We had the opportunity to sit down with Ilham Salimane, Head of the SOAS Language Centre, to talk about the varied benefits of taking language courses in the UK.
Ilham Salimane has been working at SOAS Language Centre since 2009. She first managed the Arabic Section in 2012, taking care of its short courses, diplomas, and teacher training facilities. She then went on to become the Head of the Language Centre in 2020.
SOAS Language Centre offers quality teaching in a wide range of languages to SOAS students and the general public through its extensive extramural programme. It also provides accredited language Diplomas and bespoke language training for diverse organisations. Its proven expertise lies in making the learning of languages practically useful, highly enjoyable and accessible to people from all walks of life.
What challenges did SOAS Language Centre face during 2020?
As with many things, face to face meetings were brought to an abrupt halt to help mitigate the spread of the virus. This brought significant challenges to the LC, both for its staff and its students. We all had to learn and establish new techniques needed for teaching and learning online.
Staff and students went through whole courses and terms without ever actually meeting each other. Friendships were made virtually, and languages were learnt with all sorts of things happening in the background. Despite the struggle, our staff and students demonstrated unprecedented resilience and determination to achieve their goals.
What is your vision for SOAS within the next few years?
Growth, in all aspects. We’d love to grow the number of languages we offer, we’d love to open doors to even more students, we’d love to grow the appreciation for languages all around the world.
What, in your opinion, makes SOAS unique?
SOAS Language Centre is unique in many respects, the variety of less widely taught languages we offer is not found anywhere else, our teachers are extremely passionate about their fields, and the style of teaching used creates a fun and interactive environment for students to flourish and learn. Personally, I love the care our students have for one another, and the care teachers pay to ensure each of their students are satisfied and progressing.
Why is the SOAS Language Centre the first choice for language learners?
The level of experience the LC holds in teaching languages is supreme. Language learners will find a plethora of resources at their disposal, from the extremely knowledgeable teachers, to the multi-floored library filled with books and archives. The learning that happens at the Language Centre environment is rich and holistic.
Which language recruits the most students?
At the moment our biggest section is the Arabic section, I reckon it’s due to how quickly the region is developing and growing, people are increasingly interested in pursuing careers and studies there, and also the recent political events of the area has also contributed to the growing interest in the each Arab country’s language, culture, and history.
Do you have students outside the UK?
We’ve always recruited international students from outside the UK, but now more than ever, with the ability of holding purely online courses, we’ve seen a massive increase in students living outside the UK. They are able to participate in and complete language courses at SOAS Language Centre despite the travel restrictions imposed due to the pandemic. As we gradually return to face-to-face classes, I envisage the number will return to it’s normal level, but we are looking at ways to continue making it possible for our international students to join classes from abroad.
How do you make sure your students are happy with your online experience?
Aside from traditional methods of feedback like emails and meetings, we ensure our teachers are listening to their students’ feelings during class time and ask them regularly about how they are finding their online learning journey. All feedback is highly valued and we work as quickly as possible to resolve any difficulties a student is experiencing relating to their learning. We also carry out termly surveys for students to fill out anonymously where they can express all the positives and negatives they experienced. Reviews with teachers involve discussing the points covered in these surveys to increase on what students enjoyed, and improve on anything else students have raised.
SOAS Language Centre, University of London, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX soas.ac.uk/languagecentre (020 7898 4888).