Student profiles: ex ab initio Italian


We continue today with our series of posts profiling MLC students who started learning a language as complete beginners and who are now in their final year. This time, we meet Yolanda Sanchez, who is taking a BA in Hispanic Studies and Italian. In this short blog, Yolanda tells us about the challenges and successes of learning Italian from scratch.

Yolanda Sanchez

Studying Italian from scratch at the University of Liverpool has been an experience that I will forever cherish. I remember sitting in my first beginner’s Italian class feeling excited, yet overwhelmed – how would I be able to master such a beautiful language in just four short years, when I only knew how to say ‘ciao’, ‘pizza’ and ‘gelato’?!

The course consisted of language classes, along with film, politics, history, and linguistics modules, allowing me to learn not only how to speak the language but also to delve into the world of Italian culture. The beauty of learning Italian at Liverpool is that the class sizes are so small that you develop a close relationship with classmates and lecturers in an intimate learning environment, and I can wholeheartedly say that I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. The department is made up of a passionate, close-knit community, and often hosts events for students, staff, and guests, such as film screenings, meals, and workshops. There is never a dull moment!

As I also study Spanish, I was lucky enough to spend the first semester of my year abroad in Alicante, Spain, before moving to the beautiful island of Sicily for five months. There, at the University of Palermo, I studied modules such as the History of Medieval Sicily, English-Italian translation, and the History of Medieval Philosophy, which were certainly challenging, but now I can talk for hours about history and philosophy in Italian! Doing an Erasmus placement was a great option for me, as it allowed me to make friends from all over the world, speak and write in Italian, and have free time to explore. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent a semester in such a beautiful place; Sicily is a unique island that is full of history, art, music, sun, and of course, great food! Thank you to the Italian department and the University of Liverpool for the four most wonderful years of my life. A dopo!


Piazza della Vergogna, my favourite place in Palermo


Ana Almeida contributes to edited volume on innovative university language teaching


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Ana Bela Almeida, Lecturer in Portuguese, has co-authored an article on the benefits of language teaching through literature with Dr Idoya Puig of Manchester Metropolitan University. The chapter is part of the volume Innovative language teaching and learning at university: enhancing employability, published by

In their chapter, Ana Bela and Idoya focus on how teaching language through literature can have an important role in the development of specific employability skills, as it develops not only purely linguistic abilities, but also helps foster other soft skills such as intercultural awareness, problem-solving abilities and critical thinking.

The chapter is the latest output from the international research network “Litinclass” (Literature in the Foreign Language Class), co-funded and run by Ana Bela. This project was created with a view to exploring and sharing ideas on the numerous skills and benefits that can be derived from language learning through literature. More information on the project can be found at the Litinclass website. Ana has been putting this pedagogical approach into practice in her Portuguese language classes, with very positive learning results and feedback from her students.

Ana and Idoya are continuing their collaboration on this research project, and are currently creating teaching activities that will soon be available on the Litinclass website.


Student profiles: ex ab initio Italian


Following on from our series of posts profiling ex ab initio German students, we turn to meeting MLC students who started learning Italian as complete beginners and who are now in their final year. Our first blogger is Bethany Keegan, who is taking a BA in Modern European Languages and tells us about her experiences of learning Italian from scratch.

Bethany Keegan

Choosing to study Italian from beginner’s level at the University of Liverpool was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Having already studied French and Spanish for both GCSE and A Level, the opportunity to take up a third language from scratch was a no-brainer. Many criticised my decision, stating that it would be too difficult and that it would be impossible to reach a good standard by the time I graduated. Now, with only a few weeks left until I finish my degree, I am certain that I have proved them all wrong. In the short space of four years I have gone from not understanding a word of Italian, to it being my strongest language.

Bethany Keegan

Eating pizza in Naples!

The Italian lecturers at the University of Liverpool give constant support to their students and it is thanks to them that I have reached such a high standard. My Italian classes are the most enjoyable and have truly been the best part of my years at University – I will be sad to leave such a wonderful learning environment. The Year Abroad also obviously played an integral role in my language development. I spent 6 months studying in Padua, which is situated about half an hour away from Venice. It was challenging moving to a different country, but “living the language” enabled me to fully immerse myself in the wonderful Italian culture whilst developing my Italian skills. Fortunately, my Italian adventure isn’t over yet, as I’m off to Italy to teach English from September. Thanks to all those who made my time here such an enjoyable one!


Graduate profile: Louise Clare


It’s been a while since the MLC blog published one of our graduate profiles, so today we catch up with Louise Clare, who graduated from Liverpool in 2013 and 2014.

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I graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2013 with a BA Honours Degree in History and Modern Language Studies, specializing in Spanish. I followed this up with an MA in Twentieth Century History, also at the University of Liverpool, which I completed in 2014. Deciding to gain some teaching experience, I then obtained a PGCE in Secondary History from the University of Chester.

Part of my BA dissertation focused on Margaret Thatcher’s role in the ending of the Cold War, leading to me becoming more interested in her premierships and so, for my MA dissertation, I investigated the motivations and reactions of the powers involved in the Falklands War; this involved me assessing both English and Spanish language sources.

Whilst carrying out research for my MA dissertation, I noticed a gap in the research, and not only had little analysis been conducted of Spanish language sources by historians, thus leading to imbalance, but there had been very little or no examination of the influence of the media on the decisions made. I also noticed how the differing cultural backdrops influenced the parties involved, and often at times led to fatal misunderstandings.


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Linguistic and cultural differences, as seen through examples of the front pages of two newspapers: The Sun (above), and the Venezuelan newspaper Tal Cual (left)

I am currently a Ph.D History candidate at the University of Manchester and my thesis title is: ‘Transnational and cultural comparisons of those involved in the Falklands War’. My thesis investigates the media reporting, impact and lasting influence of the Falklands/Malvinas conflict in 1982 between the UK and Argentina, and the influence of the differing national cultures.

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Studying Spanish at Liverpool enabled me to examine both English and Spanish language sources for my MA research and, most recently, it has provided me with the opportunity to offer an interdisciplinary approach for my Ph.D research, which involves analysing English and Spanish language print and televised media during the Falklands/Malvinas War. Studying Spanish also helped me to expand my knowledge of Hispanic culture and history, which is also integral to my thesis.

Giada Pierini recounts Liverpool experiences

In the first semester of the current academic year, MLC welcomed Giada Pierini, who worked as a Teaching Assistant in Italian. In this short blog, Giada recounts her experiences of the department and of Liverpool in general.

Ciao a tutti! I am Giada Perini and I am currently finishing my MA in International Communication and Cooperation at the University of Padua, in Italy.

During the first semester of this academic year, I had the opportunity to work as Italian Teaching Assistant at the University of Liverpool: being part of the Italian teaching team has been for sure one of the best experiences of my life so far. As a trainee, I had the chance to learn a lot about teaching, which I am now consider as future career. At the same time, I enjoyed the company of other language assistants, with whom I also went on a journey, engaging the European spirit of camaraderie. We worked together as a proper team and we involved students in all the different language cafés, which where the occasion for learning without really having the impression of doing it. Creating relationships, both with students and colleagues, was incredibly easy and it made me feel surrounded by humanity and kindness, which is what everything should be about – after this statement you can tell I have been studying international cooperation for several years now… and that is why I could not help but fall in love with Liverpool and its people.

Furthermore, I am currently carrying out a sociolinguistic research on Scouse, and I actually had the chance to meet local students and people working in the city, who were always kind enough to help me, proving the inner beauty of Liverpool. Nothing of this would have been possible without the constant support of the Italian teaching team, a small, but strong group of passionate people who believe in what they do and never miss the chance to improve themselves and the entire Department.

I arrived in the city with no idea about what I was about to do, I only knew I wanted to try something like teaching before graduating. I ended up coming back to Italy with a clear idea of the person I wanted to be and the things I wanted to do. Although I cried at the airport, as always when I leave England, I was happy and grateful for the opportunity I had and I knew it was just a “see you later”, well, a “see ya la’”.

Giada Perini (2)


Student profiles: ex ab initio German


Today’s post is the last in our series profiling MLC students who started learning German as complete beginners and who are now in their final year. Following Victoria, Jessica, Rebecca and Elpiniki, we meet Eloise Murphy, who is taking a BA in Modern European Languages. Once again, we learn of the enriching experience of learning German from scratch.

Eloise Murphy

I chose to study at the University of Liverpool as it was the only university that allowed me to study three languages at once, which I preferred as I studied French and Spanish at A Level and did not want to drop either of them. I decided to pick up German from scratch, as I thought it would be more challenging and I was correct. Although it was demanding and tough, being in a small class solely for beginners was really reassuring and, along with the excellent teaching and help from my tutors, I was confidently speaking, writing and listening to German in no time.

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Eloise (right) enjoying her year abroad

For me, one of the best aspects of doing a languages degree is the opportunity to go on a year abroad. I spent a semester studying at the University of Würzburg, which I found extremely useful and rewarding. I had never been to Germany before, so experiencing the country and culture for the first time by actually living there was incredible. Not only did I have the opportunity to improve my German skills, but being there as an Erasmus student enabled me to meet new friends from all over the world, from as far as Japan and the USA, many of whom I am still in touch with now. Thanks to the year abroad and the continuous support from the German department, I am finding studying German in final year much easier than I did in previous years, and I am proud to find myself at the same level as students who have been learning the language for much longer.

I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to learn German, as I believe that my chances of getting a job after university either at home or abroad have been increased, as German is said to be one of the languages that companies seek the most. After I graduate, I would definitely like to return to Germany to possibly live and work there, and in a few years’ time I would also like to complete an MA in languages.


Iberian and Latin American Studies receive Learning and Teaching Award


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Many congratulations to staff in Iberian and Latin American Studies, who as a teaching team received a Faculty Learning and Teaching Award this month. The award recognized IBLAS’s applied awareness of the diversity and plurality of the geo-political spaces that staff research, which manifests itself notably in the week-long series of events and activities that make up Iberian and Latin American Week. As reported on the MLC blog, IBLAW brings a taster of IBLAS’s shared knowledge and interest in the Hispanic and Lusophone world every year to students, through events that take place at the university and around the city, bringing students in contact with a range of practitioners, creative producers, and their texts, films, books, and music.

Iberian and Latin American Week enriches the curriculum and draws an audience from within the student body, across the University, and around the city. It raises the profile of IBLAS and enhances the student experience, as demonstrated in consistently high student feedback. Thanks to all guests and collaborators who contributed to Iberian and Latin American Week, and many congratulations to staff in IBLAS for this well-deserved award!


Ana Reimao (front row, first from left), Marina Rabadán (front row, second from left), and Niamh Thornton (front row, third from right) representing Iberian and Latin American Studies at the Learning and Teaching Awards

Student profiles: ex ab initio German



We continue today with the latest in our series of posts profiling MLC students who started learning a language as complete beginners and who are now in their final year. This time, we meet Elpiniki Pantanela-Konnell, who is taking a BA in German and Classics. In this short blog, Elpiniki tells us about the challenges and successes of learning German from scratch.

Elpiniki Pantanela-Konnell

Hi all! My name is Elpiniki. I am a final year student at Liverpool University studying German with Classics. My experience with German began 3 years ago, when I picked the language as an ab initio student from other languages that were on offer, such as Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Italian, and Chinese, for the simple reason that knowing German is a big plus for your personal development and future career.


Although German was hard for me at times, as any other foreign language would be, the experience was utterly rewarding. My tutors were always there for me to explain things I didn’t understand and would always make every seminar unique and interesting, ranging from oral classes to listening sessions. Although I didn’t go to Germany for my Year Abroad, I have already applied for a DAAD scholarship to go to Germany for the summer and do a summer language course there. I have also applied to do a Masters in TESOL at Liverpool University once I graduate this year, as this will help me to get a better insight into the teaching world.

Last but not least, for all those who want to pick German at university and have no previous experience, do not hesitate! The support from the tutors and the very well-organised seminars will help you reach the level of A-level students just like I and so many others did. You can do it! Good luck!


Guest speaker Leda Lozier gives talk on gender violence in Central America


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On Wednesday 3 May, the department of Modern Languages and Cultures welcomed  guest speaker Leda Lozier from the University of Georgia to deliver a presentation  entitled “Mapping Narratives of Exclusion and Gender Violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (1980 to 2016)”.


To open the presentation, the speaker reflected on her adolescence growing up as a young Honduran woman in the 1980s and 1990s, and how she had believed her country to be peaceful, despite its proximity to its neighbouring countries Guatemala and El Salvador.  She referred to the sense of ‘distance’ from violence that Hondurans spoke of at this time, as a misguided discourse which failed to encapsulate the nature of gender-based oppression across the region.

Referring to Guatemalan artist Regina José Galindo, best known for cutting herself and inscribing the word ‘Perra’ (meaning ‘bitch’ or ‘whore’) on her body in order to protest against the wave of sexualised and violent crimes against women in Central America, Leda spoke of being inspired by this visceral performance art to explore the Northern Triangle as cultural and political space which produces and perpetuates violence against women. She then went on to explore the literary and artistic representations of Central American women in the work of Honduran novelist and poet, Maria Eugenia Ramos and her short story, ‘Sunday Night.’

A central issue raised throughout the presentation was the role of local level narratives in legitimizing violence towards certain female groups (such as gang member affiliates, or guerrilla fighters) and how they obscure the reality of all women’s susceptibility to violence within the socio-cultural setting of Central America. Throughout the analysis of gendered representations of women through art and literature, however, the audience was given insight into how the prevalence of extreme gender-based violence towards women in the region cannot be interpreted solely as a consequence of militarized violence.  Rather, violent and sexualised crimes against women stem from structural and masculinist processes, which engender the female body as always potentially vulnerable to violence.  The seminar thus shed light on how gender-based violence is rooted in a historical legacy of structural and gendered inequality in the region, and happens to women ‘because they are women.’

Diana Cullell reports on Eramus+ visit to China



XJTLU[2]Diana Cullell, Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies, has just spent a week at Xi’an Jiatong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) as part of the Erasmus+ Mobility Scheme. During her time in Suzhou, Diana met with colleagues working in the Language Centre and in Internationalization, and she worked very closely with the team teaching Spanish language over there. Diana also taught on different modules offered by the Language Centre –which included sessions on Catalan culture; lectures focused on Federico García Lorca’s poetry; and Spanish Language classes for beginners and advanced students. Furthermore, she led a Professional Development session for all the staff of the Language Centre, focusing on enhancing language learning through cultural activities. This was a fantastic opportunity to share excellent teaching practice and teaching methods in modern languages, to discuss language teaching challenges in different contexts, to strengthen links between teaching staff in XJTLU and Liverpool, and to continue the productive relationship between the two institutions with many collaborative projects already in sight.


During her time in China, Diana also met many students from XJTLU who will be moving to the UK very soon to finish their studies at the University of Liverpool, and she is looking forward to seeing them in class again!

This was such a fantastic opportunity! The Erasmus+ Mobility Scheme allowed me to share teaching practices and different teaching methods with a team of exceptional language teachers in China. We have great collaborative projects for the near future, which will bring our student communities closer and enhance teaching and student experience in both institutions.


The Spanish team at XJTLU with Diana in front of the ‘Liverbird of Suzhou’