Latest News

A selection of language-related news. Does not claim to be comprehensive or represent the views of SCILT.

Bilingual Education

Global Britain needs to improve its language learning

17 August 2021 (Financial Times)

In a classroom this summer at Azbuka, a London bilingual primary school of which I am a governor, the children switched easily between English and Russian as they designed colourful posters in the two languages to help learn about coronavirus, climate change and mental health. Not all have a Russian parent, including my son, who attended its Saturday complementary school some years ago. But their ability to absorb languages and cultures in a creative and engaging way is impressive and provides a lesson for Britain’s global ambitions. 


Bilingual education in Wales: despite lockdown difficulties, parents should persevere

3 September 2020 (The Conversation)

Bilingualism can result in changes in the brains of children, potentially offering increased problem-solving skills. Pupils who are competent in two or more languages may have academic advantages over monolingual children.

In Wales, children have the opportunity to become bilingual by attending Welsh-medium primary and secondary schools, where the sole or main language of instruction is Welsh.

However, parents who do not speak Welsh but send their children to be educated in the language have reported finding home schooling challenging during the lockdown. Some may even be considering moving their children to English schools in order to be better able to support them at home – perhaps because of fears of future lockdowns or quarantines.

Nevertheless, where they can, parents should keep the faith. The benefits of a bilingual education are huge, and turning their backs on Welsh-medium education might be detrimental to increasing the number of young Welsh speakers.

[..] Increasing numbers of parents around the world are giving their children access to education not only in two languages but in three or more languages. Where a minority language exists in the community, trilingual education is gaining in popularity. Pupils receive their education in the minority language and the majority language of the region as well as taking lessons in a foreign language.

One example is the Basque country, where pupils receive their education in Euskara (the Basque language) and Castilian (Spanish) and also learn English as a foreign language.


Coronavirus: Homeschooling in a language you don't speak

18 April 2020 (BBC)

Until a few weeks ago, non-Welsh speaking parents who had chosen Welsh-medium education assumed their children would spend about 30 hours a week immersed in the language - at school. Now attempting to "home school" in a language they don't speak, they face an extra layer of challenge.

In Cardiff, for example, about 63% of pupils in Welsh-medium schools come from homes where no Welsh is spoken. On top of anxiety about coronavirus and general concern about education, some parents are worried their children's Welsh language skills will suffer.


Gaelic to be 'default' language for new pupils in Western Isles schools

23 January 2020 (BBC)

Children starting school in the Western Isles this summer will be taught in Gaelic, unless their parents opt-out.

Until now parents had to opt in to Gaelic-medium education (GME) on the islands, where lessons in English was the default.

But from August, all new P1 children will enrol in GME unless their parents request otherwise.

The move was prompted because more than half of parents were expected to choose Gaelic-medium education.

Western Isles council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, is the first of Scotland's 32 local authorities to make the move.

The islands has Scotland's largest Gaelic speaking community.

GME sees lessons delivered in Gaelic until P4 and then English is introduced, with the aim of giving children a bilingual education.


Prestigious Scottish school to open Chinese campus

22 October 2019 (ECNS)

Architects have begun construction on the Chinese outpost of a top-ranked Scottish school that will offer bilingual education to elementary and high school students.

Fettes Guangzhou is a collaborative venture between Chinese education company Bright Scholar and Edinburgh-based Fettes College, opened in 1870, which counts former United Kingdom prime minister Tony Blair among its alumni.

Set to open in September next year, Fettes Guangzhou will be the brand's first international campus.

The school will be dual-curricular, offering up to 2,000 students aspects of both the British and Chinese education systems. Fettes Guangzhou will teach boys and girls and take full boarders as well as day students.

"Fettes Guangzhou will be a true reflection of Fettes College internationally, fully adopt our ethos, provide an outstanding academic education, focus on sector-leading pastoral care and introduce a wealth of co-curricular activities to broaden the horizons of all of its students," said Bruce Dingwall, who is deputy chair of the Fettes Trust.

Situated on the northern outskirts of Edinburgh, Fettes College was named Scotland's top independent secondary school in 2018 by The Sunday Times School Guide, which uses results from General Certificate of Secondary Education, A-Level, and International Baccalaureate exams to determine its rankings.

Several high-profile individuals have attended Fettes, including 2015's Nobel Prize in Economics winner Angus Deaton, Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton, and sinologist Roderick Mac-Farquhar, who served as director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.

Bright Scholar is China's largest operator of international and bilingual schools, and the company has made a string of investments in British education in recent years.


Supporting bilingualism and EAL

23 August 2018 (SCILT)

Education Scotland, Glasgow City Council and SCILT (Scotland’s National Centre for Languages) are delighted to be able to offer a free online learning opportunity highlighting the benefits of bilingualism, practical strategies teachers can use to promote and support bilingualism in their classrooms, background information on policy and legislation, and useful resources and links to other sites.

The module has been developed to to support the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy. It will provide practitioners who work with bilingual learners an improved awareness of what bilingualism is and help to promote a more inclusive learning environment. 

See the attached flyer for more information. The free module can be accessed on the Glow website.


Video: 'Bilingual parents share strategies for home language maintenance'

26 April 2017 (Bilingualism Matters)

Bilingualism Matters at the University of Reading held an event in February 2017 in association with the university's Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism where parents in the audience shared their experience about keeping up the home language with children of different ages. An extract can be seen in the video 'Bilingual parents share strategies for home language maintenance'.

Gaelic pupils outperforming their peers in literacy skills

4 February 2017 (The Herald)

Primary pupils taught in Gaelic are outperforming children in mainstream Scottish schools, according to new figures.

Scottish Government statistics show pupils in Gaelic primary schools are doing better at reading, writing, listening and talking at nearly every stage of primary.

Gaelic medium education - where pupils are taught most or all of their lessons in Gaelic as well as studying English - is increasingly popular in Scotland with more than 3,500 children taught in 2014.


Europe's first ever bilingual Chinese-English school to open in London

19 October 2016 (The Independent)

The first school in Europe to teach all its students in both English and Chinese is to open in London next year.

Founders of Kensington Wade, a dual language independent prep school, say children as young as one will be taught in Chinese, and all those who attend the school will leave fluent.

Provisions for the school’s opening come amid renewed emphasis from the British government on the importance of teaching Chinese as a second language, in order to prepare future generations for the global market.


Supporting Bilingual Learners in the Mainstream Classroom

13 October 2016 (University of Strathclyde/SCILT)

Do you work with bilingual learners? Would you like to develop your ability to support them to develop their linguistic competence and to learn through English in mainstream primary or secondary classrooms?

This course is designed to enable you to understand and act on theories of bilingual learning and policy to support bilingual learners in Scottish schools, and to gain experience of current classroom-based practice in Scotland and around the world.

The next course starts on 14 January and runs from January to December 2017 at the University of Strathclyde. Classes are held at the University on Saturdays, on average once a month. See the attached leaflet for further information.

For information on other initiatives and organisations supporting bilingualism and multilingualism in Scotland, visit the EAL and Bilingualism webpages in the Learners and Parents section of the SCILT website.


PgCert - Supporting bilingual learners in the mainstream classroom

15 June 2016 (University of Strathclyde)

This is a part-time accredited specialist course for all teachers working with bilingual learners. It’s open to qualified teachers as well as allied professional workers such as speech and language therapists and educational psychologists.

You’ll enhance your knowledge and practice of innovative approaches to curriculum design and delivery for bilingual learners.

Find out more about the course content, entry requirements and how to apply on the University of Strathclyde website.  Application deadline: end of June for September 2016 start.


Hatching little Chinese speakers at Britain's first bi-lingual Mandarin-English nursery

31 October 2015 (The Telegraph)

At just two-years-old Barclay can already say “hello”, “bubbles”, “wash hands” and several other words in Mandarin. Ursula, also two, can say “fish”, “horse” and “more food” and her Mandarin vocabulary already stretches to more than 50 words.

But this isn't Beijing or Shanghai, and neither are Barclay's or Ursula's parents Chinese. Both children are English and this is a day care centre housed in a Welsh Presbyterian chapel in the City of London.

Welcome to Hatching Dragons, Britain's first bilingual English-Mandarin nursery.

Here children like Barclay and Ursula are just as likely to sing a Chinese nursery rhyme as an English one. Numeracy games are played with Chinese characters as well as Roman numerals and lunch includes not just sandwiches, but spring rolls and fried rice.


Being bilingual: Is it ever better to learn to speak one language over another?

3 December 2014 (Chicago Now)

My sons attend an international school where most of their classes are taught in French - except for English class. Easily, they spend most of their day hearing, speaking and learning in French - right in Chicago. But, at their school, French isn’t considered to be a second language. Rather, French and English are both viewed as first languages. Yes, even though my sons have two English-speaking, monolingual parents, French is not a “foreign” or second language for them. Rather, it’s become their first language - just like English. And, to me, that is a true gift. But, some people didn’t always seem to see it that way.


Why Speaking Another Language in the Classroom is a Good Thing

25 February 2014 (CARE 2 - USA)

It wasn’t too long ago that bilingual education was essentially banned from the classroom in California thanks to Proposition 227. Flash forward 15 years, and you’ll find that bilingual education is now the norm — well, for one city.


Bilingual primary shows there is life left in free school initiative

1 November 2013 (The Guardian)

Like many schools up and down Britain, the last day before half term at the Bilingual Primary School in Brighton was an excuse for dressing up, with little vampires and zombies tottering through the school hall.

What's different at this school was that the miniature ghosts and ghouls were celebrating not Halloween but the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, the day of the dead.


Meet the Australian children fluent in Mandarin

29 October 2013 (BBC News)

Australia's politicians often talk about the importance of building ties with Asia. Successive governments have promised to increase the number of schools teaching Asian languages, but in fact the number of children in high school learning Asian languages is falling. The BBC's Jon Donnison has been to one of the country's few bilingual schools.


Case Study: Taaltaske (‘Language Pack’) – Early Language Learning in Friesland

22 July 2013 (Language Rich Europe blog)

Language Rich Europe promotes the sharing of good practice in the area of multilingualism. On our website, you can read and submit your own case studies.

In this post, we focus on one from the Dutch province of Friesland, which is actively promoting early language learning.


Challenges and tips for raising bilingual children

21 March 2013 (NBC Latino)

As the conversation about bilingualism spreads throughout the country, more and more parents are looking for resources when it comes to raising their children to be multilingual.

Nancy Rhodes, director of Foreign Language Education at the Center for Applied Linguistics, says that over the last 10 years or more, they’ve seen an increase in parents going to school districts and asking them to start language programs for early education classes.

Rhodes says that the reason for the increase is because many parents now recognize that bilingualism is a tremendous asset for future careers. “The current focus appears to be on the globalized economy,” she says. “Parents are thinking about their children’s future in internet jobs, or international and intercultural careers.”

But one of the biggest challenges for parents is how to begin the process.


Sounds like a success in any language

11 January 2013 (TES)

Had I read "Buenos dias, bilingualism" (4 January) six years ago, I might have thought: "Here comes a crackpot idea that will cause chaos for 18 months, then be reformed or rethought for a further year, before being forgotten without fanfare." Now I think: "About time too. Why has this taken so long?" It's not as if reforms have been thin on the ground recently.


Related Links

Buenos dias, bilingualism (TES, 4 January 2013)

Gap widens for bilingual five years olds for the first time in five years

10 December 2012 (NALDIC)

(relates to England) The publication of the 2012 results of the Early Years Foundation Stage assessments shows that the gap between children learning EAL in England and those with English as a first language has widened for the first time in 5 years.


Welsh parents speak out over bilingual 'enforcement'

23 November 2012 (TES)

Welsh-language primary and secondary schools must immerse pupils in the language and limit the amount of English they are allowed to speak if Wales is to become a bilingual nation, according to campaigners.


University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages