Name: Mary Fender (pictured, third from left) Position: Learning & Teaching Manager in the Centre for Foreign Language Study, within the School of Modern Languages and Cultures Winner of: Lifetime Achievement AwardMary Fender won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Durham Global Awards 2023 for over 20 years of service to language and inter-cultural education at the University via the Languages for All programme, which she manages and leads.
Mary started her career as a primary school teacher in France and is also qualified as a librarian and documentalist. After bringing up her children, she did an MA in Linguistics at Durham University, specialising in syntax, then taught French for European Studies and as an elective module. She began working on the Languages for All programme in 2003.
Inspiring almost 20,000 learners
Our Languages for All programme offers short evening courses to students, staff and the wider community. Learners can complete courses online or in-person in languages including Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Persian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.
For 14 years, Mary ran the programme alone, before being provided with administrative support in 2017. Since she started working on Languages for All, she has seen almost 20,000 learners register for the programme and has worked with about 200 teachers of a wide range of languages and nationalities.
A major impact on the life of many language learners
Mary was nominated for the award by Mark Critchley, Durham University’s Director of the Centre for Foreign Language Study, who described her leadership, dedication and commitment to the programme as “second to none.”
“Mary's enthusiastic demeanour, dedication to excellent customer service, and promotion of multilingualism and inter-cultural awareness across the University and the city of Durham have had a major impact on the life of many of our language learners,” he said.
“Many learners have signed up for language courses in successive years, finding the organisation of the programmes to be excellent, allowing learners to achieve strong levels of proficiency despite the social nature of evening course learning. “
The Languages for All programme has so far inspired over 20,000 people to begin learning or develop foreign language skills.
Reaction to winning the award
“While the award was intended as an individual award and gratefully received, I am delighted that it raises the profile of the role of the CFLS and, in particular, the Languages for All programme,” said Mary.
“As the nomination stated, the latter has enabled over 20 000 people, from students to members of the community, to learn or perfect a language. This achievement however must recognise the contribution of nearly 200 teachers over 20 years; while I coordinate their activities, they are the ones who have delivered on the ground. I am proud to have had the chance of enabling them to do so and enjoy the opportunity to work with such a wide range of cultures.”