“To become a leader, you must first become a human being.” Confucius
I started this post just as we awaited the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize winner 2017. Nobel Peace Prize winners are leaders who, through their passion, determination and influence, fight for causes close to their own hearts - with much wider societal and global benefits. They are inspired and moved enough to insist and persist, leading a cause with fire and enthusiasm for the good of humanity. This year’s award was to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “ICAN” – what a hugely important cause, and a great campaign name which embodies a leadership attitude: “I can”.
As the late, great Nelson Mandela once said, “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you speak to a man in his own language, it goes to his heart”. And for me, at least, there are few better ways to express just how valuable learning another language can be - by opening hearts, we open minds and by opening minds, we open doors.
We have been using Word Aware as a structured whole-school approach to promote the vocabulary development of all our children. It is primarily focussed on whole-class learning and we have found it is of particular value for those who start at a disadvantage – including children with Developmental Language Disorder, Special Educational Needs and those who speak English as an additional language. It has had such a major impact on word recognition and understanding within English, we decided to extend it to French and Spanish as an approach for learning new, contextualised vocabulary.
Here’s the thing about teachers. I think we all secretly want to be Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie Dangerous Minds (or maybe not even in the movie!). Our job is the hardest, most grueling job out there. And yes, it is rewarding – but often our influence is noted, absorbed and internalized within a student but we don’t ever get the satisfaction of being told by a student what actually made a difference (although I’m pretty sure my jokes have).
Leading language company uTalk will be marking its 25th anniversary at this year’s Bett Show, by showcasing an exciting range of multi-platform products for schools and colleges. The MFL gurus will be meeting educators at Stand E280A during the event, which will be running at the London ExCeL from 25th-28th January. Bett 2017 will also see the launch of the this year’s Junior Language Challenge.
I know what you are thinking, yet another “expert” is taking to the internet to talk about the latest method of language learning. In all honesty, for me, the only way to truly become fluent in the language you are learning is to immerse yourself in it, go to the country, speak to and befriend native speakers, learn about what they watch and read. This will do you more good than 10 years of classes at home. My personal experience with this was heading off to Argentina for a year, where I lived with native speakers and worked in Spanish, I returned home fluent and I have been looking for a reason to go back out there ever since!
Teaching a foreign language in Primary school is often a bit of a misnomer. French and Spanish are the standard options and you as the teacher are typically in one of three situations:
You’ve just been gifted 120 iPads by a very kind benefactor. Which department would you give them to? For me, the answer is a real no brainer: the Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) department. Some would say I’m biased, and maybe that’s true, but I have put my impartial hat on to answer that question and although Humanities came a very close second I still maintain that MFL naturally lends itself to technology use.
As you would imagine, all English language lessons focus on the English language as the syllabus. Meanwhile, almost all English language lessons focus exclusively on the English language, without taking into account the learner’s first language, which we call ‘L1’. There is a pedagogical reason for this: the long-standing and ubiquitous idea that it is better to focus exclusively on L1 when learning a language.