Name: Dr Penny JohnsonPosition: Associate Professor (Teaching) and Co-Director of MA in Translation Studies at our School of Modern Languages and Cultures Winner of: Local to Global Award
Dr Penny Johnson won the Local to Global Award at the Durham Global Awards 2023 for her work on building partnerships with institutions in Galicia, Spain and supporting language learning for students in County Durham secondary schools.
Dr Johnson is an Associate Professor (Teaching) and Co-Director of MA in Translation Studies at our School of Modern Languages and Cultures. Her research and scholarship activities are based on Bourdieusian concepts of field and capital and postcolonial theory in translation.
Creating partnerships with universities and local authorities in Spain
Dr Johnson is a founder member of the group Mesa do Camino Inglés, which aims to strengthen links between County Durham and Galicia and repopularise the medieval pilgrimage route passing through Finchale Priory and Durham and leading to Santiago de Compostela. The organisation brings together Durham University with two universities in Galicia, Universidade da Coruña and Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, and local governments in both regions.
The Camino Inglés (the English Way) routes were traditionally taken by pilgrims from Northern Europe during the medieval period when travelling to Santiago de Compostela and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. Historically, they were important for enabling trade. In Spain, they start from the northern port cities of A Coruña and Ferrol. The walk from Finchale Abbey to Durham Cathedral, and beyond to Escomb Church, south of Bishop Auckland, is now officially recognised as part of the Camino Inglés. Dr Johnson organised the annual walk for the Friends of the Camino from Finchale to Durham Cathedral in March 2022.
The walk from Finchale Abbey to Durham Cathedral (pictured), then on to Escomb Church, south of Bishop Auckland, is now officially recognised as part of the Camino Inglés.
Supporting secondary school students in Durham
For many years, Dr Johnson has worked closely with Brian Stobie of Durham County Council to provide enrichment activities for secondary school students and support them in their language learning. This includes the annual Language Detectives event held at the University.
Language Detectives is an outreach programme designed to teach secondary school students about how languages are linked, the careers a modern languages degree can lead to and how translation works. Pupils receive taster sessions of Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Russian and Spanish, so they can discover what it would be like to study these languages at university. In a series of after-school sessions, they can put their language skills to the test in a code-breaking exercise. After becoming certified Language Detectives, the pupils promote language learning to Year 7 and Year 8 pupils, as well as in local primary schools.
Language Detectives is one of several annual outreach events organised by our School of Modern Languages and Cultures as part of its strategy to encourage language learning in local primary and secondary schools and to diversify its student recruitment.
Secondary school pupils from Durham celebrating after becoming certified Language Detectives.
Reaction to winning the award
“I feel extremely grateful to have been given the Local to Global Award. We live in a world that is more and more interconnected, where collaboration at a local, national and international level is essential,” said Dr Johnson.
“The projects I´m involved in, which foster respect and understanding of ourselves and other cultures, such as the Mesa do Camiño Inglés, the Language detectives and the Spanish Apprentice, would not be possible without the collaboration from other parties. So, my thank you goes to Brian Stobie and Michele Thorns at the International Office in Durham County Council, MLAC language ambassadors and their project leaders Mia Ainsley and Seb Hawker, my colleagues in MLAC involved in outreach activities and the pupils and teachers from the local schools. I also thank the people in Galicia in Northern Spain, from schools, universities and other institutions who, for several years now, have been engaged in strengthening the links between both cultures.”