Teaching modern languages in primary school is a subject that I am passionate about as I have had my own positive learning experiences that I am inspired to emulate.
I have studied French academically for 9 years now, and my love for the language began when I was first introduced to it in Primary 6. I think I am living evidence that if children experience something from a young age and develop an interest, with consistency this passion can only grow.
In our first workshop with Carrie, I was intrigued to learn a variety of methods for teaching modern languages. I think an important point raised was that it must be as simplified as possible for pupils to be engaged and not give up hope in picking up new language skills – two important tactics to consider using are repetition and the use of actions to aid understanding.
One of the main reasons that pupils gradually lose the motivation to learn a second or third language is the fear of being wrong – I realise this from my own experience as a child, and also witnessing modern languages taught in schools. Children are afraid that they will sound silly or they have an intrinsic feeling that they cannot grasp a language that is foreign to them, so often will not even attempt to improve their understanding. An important element that Carrie touched on was to ensure vocabulary is practiced in larger groups so no pupil feels singled out and feeling as if their struggle should be kept to themselves. Confidence will be built when pupils feel they are in a safe, non-judgemental environment (Kirsch, 2008). Also, an alternative to assessing progress in modern languages could be to allow pupils the time to reflect on their work and therefore self-correct any mistakes they pick up on (Kirsch, 2008). This will also improve children’s confidence as they will not feel demotivated by someone else pointing out their mistakes.
Talking and writing in a modern language are more challenging than reading and listening as they require the production of new content instead of relying on recognition skills When trying to interpret oral in particular, clarity of instruction is important so that children know what they are being asked to do. A good example of a talking activity that could enhance learning is a game of Chinese Whispers for example, where pupils are encouraged to repeat the correct vocabulary so that it sticks in their memory.
Kirsch, C. (2008). Teaching foreign languages in the primary school. Continuum International Publishing Group, p.108.
Kirsch, C. (2008). Teaching foreign languages in the primary school. Continuum International Publishing Group, p114.