Stepping into the light of modern languages

I have always felt guilty whilst visiting other countries that most of the natives can speak conversational English, when I can barely speak a word of their language. I believe this has allowed English speakers to become lazy and too comfortable in their own culture. We should explore different languages and cultures to fully engage and communicate with the world around them.

The introduction of a 1 plus 2 languages approach by the Scottish Government is a great way to create opportunities for children to communicate with the world around them, through exploring a new language.  The 1 plus 2 approach will allow children to learn a new language (L2) in primary one , as well as English (L1),  to carry forward in their school career. In primary five, the children will then learn a third language (L3) until the their third year in secondary school (Education Scotland, 2018). This will allow children to start fulfilling the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence (Education Scotland, 2017). Personally, I think the introduction of the 1 plus 2 will benefit children as they will be able unlock key language skills and have a greater understanding of the rules, not only in a foreign language but their mother tongue too. However, there are many problems with introducing modern languages into the curriculum as some teacher’s do not feel confident and comfortable teaching a language that they have little to no experience in.

This blog will explore my thoughts, feelings and strategies I have learned from each modern language input. I chose French as my additional language as I have basic knowledge and understanding, as I studied it all the way until National 5 and chose it as my elective in first year.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first input of French this week. At first I was slightly apprehensive about sharing my basic French knowledge as I am not very confident within the language. However, I quickly found myself easing into the games and activities such as having hand actions for different words/phrases. These activities were fun, engaging and most importantly inclusive. I particularly enjoyed speaking French as a table group as nobody was singled out. Talking in group situations are more of a confidence booster than speaking as an individual in front of the class. It will allow greater discussion and provides the opportunity to learn from others. Furthermore, it will allow the teacher to walk around the groups and hear most of their pupils speaking, allowing them to help with pronunciation and further creating a safe, supportive classroom environment. I believe this is the best way to build up someone’s confidence in a new language as we are all afraid of making mistakes. However, isn’t making mistakes an important part to becoming a better learner?

I believe that the teacher should create a caring and supportive environment in the classroom when teaching modern languages. I always remember being too scared to speak up in the class, even when I knew I was right, because of the fear of getting it wrong in front of the teacher and my fellow pupils. Too afraid of getting into to trouble for not remembering or trying hard enough. Too scared of the humiliation. For the longest time ever, I have always felt like that in the French classroom. However, I refuse to let another child feel the way I felt.  We should be encouraging the mistakes and supporting the child throughout their journey to getting it right. When we first started to learn how to speak our mother tongue, we were all constantly making mistakes. You are not born with a full set vocabulary and perfect pronunciation. It comes with; time and practice, being fully submersed in the language by interacting with many people, listening to the sound of language, imitating sounds and mouth shapes.  Just to name a few. Making mistakes is crucial to every person so they fully understand and develop language. So why is it that some are made to feel in the French classroom that mistakes are not good because it shows you have not studied. Or that you should feel embarrassed. Sometimes it feels like you are expected to know most of the language in a short space of time. Mistakes help you have better pronunciation, understanding and allow you to become that little bit more fluent. Whether it may be talking, listening writing or reading. Mistakes should be celebrated and not shunned.

The next few inputs have allowed me to become more confident and creative within the subject. I have enjoyed completing and sharing TDT ideas with the rest of the group. I find it interesting how everyone has incorporated the different elements of language into different activities and lesson plans. It is so refreshing to see that French does not have to be boring. I always just remember French being so structured. Read this. Speak that. Now listen. I believe if you want someone to be fully engaged with the language it should not feel like a checklist lesson, it should be fluent. There should be lots of discussion, even if you may spend a big part of your lesson just going over a small detail but are exploring it in a fun and engaging way, it is much better than trying to cram a whole topic in one go! It is important for the class to have understanding and enjoying exploring the new language. Otherwise, they will not want to participate and start to develop a stigma towards modern languages as being boring.

Resources are a key aspect of learning a new language. It is important to use fun and creative activities. Using captivating images and carousel activities around the classroom will promote motivation and engagement. I believe learning a new language should be as interactive as possible. Being able to see the things they are learning in real life will allow connections to be made and highlights the importance of learning a modern language. However, teachers should be encouraged to use modern languages in other aspects of the curriculum and in the classroom in general. For example, in Maths, you can count in French instead of English or when asking the children to listen and repeat instructions they could say “écoute et répète”. By modelling French in the classroom it shows children that it is relevant to everyday life and will further allow them to become fluent and appreciate the language, as they can carry out tasks in a different language.

Teacher’s just need to be more confident in promoting modern languages in the classroom. If they are enthusiastic and show excitement for the new language, the children in the class will engage, become interested and will want to learn the new language. I feel like having some competency in additional language makes you feel like you can connect with the world around you. Also, I always feel like it is cool to show off to someone that you are slightly bilingual,  and to be honest who doesn’t like to show off a bit of knowledge every now and then. I personally feel that we should be using modern languages more than ever, as the world is forever developing and enhancing.

It’s time to shake off the fear and step into the light! I’m in, are you?

 

Education Scotland (2018) A 1+ 2 approach to modern languages. Available at:  https://education.gov.scot/improvement/learning-resources/A%201%20plus%202%20approach%20to%20modern%20languages (Accessed: 5th of October 2018)

Education Scotland (2017) What is Curriculum for Excellence? Available at: https://education.gov.scot/scottish-education-system/policy-for-scottish-education/policy-drivers/cfe-(building-from-the-statement-appendix-incl-btc1-5)/What%20is%20Curriculum%20for%20Excellence (Accessed: 5th of October 2018)