everyone. By 9 a.m., our base of operations was already equipped with various teaching aids and materials. It was thus ready to host the great number of language lovers that were to take part in this beautiful event.
My role in the major operation was simple yet vital for the overall success! As a representative of British Council Poland, I had been allocated to lecture room 4 where some of the most interesting lectures were to take place. Among others, my duties included supervising the technical equipment, greeting the newly come students and lecturers, and opening the windows every now and then so that no one dies of suffocation. In short, I was responsible for making sure that everything goes as planned in lecture room 4 and indeed, everything did!
Though confusion and some occasional slipups did occur, I must admit that for the most part, everything turned out to be perfect. My job was very responsible but I did have a lot of fun during the many lessons and lectures! From 9 a.m. up until 1.30 p.m I had the chance to see English lessons aimed at training Teachers of English, and basics of Greek and Irish for beginners, all presented in a communicative and student-cantered way.
Before I knew it, my work was already over. After cleaning the building of any posters and leftover paper, I finally had some time of my own. As a 4th year student of English Studies, I felt an urge to participate in the international language conference entitled “Cross-cultural Communication; The Language Factor in the Integration Process” that was probably the most important event of the day. During this cultural event several important language officials were to deliver their speeches. People like The Polish Minister of Education, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture and Multilingualism, Tony O’Brien and among many others, Professor Hanna Komorowska – my M.A. thesis supervisor (and one of the participants of the British Council Languages for Europe Think Tank)!
After a hard day’s work, it was good to finally relax in the comfortable seat of the lecture hall, and listen to the conference that had been planned, by me and some of my colleagues, for over a year. A truly amazing feeling indeed!
To sum up, the 8 day celebration turned out to be amazing social and cultural event, and the experience I gained in the hours of preparation, was priceless and unforgettable. There is no time for congratulating each other as the preparations for EDL 2010 start shortly!