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"RAE is like the mother of Spanish, your children may or may not listen to her, but she sets the rules and decides what is right and what is wrong"

Ms Bel Alonso is a professional with a great array of skills and experiences. After working as a language assistant in both St Edward’s School and in Abingdon, she moved to Rugby School as their teacher of Spanish and, currently, she is a teacher as well as the Head of Digital Learning in King’s High School in Warwick. She also used to contribute to the Bulletin of Advanced Spanish as an editor, interned in online platforms and belonged to a workgroup for the Real Academia Española on the evolution of the Spanish language in the 21st century. She joins us today to discuss the lessons she has learned in these endeavours, the use of technology in the MFL classroom and gamification.


Looking back, what would you say you learned from your experience with an online platform (Rookiebox)?

Rookiebox was a company that sought out and rewarded creativity and helped me a lot to be able to express ideas and create concepts for new cultural events. My job there was mainly translations, but I wasn't the literal translator that Google Translate might be, but something more similar to what you look for in a creative translator. I had to create the same sense and touch of humour in other languages, such as English and French. However, the most important lessons for me were not to do with translation, but with the ability to organise myself and prioritise tasks; to go to a meeting and be able to summarise progress and next steps and to be able to analyse my own work. Those are lessons that I've carried with me ever since and have helped me get to where I am.


You were part of CORPES XXI, how did you get there and how do you value your work?

The truth is that I was very lucky to be able to study at the University of Salamanca and to have professors who collaborated with the RAE on many projects. One day, talking to one of my professors, he told me that they needed someone to help in the Salamanca team and, although I was going abroad that year, it was a job that could be done remotely. It was a job where you had to read a lot and code what you were reading so that the online programme could recognise the text. For example, you had to write <p>and </p> at the beginning and end of each paragraph. We read everything from newspapers from all the Spanish-speaking countries to novels. One of the ones I read, and coded, is still one of my favourite books; I haven't laughed so much in years. Now in AI times, it's probably very easy to replace a coder and the stress of deliveries, but it was certainly a great opportunity for me.


CORPES XXI belongs to the Real Academia Española or RAE. How would you present this organisation to students of Spanish?

In an easy way, the RAE is like the mother of Spanish, your children may or may not listen to her, but she sets the rules and decides what is right and what is wrong. Her children may also agree with her or get angry, but in the end the mother does the best she can.


You have worked in both day and boarding schools, what would you say is the difference between them?

I think each school is unique beyond being a boarding school or not; it is the people in the school and, above all, the pupils who define what the school is like.


At your current school, one of your jobs is to be responsible for digital learning. What does this entail and how can it affect the learning process at your school?

It is a very exciting job because I am passionate about Artificial Intelligence and thanks to this job I can look for ways to use it both in the classroom and outside the classroom. I think there are many benefits for teachers, but it's even better for students. I wish I was a student again, because now I would really enjoy my learning and know how to use it to my full potential. In my opinion, teachers need to be instructed on the right pages for students to learn in class and at home.


Finally, what role should gamification play both in the modern language classroom and in the independent learning process?

Learning should also be something that excites students. I try to incorporate small games in class or competitions between students to motivate them. Phrase stealer, French spelling bee or quests are easy games that can be incorporated into any classroom.


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