Sunday, 27 June 2010

MFL Flashmeeting Tuesday 29 June 8.30-10.30pm

The MFL Flashmeeting is back! If like me you want to find out what happened at the Linguascope Conference in Brighton as you were unable to attend, or about any other recent languages developments, all you need to do is to sign up on the wiki here

Already taking part are:

1. Joe Dale, Independent ICT/MFL Consultant Integrating ICT into the MFL Classroom

2. Dominic McGladdery , 2nd in MFL, English Martyrs School, Hartlepool.

3. José Picardo Head of MFL at Nottingham High School (@josepicardo ) (be nice to me, it's my birthday!)

4. Alejandra Puerto , NQT.

5. Rosemary Hicks , Head of MFL Northfield School (MHA) Billingham.

6. James Padvis, Foxford School, Coventry

7. Valerie McIntyre, Wells Blue School,

8. Alice Ayel, Thuringia International School, Weimar, Germany

9. Helena Butterfield , International Co-ordinator, Ian Ramsey C of E School, Stockton (@langwitch - might be late :os)

10. Isabelle Jones, Head of Languages, The Radclyffe School, Oldham, @icpjones My Languages:

Come on and join us to discuss and find out about the following:


1. Post election Languages update

2. How are the MYLO trials going?

3. Reflections on The Linguascope Conference

4. Have you heard about the ICT Links into Languages Conference?

5. Hard to Teach Teachers TV Programme - Secondary Modern Foreign Languages Using ICT

6. MFL Show and Tell developments - Devon, Nottingham, London and beyond!

7. European Day of Languages - How's your planning going?

8. A.O.B


To add your name to the wiki, click the EDIT link and then the Text Editor button. Copy and paste one of the entries. Change the wording as necessary and add your Twitter username if you like. Press Save. There is a limit of 25 in the meeting and so I suggest you do this sooner than later otherwise you may not be able to get in.

Click on the Flashmeeting link and Go to the meeting . You will then be asked to give permission for your microphone or webcam to be used. Click Allow and then select Sign in as Guest. Click Enter**

See you there!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The ALL London June Event 2010: Saturday 19th June, 9.30-1.30, University of Westminster

ALL, the Association for Language Learning will be holding this language event sponsored by Links into Languages at the University of Westminster. I am really looking forward to attending to get my last dose of inspiration and networking before the start of the Summer Holiday. A lot of Languages departments have been going through hard times, so events such as these are great to show all isolated teachers that networking can make a huge difference to your professional well-being and creativity in the classroom.

I am particularly looking forward to attending Rachel Hawkes and Michael Wardle’s sessions, which promise to be as inspirational as ever. For more information on how to register for the event please see the all-london page. If you are not yet a member do consider joining us and have a look at ALL brand-new website here.

See you there!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Ipod touch/ iphone Applications for The Language Teacher (Part 3)

In this last post, I have tracked down applications offering cultural references and information in English and in the Target Language. Some of these application are also a great source of authentic materials to be exported in the form of screenshots into your own language resources.

Cultural references

EU fact book and quizzes (free): Great to devise quizzes for any European day. Students could also be asked to download it onto their ipods and devise quizzes in groups.

World Countries (free): extract from the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia: search facility, flags, country, continent and world maps (can be emailed), quizzes, flashcards with name of countries on. Full version costs £0.59 and includes more games, flashcards, travel guides and pictures.

WorldCustoms (free): covers greetings, personal space & touching, eye contact, views of time, gender issues and gestures. Could be used when teaching countries and the imperative (for gestures). A phrase book is also available (16 languages for £1.79)

Wikipedia (free): set language can be changed to search for articles in a foreign language

Communes (French) (Free) Tap in the name of the town and find out its basic statistics, name, address and contact phone and fax for the Mayor and Town Hall, name of nearby towns with distances and link with googlemap. Search for a place you have a link with or town visited on a trip for further information.

Perpignan (free) very interesting description with pictures of places of interest, exhibitions, shows (In French)

Marseillaise (free): audio, video, text and history surrounding the French national anthem (in French)

Quite a few French museums have their own free applications. They usually consist of a gallery of high quality pictures with added written and audio commentary:

Musée du Louvre

Musee Jacquemart-Andre-la collection Brukenthal

Grand Palais

Musee Cluny

Musee Marc Chagall de Nice

Wim Delvoye au Musee Rodin

Musee National Fernand Leger de Biot

Multimedia travel guides are also worth a look, although very few are actually free. The "Paris Multimedia Travel Guide in French" (Navigaia) offers quite lot of functionality for a free application and could be used to do some resarch on Paris in the target-language.

Authentic resources:

Icam (Spain)-free: Links to live webcams in a selection of cities like Barcelona, Madrid or Seville

La Redoute-free: good resource for clothes and prices in Euro (through snapshots)

SNCF (free): to get authentic resources on train transport (free) lots of recipes in French with link to the website for more information

Tele-Loisirs (free): Could be used with screenshots to discuss TV programmes or films

7 jours sur la planete :TV5 Monde (free) videos and comprehension exercises

Press/news video:

National French Papers : Le, Le

Magazines :, Le, Elle: good to discuss fashion trends and get really up-to-date information/pictures

La (local paper for the South West of France)

France 24 (news videos )

National Spanish Papers (also covers news from other Spanish-speaking countries)

El LaVanguardia El Pais

Noticias EFE (Spanish national press agency)

20 (national and international news)

Que .es (free) full news coverage with sport and stock exchange news, weather, traffic and stars (celebrity gossip magazine)


MemoBac Francais (free) some interesting reading in French about French literature

Code de la Route deluxe (lite) (free): Highway Code theory test in French including quizzes and a couple of short videos (the ultimate CLIL resource?)

Radio :

LCI radio (French)

Radio France (French)

Europe1 (French)

RNE radio (Spanish)

Cadena Ser (Spanish)

Onda Cero (Spanish)

Euro Radio (£0.59) Select stations by countries and post your favourite stations to Twitter, Facebook or MySpace.

E-books :

A lot of them are free and can be downloaded through free Applications like Wattpad, stanza or classics2go (also available in French and Spanish)

Le Petit Prince (£0.59) a French classic to peruse on the go

Fables (La Fontaine) is free on the Classique application

Free Audio Books are also available through the free audio books applications (available in foreign languages too)

What is next?

I think the first thing is to make colleagues aware of the wealth of resources available, second students, who could be enrolled to research language applications for alternative smartphones like Blackberries, for instance. Last but not least, parents need to be made aware too so that phones and ipods can fully support independent language learning from home.

Thank you for adding to my list if I have forgotten any applications you use regularly for language learning and teaching...

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Ipod touch/ iphone Applications for The Language Teacher (Part 2)

A lot of these applications are more language-specific. As my main foreign languages are French and Spanish that is obviously my focus, but a lot of the reference materials and tools are available in a wide range of languages.

Language learning tools

Most of them are word-based only or of the phrase-book sort, so look out for grammar or exercises highlighting language structure as a real bonus.

Free Essentials (free)-full version is £4.99: Listen to vocabulary from different categories, use flashcards and spaced repetition, quizzes including an audio quiz and a basic translation feature.

24/7 Tutor lite (free)-£4.99 for more advanced versions like Spanish or French 101, 102, 103... German, Italian and Italian also available in the lite version: Work from different categories and practise with multiple choice, puzzles, writing-in exercises and flashcards. There are 2 categories concentrating on basic phrases and questions. All exercises are supported by audio files.

Odyssey Translator ( free) Phrase book with some emphasis on structure and supported by audio sound files.

World Nomad (free) is available for languages like French, Spanish and Chinese. The applications consist of an audio phrase book with a podcast. The aim is for the language to be used while travelling so there is not much explanation given about how the language works.

Mandarin Fast Track Lite (free): nice background information about the language, with audio, Chinese characters, pinyin, word practice including basic recording and playback facilities and quizzes. Full version is £5.49

Chinese for Munchkins (free): animals, numbers and memory games (full version £1.19)

Basic French for Dummies (£0.59): word/ phrases/dictionary/ flashcards/basics/common mistakes/ share what you are doing via Facebook or email and encourage your friend to answer back in French

WordPower Lite (free): word of the day in Spanish uploaded daily: Listen, read, record and playback for practice. (full version with 2000+ words costs £5.99) Available in other languages like French, Italian and Chinese.

Spanish WordTrainer free (full version is £1.19): Listen, repeat, test yourself, compete against yourself and others, save specific words in favourites for future use or practice, all supported with audio files.

Interpret and itranslate are both free multilingual translation tools, text-to-speech options can be bought as an extra for just over £1.

Memorize Words for Spanish Lite (free): flashcards for English and Spanish (French version also available), sound and spaced repetition, glossary and games to help memorize new words (full version costs £3.99 but if it works for your students, you could do your own spaced repetition podcasts using free recording software like Audacity)

Parlez Chinois (free)-a n excellent Application for French speakers wanting to learn Chinese with videos, listening exercises and lots of audio support

My Chinese library (free): phrase book with sound files and the facility to add phrases and compile your own phrase book. There is also a useful pronunciation guide about how to read pinyin.

Ilearn Chinese characters Lite (free) is a very interesting application introducing Chinese characters and their origin as well as the correct way to write them. It even lets you practise on the iphone side by side with a model. (a full version is not yet available)

Chinese word of the Day (free): a nice way to learn something every day with native speaker audio, pinyin and translation in English. Available as a free application for many other languages including Arabic, Tagalog, Korean, Latin, Polish, Japanese, Greek, Portuguese...

Language references

WordReference (free) French-English, Spanish-English, Italian-English dictionaries with verb tables and sound files

Les nombres (free) Writing numbers in French: just type in the number to check the spelling

Le Bescherelle (£0.59): a classic to find out about French verb in all tenses and moods

Le Petit Robert (Dixel): Monolingual French dictionary, a bargain at £5.49 as it includes common and proper nouns as well as some word games. Le Dictionnaire Larousse is another good alternative at £3.49 even if it does not include proper nouns.

Isinonimos (free) Spanish thesaurus

El conjugador (£0.59): very user-friendly application to check conjugated verbs in Spanish

SpanishDict (free) dictionary word games, phrase book, word of the day

WordWeb English dictionary and thesaurus (free) is good but as there is no audio attached to it, the WordWeb Audio English dictionary is a better alternative with British English accent. (free): dictionary, thesaurus, search, word of the day (with sound)

More to come still...

Saturday, 5 June 2010

ipod Touch/ iphone Applications for The Language Teacher (Part 1)

I acquired an iphone just about 2 months ago and since then, I have been on a journey of discovery to see what really can be used to support language learners and teachers.

I have been focusing on free and inexpensive applications (59p, £1-odd), with only one language-related application just breaking the £5 barrier. Some applications can be more expensive up to about £15, which is still good value for reference material like the extensive version of bilingual dictionaries, for instance. However, paying more is not a guarantee that the application will be more useful or user-friendly. Likewise, some applications will require live internet links so consideration needs to be given about when they are most likely to be used and where: at home or at work or on the go. Indeed, some free or paying applications requiring no live connections and may be more suitable for use on the go or abroad.

Applications are released, featured and re-featured on a regular basic but their price can also vary depending if they have just been released. A number of free applications are also “lite” with the option to buy a full version once the lite version has been tested. The functionality of free lite applications varies widly and while some are not worth keeping without upgrading, some definitely are.

Some of the applications I will mention would be useful to most people, even if you don’t happen to be a language teacher. They just make your life tidier and more organised. Other applications have a specific focus on teaching, learning in general and language learning in particular.

You have not got an iphone or an ipod touch?? A lot of these applications will have versions available for other types of smartphone, only now, this may give you an idea of what could be out there!!


Skype (free): I hear Skype is planning to charge for skype-to-skype calls using the 3G network even if called supported by wifi will still be free. I have found Skype a brilliant way to use text with anybody abroad as well as using good quality voice calls for free, of course.

Tweeetdeck (free): A classic Twitter client although there are many many more available including Twitter’s own newly released iphone client and Seesmic.

Edutecher (free): Great application to find subject-related sites and ed-tech tools. A selection of ed-tech videos is also available as well as a copy of their Twitter feed and a search function.

Imindmap (free): simple mindmaps that can be exported and emailed

SimpleMindmaps (free): mindmaps can be saved to desktop, exported or saved to camera roll.

Diigo (free): Great to bookmark new sites from the safari browser although the bookmarklet does not allow for saving to groups (free): useful to share documents between various locations. I have a box on my blog and I can add to it via my phone.

Dropbox (free): very handy to transfer back-up copies of documents to your phone. Just drop a copy in dropbox folder and a copy will appear on your phone

Linkedin (free): more serious professional networking tool, it also has a wide range of groups for linguists and teachers that are worth keeping an eye on

Evernote(free): good to make notes and add audio or pictures to them. Notes can also be emailed too.

TED (free): really interesting speakers featuring in podcasts and videos

Teaching UK(free)-News, ideas and twitter feed

Tumblr(free): for quick logging of text, photo, quotes, link, chat, audio, video-great to keep it all in one place and could be used to collect material to be used later for more thought-through blog posts.

SaveMyDoc lite (free), just put in the url to download the document onto your phone

Errands (free): to do list with scheduling and mailing facility

Schoolbook (free): great to get to learn your new timetable, particularly if it is a two-weekly one.


Ipadio (free): broadcast, record, play back and share high quality audio up to 60 minutes in length. Recorded calls can be shared on Twitter, Facebook, Wordpress, Posterous, Blogger and more...

VR+lite (free): simple recorder for messages to be shared by email or social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or Blogger. Recordings can be made private or public. A short audio watermark is attached to recording on the lite version (full version costs £1.19)To be able to edit and receive free storage you need to sign up for VR+Online (free)

I SaidWhat?! (£0.59): simple recorder allowing to do some sound editing directly from your iphone: record, import sound file, cut, arrange snippets, duplicate, share via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Irevise lite (free): revision timetable, notebooks to write summary, prompt cards for key words, audio recording with gaps for answers.

Photo/ picture resources

Flickr (free): A great way to back up the pictures on your phone, pictures from Flickr’s favourites can also be saved onto your phone quite easily.

Flickr (free): A great way to back up the pictures on your phone, pictures from Flickr’s favourites can also be saved onto your phone quite easily. (free) simple tool to edit photos directly on your phone: crop, straighten, flip, rotate, exposure, contrast, colours, black and white, sketch, effects, borders, pictures can be saved, uploaded and posted to Facebook and TwitPic.

Art (£0.59 for full version-lite version available): Excellent source of Art and information about international artists-great stimuli to discuss colours, shapes and produce extended description or even stories in the foreign language! Pictures can be saved onto your camera roll or emailed and saved onto a laptop.

99 Happy Paintings (free): can be viewed, exported, used as wallpaper and emailed for copying and importing into teaching resources.

Thanks for adding a comment if you know of more applications that would be of use to language teachers...
More to come...

Friday, 4 June 2010

MYLO in the Classroom: Review of Our Trial

As one of the schools lucky enough to have been offered to pilot MYLO (my languages online), I must say we have been very impressed so far.

MYLO was used in our dedicated languages/ICT suite by 4 different members of staff and a range of classes including Y7, 8 and 9 in French and Spanish.

Logging in

This turned out to be the most unexpected hurdle for us, with the word “trial” being turned into “trail” on a regular basis and students getting frustrated as they were refused access. The case-sensitive password also challenged some of our students, although all students were relieved when told that they would not have to log in once MYLO is out the pilot phase.

School and learner accounts

Our school does not set up school student emails, so we had to trust students to put in a personal email to set up their learner account. The problem is that students had then to be trusted again to remember to verify the address from home-far too convoluted for too many students, although many got really excited at the prospect of appearing on the Leader Board. This also meant that the class teacher had very limited ways to record the work done during the session.


Y7 students were introduced to the basics tasks and enjoyed the element of choice given to them. They generally found the activities very engaging, particularly the listening activities, which I found positive as students often dislike whole-class listening activities. As the listening tasks were non-threatening, actually supported reading in the foreign languages and completed at their own pace, students could see how listening was a help rather than something that felt like a difficult test. Some Y7 also asked if they could try the extended tasks, the “challenges” or even have a go at another language. A lot of the Y7-Y9 students who tried the basics in a different language often chose Chinese and really enjoyed the experience.

Y8-Y9 Challenges

Students really enjoyed the wide range of activities designed to prepare them for the challenge However, a lot of them were put off by the simplicity of the tools provided by MYLO to produce the final outcome: football kit design, bilingual menu or character for a video game. Maybe links to free web 2.0 tools could help keep the wow factor until the end of the challenge or the tools left entirely up to the teacher, with the facility for the teacher to upload a selection of student work back onto MYLO. I suspect the reaction of the students will depend on their exposure to different ICT tools in different subjects as well as the quality of the school ICT facilities, filtering policies and staff confidence in making best use of ICT.

Layout of the site

Although students learned to get around the website very quickly, their attention had to be drawn to specific features at the bottom of the page like the phrase book, dictionary, videos and cultural references. They also often failed to spot the tools to complete the challenge as they needed to scroll to the right to locate them. Maybe an introductory video tour of the website could help with this.

The Future

There is a real need for a site like MYLO to develop students’ linguistic independence, awareness and to give languages a higher profile nationally. As the DCSF has now changed to the Department for Education, my hope is that it will still be seen as a high priority on the educational agenda...

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Raising Languages Uptake at KS4: Sharing Good Practice

One of the aims of our local Strategic Learning Network for Languages has been to look at different ways to raise language uptake at KS4 (post 14). Although it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes students opt, there are a variety of factors to consider, including friendship groups and the nature of the option system offered by each school to different types of students.

(Thank you to Demi Wild from South Chadderton High School, Oldham, for putting together a case study and for discussing a lot of these ideas with the other schools in our SLN. We had a lot of these ideas in common but as always, it was interesting to hear how each of us managed them in practice)

Quality of the Learning Experience

• Lessons are consistently good or better.
• Integrate PLTS (Personal Learning and Thinking Skills) into lessons to develop long-term language-learning skills.
• Develop group or pair work to make learning more student-centred.
• Encourage students to be more independent learners: let them find out rules for different tenses and find new language rather than presenting it to them.
• Ask students to find out what they enjoy about their language lessons/ not enjoy
• Use New Technologies in lessons, partly as they are motivational in their own right but they also allow students to be creative. Use recording software like audacity, Voki, Photostory, video conference with another school, book the local CLC and take them for an afternoon.
• Ensure that all students are being stretched especially in Year 8 and 9, when motivation traditionally starts to go down.
• Use authentic materials like YouTube, or adverts from magazines.
• Seriously consider using engaging contents from other subjects and teaching it through the medium of the foreign language (CLIL)

Use of Praise and Rewards

• Postcards home for good work.
• Celebration dinners for ‘always children’ though who always do their best, put on buffet / party food and write invitation in target language every half term.
• Put up students names on a display and write a little comment about what they have done well.
• Use points for success in individual classroom activities and give prizes at the end of term.
• Send good letters home and ensure that the whole-school reward system is used to acknowledge good work and effort in lessons (including oral contribution in class)
• Nominate a “star of the lesson” at the end of each lesson and keep tally of how many times students have been nominated.
• Make positive phone calls home.

Show students the importance of languages

• Make sure schemes of work take time to explore why learning a language is important.
• Students look at the culture of other countries where the Target Language is spoken. Students choose, research and present an aspect of the culture of the country like food, sport, a city or school life.
• Celebrate the European Day of Languages: take an assembly, give “freebies” to other Faculties and share examples or short activities for all to include in their lessons.
• Offer enrichment activities like Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese (this can be linked with martial art, food or Art), French film, European Food tasting, video conferencing and pod casting. Ideally this could be part of a Language Festival with some feeder primary schools taking part in shared activities.
• Get the school canteen involved in offering International food
• Invite local university students or past students to come into school and talk to year 9 about languages at university and in the real world before their options.

Raise the Profile of Languages

• Make the school reception look welcoming to the international guest: include flags, ‘welcome’ signs printed in different languages and displays about different countries and their cultures.
• Ensure language areas have vibrant displays
• Run trips, these do not have to be abroad. Take students to local Christmas Markets, Café Rouge or La Tasca for a meal, to local Universities for language taster days and local sixth form college language department.
• When trips abroad are organised, pre-trip organisation is essential to ensure that all opportunities for linguistic development are fully used. (support booklets, structured activities, quizzes, map reading, personal diaries, scrapbooks...)
• Make a film: Get involved with Creative Partnerships, local CLC film competitions and the LAFTAs .
• Let Year 9 work in groups to plan a 20 /30 minute lesson to a year group in primary school then let them go and teach it. They don’t have to go with you, a learning mentor or support person could take them.
• Let students sell teachers European food in the staff room once every half term or to other students in the school. Teachers need to use French to buy stuff from the students.
• Feed students at the end of terms, do European food in the lessons.
• Invite in primary school children for a morning and let a class organise, plan and help with the activities.
• Promote Cultural Diversity through cross-curricular events and enrichment activities like Islamic art, African Drumming or Chinese culture activities (calligraphy, music, martial arts, food...)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Languages are NOT a Political Football

Before the General Elections in May, I followed the advice from the Wall of Languages website

“The Wall of Language is a website where you can email prospective MPs your questions about Languages and then post their reply on this website.
You can also use this site to see what others have asked and the replies they have received.
Our aim is to make all political parties make statements about the importance of languages and language learning”.

So I duly emailed my local candidates and received... one answer. It was received the day before the elections and it assured me of a strong support for the cause. However, as I read on, I was told that there were schools where languages were still strong-and the candidate to give me the example of one of the two language colleges in our Local Authority, where he is a governor.

Language Colleges as a rule do a fantastic job of promoting languages, their departments tend to be healthy and large and their curriculum clout is always significant. But what about the rest of the schools? How can we state that we are supporting languages and in the same breath reduce it to only schools that have them as a specialism? Languages colleges work with many other schools to share what they have but there aren’t simply enough of them.

I love the idea behind “The Wall of Language”-solidarity is so important to keep morale high. By uniting, whether through our local networks or our subject association, the impact of the Languages Community is bound to be stronger and hopefully will get through to politicians.

We are not a political football and I often think we would if we showed ourselves more as a community. I would prefer it if of languages were used or even abused in manifestos rather than ignored...

The future is professional networking and sometimes it is not just for professional development but also for fighting off the danger of extinction...

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The English Education System: Presentation to French Colleagues

I was delighted to take part today in a training session for French Primary school teachers organised by Michele Drechsler, Inspectrice de l'Education Nationale. I was very interested to find out about how French colleagues are being upskilled to teach languages at Primary level and how technology in general and video-conferencing is now given pride of place.