Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Language Show Live, Olympia, London, 19-21 October 2012

The Language Show Live is the UK’s largest event for those who offer products and services to language teachers, learners, translators, linguists, language professionals and businesses.
Running for over 23 years, Language Show Live 2012 returns from Friday 19th October to Sunday 21st October with seminars, more classes and exhibitors than ever before as well as great networking opportunities for all language enthusiasts.
The Language Show Live will take place at The National Hall, Olympia in London and it is free to attend provided that you register in advance for a ticket by following the registration links here.
Children under 16 are welcome to attend the show and do not need to register for a ticket, so you can take your whole family there for free if you wish!
The full programme including all seminars for all three days can be viewed here.
I am looking forward to speaking and meeting some of you at The Language Show on Saturday 20th October. If you are based near London, enjoy all three days if you can…

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Consultation: Making Primary Languages Compulsory at Key Stage 2

The deadline for the consultation is 28th September 2012 and all related documents can be downloaded here.

My own response is as follows…
...We are seeking to make provision under the 2002 Education Act to ensure that all maintained schools must teach a foreign language at Key Stage 2, from Year 3 to Year 6. This could be either a modern foreign language or an ancient language such as Latin or ancient Greek.

Q1 a) Do you agree with the Government's proposal that foreign languages should become compulsory at Key Stage 2 in maintained schools in England from September 2014?

Q1 b) Please explain the reasons for your answer:
Our world is multilingual and young children need exposure to other languages to be able to reflect more deeply about how their own language functions and strengthen their literacy skills. Research also shows that younger children are more willing to try languages than teenagers who are often even more self-conscious than adults. Last but not least, starting early is a way to promote languages as an important part of the curriculum and should encourage more pupils to carry on studying languages later in life. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on our country’s linguistic capacity and improve our ability to do business abroad.   .   

The Government is not minded to specify the language to be taught, but rather give full flexibility to schools in their choice of languages. We are therefore interested in finding out more about the language(s) that primary schools would be likely to provide.
Q2 a) If you are responding on behalf of a primary school, what language(s) would your school be likely to teach and why?
As a secondary teacher who goes to some of our feeder primary schools to teach languages, I often see a choice based on the strengths displayed by more than one member of staff.  I agree that the actual language does not matter as much as the ability to deliver quality provision with enthusiasm. French and Spanish are often taught by our feeder primary schools for that particular reason.

Q2 b) If you replied to the question above, would the language(s) your school teaches be likely to change over time and if so, why?
The only reason to change the language would be linked to change in staffing, hence the real need for all members of staff to get appropriate training rather than relying on one person to deliver the language in rotation to different classes. There is a real need for planning medium and long term for schools to develop their capacity to deliver modern languages effectively and fairly independently.

The proposal to make languages compulsory at Key Stage 2 should impact positively on all groups of pupils.

Q3) How might the proposals affect different groups of pupils?
Pupils from underprivileged background who may not have had any opportunities to go abroad will have a better exposure to foreign languages and cultures.
Pupils with low literacy levels will benefit from learning foreign languages as it provide them with an opportunity to revisit key literacy skills through the foreign language.
Bilingual pupils will see their linguistic skills valued and special needs pupils will be given a chance to start something new and feel on an equal footing with the other pupils.
High ability pupils will be stretched by the challenge posed by the study of a foreign language and will benefit from the opportunity to deepen their thoughts about language in general and broaden their horizons.

We will consider the challenges that requiring primary schools to teach a foreign language will pose and how schools might best meet them.

Q4) How might the proposal affect different types of schools? Please consider in particular small and large schools, rural and urban schools, those that already teach languages at Key Stage 2 and those that do not.
The proposal will affect schools differently depending on the way languages have been prioritised in their curriculum. If the schools have continued to embed the foreign language over the past few years through developing the skills of their own teachers rather than relying on visiting teachers only, the provision is likely to be good. However, schools that have been unable to do this until now will require substantial support in order to develop their teachers’ expertise and ability to develop quality in-house language provision. If schools rely on external providers only, the language provision will be more likely to be unsuccessful, with pupils making limited progress. 

Q5 a) If the proposals go ahead, what do you think the priorities will be for training and professional development of teachers?
Links with secondary schools must be strengthened by allowing secondary teachers to support primary colleagues’ training at their request and share their good practice through face-to-face meetings, online platforms and video-conferencing.
Primary colleagues must be made aware of where to find good quality resources, particularly to enhance their pupils’ pronunciation of the foreign language, an area which is often a challenge for non-specialists.
Adequate funding and time must be allocated for primary teachers to go to the target-language country to gain a better understanding of the foreign language and/or learn it for a formal qualification.

Q5 b) Do you have any suggestions for how schools and other stakeholders could work together to meet these needs?
The creation of MFL Primary/Secondary clusters would be useful to develop secondary teachers’ understanding of how to build on successful primary literacy practice and primary teachers’ knowledge of foreign language pedagogy.
Primary schools should also join forces to share the cost and expertise needed to develop appropriate schemes of work for KS2.

Q6) Please let us know if you have any further comments you would like to make about the proposals in this consultation document.
The allocation of time and resources is key to making Primary Languages a success especially for the schools that are lagging behind in terms of developing their own capacity to deliver languages.
The issue of assessment also needs to be tackled as well as some guidelines provided regarding expected content to ensure a smoother transition to secondary school.

Please share you views by uploading the questionnaire here.
If you are a member of ALL, the Association for Language Learning, you can  email them your views so that they can be shared through your subject association.
Not yet a member of ALL? Time to join! J

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Support Community Languages-Every Language is an Asset
OCR, the UK examination board running the Asset languages scheme is planning to reduce its accreditions to French, Spanish, German, Italian and Mandarin from a selection of 25 languages previously offered.

This is a step backwards in the move to recognise achievement in a wider range of languages and will have a strong impact for the communities who speak these languages. This is also a move that will reduce further the country's linguistic capacity.

Speak to the Future, the campaign for languages, have started an e-petition to get OCR to reconsider their position. 
Thank you for supporting community languages by completing the petition online.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Translation Frustration-EAL Good Practice is Just Good Practice

In a recent article in the Times Educational Supplement (TES), I share a few ideas to support non-native English speakers in languages lessons.
When considering how best to support learners who speak English as an additional language (EAL), it is essential to remember that they are not a homogeneous group. They can include new arrivals, children who have been educated in a different country and pupils with no literacy skills in their home language, as well as UK-born students who can speak their home language but not write it.
Many white British pupils also have specific linguistic needs, especially if they routinely use non-standard English or come from non-reading homes. Good EAL practice should support and enrich all students, not just EAL learners.
Instructions will be more easily understood by all if they are supported by practical examples and visuals. Keep explanations to a minimum, show examples and ask students to paraphrase, as their choice of words is likely to be better understood by their peers. It is best to avoid set phrases, expressions and metaphors that are likely to cause confusion if taken literally.
Peer support is helpful for EAL learners at first, but they must be encouraged to develop their own language skills and independence. For those further along the EAL continuum, classroom-based strategies such as videos, mime, audio with visual support and the use of visuals to support new language and instructions will be most effective.
Native speakers being taught their own language in MFL lessons will face other issues. Their written skills may be considerably weaker than their speaking skills and their overall performance at GCSE will depend on their command of English, as exam instructions will not be in the target language.
Whenever possible, talk to children to develop your awareness of linguistic overlaps - for example, formal/polite forms of address in other languages, gender and changes in verb forms. EAL pupils often find it easy to accurately reproduce the sounds of a new language as they have been exposed to a wider range of sounds between English and their mother tongue. Their linguistic capability needs to be acknowledged and celebrated.
Stimulate the class by inviting guest speakers, organising multilingual displays and assemblies, and holding special days and activities. EAL pupils are often successful language learners because their skills are likely to be more developed, but this needs to be reinforced at a whole-school level as MFL is sometimes the only subject that views their experience positively.
More generic strategies to support EAL learners can be accessed here via the TES website.

Friday, 3 August 2012

What is Your Favourite Source of Pictures, Photos and Other Visuals for Your Lessons?

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I am currently reviewing the best sources of pictures, photos and other visuals for languages lessons. Please feel free to contribute to the poll and view the results.
As of today, Google Images was used by 50% of the teachers who took part. Interestingly, the second place is shared by Flickr and many other sources including:
  • own pictures
  • (Flickr creative commons)
  • #ELTPics on Flickr

  • Pinterest and Microsoft Clipart were also mentioned.
    A word of waring was given about Google Images and Pinterest as images can be copyright and you can be sued for using them illegally.

    Thank you for adding to the survey!