Press Release

GCHQ hosts language competition to inspire the next generation of linguists

Last Updated: 06 Apr 2014
West of England students gather at GCHQ Cheltenham to take part in a language competition designed to test their linguistic skills, and to promote a greater take-up of language learning in schools.


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Press Release - 02 April 2014

West of England students gathered at GCHQ in Cheltenham on Friday 28 March 2014, to take part in a language competition designed to test their linguistic skills and promote a greater take-up of language learning in schools.

Run and judged by GCHQ and the Association of Language Learning (ALL), the competition saw Year 9 (13-14 year olds) students from local schools in Bristol and across Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire immerse themselves in a foreign culture and language to try and win one of the prizes on offer.

Working in 10 small teams, the students, who had already progressed through a preliminary round at the University of Bristol, were asked to research a specific town or region in a country where the language they are studying is spoken and then present on it to the GCHQ and ALL judges in that language.  Entries included French, Spanish, German and even Mandarin, giving the judges a tough time to pick the best team. Despite keen competition, the judges felt that Sir Thomas Rich’s School in Gloucester, who presented on Majorca, were the winners on the day and were awarded a trophy and vouchers for their splendid efforts, with Stroud High School runners-up and Colston Girls’ School in Bristol taking third place. However, all participating students received a certificate of achievement and hopefully a boost of encouragement to continue their language studies to University level and beyond.

Faizaan Pervaiz, of Sir Thomas Rich School said "It was really, really interesting looking and trying all of the languages, this competition was great and has helped me learn so much about presenting.  It was such a memorable experience for all of us.  We have learnt so much about languages."

GCHQ and the ALL place a premium on foreign language skills and both organisations hope this event will inspire the students to continue in their studies by demonstrating that foreign languages are not only relevant…but fun.

Tom Hockaday, Secretary of the West of England Branch for ALL said  "We're delighted with both the number and standard of entries.  Knowing that teachers have found time to organise competitions within their schools and then an entry into the finals event at GCHQ, just goes to show the power of external opportunities such as this for Year 9 language learners."

The Head of Languages at GCHQ said "We have been very impressed by the foreign language ability demonstrated by the students during this competition.  Language skills are vital to GCHQ’s mission and we hope that some of the budding linguists we have met today will consider a career at GCHQ in the future."

As part of the event the students were treated to some taster sessions in less commonly taught languages by GCHQ staff, who demonstrated the importance of languages to their work.

Notes to editors:

GCHQ is one of the three UK Intelligence Agencies and works to protect the UK’s national security interests. It has been engaging with the local community, including raising the profile of language learning in schools, for many years.

To find out more about GCHQ, please visit:

To find out more about GCHQ’s recruitment opportunities, please visit:

About the Association of Language Learning

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Schools involved in the language competition

The following schools took part in the Year 9 inter-school language competition final:

  • Ansford Academy, Castle Cary, Somerset
  • Backwell School, Bristol
  • Bishop’s Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury, Wilts
  • Colston’s Girls School, Bristol
  • Gordano School, Portishead
  • Pate’s Grammar School, Cheltenham
  • St Mary’s School, Calne, Wilts
  • Sir Thomas Rich’s School, Gloucester
  • Stroud High School, Glos.
  • Winchcombe School, Glos.