I recently came across an article about teacher parents who plan to take their two daughters out of school for a year of learning on the road because they felt “…the girls weren’t flourishing in the same way at school as they were during the family time.” This struck a chord with me as over the summer holidays my six year old boys became much more open to sharing their knowledge and learning new things. In relation to languages, they asked me to read books to them in German (instead of their usual resistance to the idea), for the first time tried reading the occasional German or French word themselves and actually responded to me when I spoke them in our semi-adopted second tongue. Some people talk about the summer ‘brain drain’ where children’s learning regresses somewhat over the long holiday but for us it seemed that the opposite happened.
Home (or indeed on-the-road) schooling isn’t an option for us right now but we are working hard to maintain this enthusiasm for language learning at home and in our classes. We can launch right in with preparing activities to celebrate the European Day of Languages on 26th September – this is a celebration of all languages, not just those spoken in Europe and is a great way to get children excited about communicating in another tongue. I’ll be asking questions such as: What languages are spoken in your family? How do children around the world say hello? In chinese it is ni hao! (你好!) and in russian it is zdra-stvooy-tye! (Здравствуйте!) This would be a great opportunity to introduce children to different written scripts and the musical quality of other languages.
Latest research: Even more reasons to study a foreign language: Bilingual babies benefit from learning faster and learning a foreign language can increase the size of your brain.
News round up: Scottish independence is of course a hot topic but our friends north of the border are also leading the way with language learning in primary schools. The plan is to introduce the European Union 1+2 model where every child will learn two languages in addition to his or her mother tongue. Let’s hope they find the funds to actually make this happen! And of course formal language learning for Key Stage 2 pupils has now commenced – will this stop the decline in the numbers taking a language at A-Level?
Upcoming events: We have signed up for the Language Show Live in October. Looking forward to meeting other passionate linguists and language teachers!