In conversation with the founders of the Cambridge Language Collective

Meet the fourth year MML students at Fitz who have launched a society for enthusiasts of foreign languages and cultures

Fourth year MML students at Fitzwilliam College, Liv Bonsall and Hannah Sherry set up and launched the Cambridge Language Collective this July in order to provide a space for language and culture enthusiasts to share their passions and interests for foreign languages and cultures outside of their courses.

The Cambridge Language Collective website was set up following Liv’s Year Abroad project, when her supervisor suggested that it would be good idea to create a space for language students to share their experiences of their time abroad in a collective space. What started off as a small blog then grew and developed into a university wide collective for all students who have an interest in foreign cultures to express their views.

The Tab Cambridge was fortunate enough to have a conversation with the founders, Liv and Hannah, about their experiences establishing the collective, here is what they had to say.

‘We thought it would be great to have a space where anyone could contribute whatever they wanted to to do with languages and cultures’

Following on from a discussion with her supervisor, Liv started to write a blog about her experience researching for her Year Abroad project: “I thought it would just be a case of me quickly making a website and asking people to contribute, but then it quickly evolved into a whole society”.

With more and more students contributing to Liv’s website, she turned to housemate and fellow MMLer Hannah and they joined forces in order to create the Cambridge Language Collective.

Liv said: “We thought it would be great to have a space where anyone could contribute whatever they wanted to to do with languages and cultures”.

Hannah adds that the blog developed like “a snowball effect, it sort of just exploded, this interesting but small idea really became something massive.”

Liv Bonsall and Hannah Sherry (right) in Le Mans, France, on their year abroad before Covid-19 related disruption. (Image Credit: Liv Bonsall)

‘A space for language students and people interested in other cultures to talk about things they’re interested in outside of their curriculum’

Hannah says “before the Cambridge Language Collective, there wasn’t really a space where language students could come to talk about the things that interested them outside of the curriculum”, but now with the Collective’s regular news updates and blog posts on their website, students of all courses can join together and discuss their interests in a collaborative and friendly environment. Liv describes it as “a place to put your thoughts out there, something that we feel was lacking before in the MML faculty.”

The Collective have had many plans unfortunately disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, but they are looking forward to the coming terms, hoping that their many events can go forward as planned. Hannah said: “A lot of the events surround food, one of the parts of my year abroad that I loved was trying the regional and local food, so we plan on having cheese and wine nights for French, tapas nights for Spanish and Oktoberfest themed nights for German”.

The Collective also aims to host a number of movie nights, poetry reading nights and musical events alongside collaborations with individual language societies.

‘Had there been no lockdown, there would probably be no Cambridge Language Collective’

However, the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been all bad for the collective. Hannah jokes that “had there been no lockdown, there would probably be no Cambridge Language Collective”, adding “in a way the first lockdown helped us, using Zoom, it was way easier to coordinate a meeting of 25 people”. Liv adds that establishing the society was a nice distraction from the hectic news cycle and pressure of university deadlines.

‘We’re so lucky to have the year abroad, so make the most of it!’

As fourth years, Liv and Hannah both have some tips for students studying MML. Hannah’s advice is: “Just enjoy it! Try not to get bogged down in all the secondary reading and grammar learning because at the end of the day, we are learning languages to be able to communicate with others and to be in touch with other peoples cultures”.

Liv has some top tips for the year abroad, adding: “On your year abroad, just do what you love, don’t feel pressured to do a work placement…go and study in Cuba if that’s what you want to do!”

Both Liv and Hannah had parts of their year abroad disrupted this year due to the pandemic. Liv was studying in Cuba but was forced to fly home, likewise Hannah was studying and teaching in Valencia, Spain, but luckily she was able to carry on virtually from home. But they both admit, that without this disruption, they would not have founded the Collective.

‘We want input from everyone, not just MML students, anyone is more than welcome’

Liv and Hannah both stress that the Cambridge Language Collective is not just for MML students, it is a space open to everyone that wishes to contribute. For those looking to write articles on international news, there is a Cambridge Language Collective Commissions Facebook group, for anyone who is interested in following the Collective, there is the Cambridge Language Collective Facebook page, as well as pages on Instagram, Twitter, Spotify and LinkedIn. Their website can be found here, and any queries can be emailed to [email protected] .

The Collective have already published a large number of articles, ranging from reviews of Netflix’s Emily in Paris to news articles on current affairs in Europe. Liv and Hannah say that they are keen for the collective to continue to grow and they encourage anyone interested to get involved. 

Featured Image credit: Liv Bonsall and screenshot from The Cambridge Language Collective Website