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Spanish theatre programme wins award

Press release issued: 25 July 2005

An innovative Bristol University course that encourages students to take to the stage to improve their Spanish has won a prestigious award from the CILT, the National Centre for Languages.

An innovative Bristol University course that encourages students to take to the stage to improve their Spanish has won a prestigious award from the CILT, the National Centre for Languages.

The CILT 2005 European Awards for Languages are given in recognition of innovative work in improving the quality of European language learning and teaching.

The award in the category for achievement in Higher Education has been awarded to Rogelio Vallejo, Senior Language Tutor in the University's Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies for his pioneering work in developing a unique course entitled 'Language Through Theatre'.

This eighteen-week Spanish-medium programme involves workshops and literary analysis in addition to a theatrical performance.  Students on the course fulfil a variety of roles from learning lines and performing to research, fundraising and marketing, set building and costume-making. 

The European Award for Languages judges said: "The project underlines the primacy of creativity rather than resources, resulting in workshops and productions of obvious inventiveness, where a full range of skills beyond the target language are developed and encouraged.  There are strong links with the local Spanish-speaking and theatre communities."

Rogelio Vallejo said: "This recognition by professionals means a great deal to me.  It reflects on the encouragement and support from colleagues and will give satisfaction to my students past, present and future.  It's an inspiration for those prepared to experiment in delivering soundly based enjoyable language learning."

Winners will receive their Award from CiLT patron, Sir Trevor McDonald, at a prize-giving ceremony at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the European Day of Languages (26 September).

Rogelio Vallejo is also on the shortlist for the annual Mary Glasgow Languages Trust Award, established in memory of Mary Glasgow, first Secretary General of the Arts Council of Great Britain.  This year's winner will be announced in London in September.

The Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies is one of the most popular and successful of its kind in Britain and emerges well from both teaching and research quality official assessments.  It has 400 undergraduate students, specialising in Hispanic, Portuguese and Catalan languages and cultures, often in combination with other disciplines.  The 'Language Through Theatre' course is one of a wide variety of second year study options.

The European Award for Languages is a Europe-wide initiative, supported by  the European Commission.  It has been recognising innovative language projects across Europe since 1999.  Generally, award-winning projects are duplicable and must show that they can provide a source of inspiration for others in different languages and cultural contexts. The general aim is to prove that creative thinking can lead to improved teaching and student achievement.

Rogelio Vallejo was born in Asuncion, Paraguay and came to the UK over thirty years ago.  He was educated here, Paraguay and in Argentina.  In order to travel through Europe he worked variously as a hotel receptionist in Ravenna, designing kitchens in Rochdale in the UK and as sub-postmaster of Dolwyddellan, in Snowdonia, before joining this department as a mature student.  Here he revived a dormant tradition of student productions of theatre in Spanish.  Upon graduation, he was appointed Language Teaching Assistant, eventually becoming Senior Language Tutor and Coordinator of Language Teaching Programmes.

Rogelio developed the 'Language Through Theatre' course from work and interests he had continued since his student productions.  The course has been running for 5 years and has involved collaborations with writers, performers and distinguished academics from across the Hispanic and Lusophone world.  Students speak highly of it and commentators have remarked, not simply on improvements in students' language skills, the sophistication of resulting workshops and productions, but also on the wide range of 'transferable skills' which it enables.

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