16 November 2019 (iNews)
As a nation, we are not known for our proficiency in foreign languages. The stereotype of the Brit abroad, repeating English slowly and loudly to the locals, has more than a grain of truth.
In England, language study has declined so much that the exam regulator, Ofqual, recently decided to lower grade boundaries in GCSE French and German to encourage teenagers to take them.
Can anything be done about our struggles? Or should we lighten up about it? A former Downing Street education expert has told i that seriously improving our language ability is not a high-enough priority to justify the vast expense involved.
In Britain, 34.6 per cent of people aged between 25 and 64 report that they know one or more foreign language, compared with an EU average of 64.8 per cent.
GCSE and A-level language entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been declining since the turn of the century, although a rise in Spanish entries provides a shred of comfort.
In Scotland, language entries at National 4 and 5 level have dropped by about a fifth since 2014.
This has been accompanied by the quiet death of the foreign exchange, suffocated in part by exaggerated safety concerns. A survey by the British Council five years ago found that just four in 10 schools run trips involving a stay with a host family. Martha de Monclin, a British expat living in France, is often asked whether she knows British families who are happy to be involved in exchanges, but in seven years has found only one.
Where they do happen, pupils just go sightseeing and stay in hotels, she says. “With mobile phones, they are constantly connected to their friends and family at home. This makes it incredibly difficult to learn a language.”
3 October 2019 (Teachwire)
Writing is often the skill that is left alone by the teachers of MFL beginners: “They’ll get mixed up with English… we have to focus on speaking… it’s too hard.”
However, learners will start to write in the new language whether we want them to or not, on any scrap of paper they can find, while we’re teaching.
They like to note down words to help them with speaking activities, for example. Primary language learners enjoy writing – it’s seen as “proper work” – and being able to write successfully in another language gives them a great sense of achievement.
What is writing all about in language learning? We want learners to:
- Make intelligible marks on a piece of paper or other surface, and have the confidence to form those marks correctly
- Put the marks together in a way that forms words, sentences and texts, according to the rules and conventions of the languages they’re studying
- Give meaning to the words and use them to communicate
So, when children write in the foreign language, we want them to form the individual shapes and letters correctly, to be attentive to accuracy and spell correctly, and to understand structure and grammar and in order to create sentences that communicate.
30 September 2019 (British Council)
The British Council report sampled 10 primary schools across Wales, surveying both headteachers, staff and pupils, and interviewed stakeholders from the four regional consortia. By surveying schools who had already used both traditional and innovative methods of including languages in the school’s curriculum the report looks ahead and is able to analyse the benefits of embedding international languages, discussing the differing approaches and make recommendations for other schools based on best practice.
The report outlines some of the innovative methods teachers are using to integrate international languages into the classroom.
The headteachers surveyed in the report saw international languages provision as representing the international ethos and aspirations of their school and supporting children to become ‘global citizens’.
Pupils themselves recognised this; “We like languages because you can go to other countries and meet people, travel the world, do good jobs”.
27 September 2019 (TES)
Could the recent slump in modern languages entries be down to students being put off by boring texts? Researchers Suzanne Graham and Linda Fisher put this idea to the test, and found that a broader range of literature and more creative teaching reaped rewards.
Describe your living room. Tell me about your local town. What is in your pencil case?
These requests are not the most inspiring starters for a conversation. They certainly would not inspire you to overcome the struggles of learning a new language in order to communicate your ideas and opinions: who wants to wax lyrical about the number of hairdressers and bakers in their home town?
And yet such functional questions are frequently used in language learning in the UK. We suspect that this is driving potential learners to boredom and leading them to ditch languages altogether. Are we right? Our research project, Linguistic Creativity in Language Learning, should tell us. It is exploring the impact of using poems (about such themes as love, death and migration) and different teaching approaches (“creative” versus “functional”) on 14-year-old language learners’ motivation and creativity levels.
Before beginning our classroom-based research, we wanted to understand why pupils weren’t choosing to continue with language study to GCSE level and beyond. We asked around 550 French and German learners (14-year-olds) whether they planned to continue studying languages in the future and what they thought of language learning. We also used a metaphor elicitation task to gain a greater understanding of how they viewed language learning, asking the pupils to finish the following sentence: “Learning a language is like …”
The results showed that, contrary to popular belief, most thought that it was important to learn a language, but this did not have an impact on whether they intended to continue with language study. What did impact on their decisions was instead whether they could imagine themselves using the languages in their future lives, and how confident they were in being able to express their thoughts and feelings in the language.
The metaphors revealed the learners’ lack of efficacy or self-belief in being able to achieve in language learning: “Learning a language is like trying to ice skate – I keep falling over and can’t get the hang of it”; “Learning a language is like trying to fly … I just can’t do it”.
We wanted to see whether we could alter this negative self-perception regarding language learning by using creative teaching methods and texts. Could putting the emphasis on feelings and emotions (through the exploration of creative texts), rather than just on grammar and vocabulary, have an impact on a language learners’ efficacy? And what would be the effects on other aspects of language learning, such as vocabulary development?
We devised an intervention where we compared text types (literary versus factual) and teaching methodologies (creative versus functional). Briefly, in the creative approach, learners engage with the text primarily on the level of personal, emotional and imaginative response. In the functional approach, the focus is on the text as a vehicle for teaching language, vocabulary and grammar, and for developing the skill of identifying key information in a text on a factual level.
The first step was to find poems suitable for use with Year 9 learners. We chose six for French and six for German, in consultation with the teachers involved in the project.
We then modified another 12 authentic texts so that they contained the same core vocabulary and grammar structures as the other chosen poems and were of a comparable difficulty level.
Next, we conducted baseline tests so that we could track the impact of the teaching materials and methodologies.
Then, in collaboration with language teachers, we developed around 50 PowerPoint presentations and lesson plans in French and German for the intervention phase. The themes we covered included some not often featured in language-teaching materials – for example, love, death and war. In the creative approach, we addressed them in some unusual ways.
[..] Based on findings from the research, teaching materials that combine both a creative and a functional approach will be uploaded and freely available on the Creative Multilingualism website.
(Note - subscription required to access full article).
26 September 2019 (AHRC)
As we mark the European Day of Languages, Professor Matthew Reynolds from AHRC’s Creative Multilingualism project reflects on artificial intelligence (AI) in the world of languages and the valuable role of arts and humanities researchers.
What do language-learning and literary research have to do with artificial intelligence? A workshop at Pittsburgh University, organised by Professor Karen Park as part of Oxford’s AHRC-funded research programme in Creative Multilingualism, aimed to find out. It brought together experts in language conservation, teaching and testing with literary scholars and representatives from Duolingo, Wikitongues, Google, Amazon, TrueNorth, and other AI innovators, for a day of interesting discussion.
AI creates some immediate practical benefits. In the past, you needed a human being to test how well somebody else could speak a language. Oral exams were cumbersome and expensive and limited to only being able to take place at a specified time and place. But now it’s possible for an online test – developed by Duolingo – to measure not only written but also spoken competence, up to a medium-to-good level of proficiency. This means a student in a developing country wanting to prove their level of English doesn’t have to make a journey to a city to do it: the test can be taken anywhere with internet access, at any time.
This technology has the potential to help with less-often learned languages too. In UK schools, lots of students have some knowledge of languages that are not commonly taught (such as community languages for example); but it’s not always so straightforward to turn that knowledge into a qualification because of the difficulty in finding examiners.
22 August 2019 (The Conversation)
People often assume that children learn new languages easily and without effort, regardless of the situation they find themselves in. But is it really true that children soak up language like sponges?
Research has shown that children are highly successful learners if they have a lot of exposure to a new language over a long time, such as in the case of child immigrants who are surrounded by the new language all day, every day. In such a scenario, children become much more proficient in the new language over the long term than adults.
But if the amount of language children are exposed to is limited, as in classroom language learning, children are slow learners and overall less successful than teenagers or adults. How can we explain this apparent contrast?
Researchers have argued that children learn implicitly, that is, without conscious thought, reflection or effort. And implicit learning requires a large amount of language input over a long period of time.
As we get older, we develop the ability to learn explicitly – that is, analytically and with deliberate effort. Put differently, adults approach the learning task like scientists. This explains why more mature classroom learners have greater success: they can draw on more highly developed, efficient, explicit learning processes which also require more effort.
When it comes to learning a language, however, it is not a question of either implicit or explicit learning. They can coexist, so it is more often a question of how much of each approach is used.
In our new study, we asked whether younger children who are generally thought to learn implicitly had already developed some ability to learn explicitly as well. What’s more, we looked at whether the ability to analyse language can predict foreign language learning success in the classroom.
9 October 2018 (BBC)
They're the Beatles for the 21st Century, a global pop sensation that generates mania and devotion in equal measure, and they've sold out London's O2 Arena.
BTS, the South Korean seven-member boyband and pin-up stars of the K-pop genre, are performing in the UK for two nights only.
And their fans, who call themselves the Army, are over the Moon. We headed for the queues to find out what makes the perfect K-pop fan.
[..] Fans talk about how regularly listening to BTS, who mostly sing in Korean, has meant they are inadvertently learning Korean.
"You quite quickly become engrossed in Korean culture," says 24-year-old Najma Akther, from Scunthorpe.
K-pop - BTS (BBC, 11 October 2018)
15 August 2018 (The National)
[..] Gaelic medium education succeeds in producing new generations of fluent Gaelic speakers because, as its name suggests, it makes use of the Gaelic language to teach other subjects. Kids don’t sit in classes where they are taught Gaelic in the same way that French or other foreign languages are taught in schools.
The difference in the fluency level that is achieved is stark. I was taught Gaelic the old-fashioned way, and am the proud possessor of a Gaelic Learner’s O Grade and a Gaelic Learner’s Higher. I was taught Gaelic in much the same way kids in modern Scottish schools are taught French or German, in a dedicated class, a couple of hours a week. The result is that although I can puzzle out a written text in the language and have a reasonably sized Gaelic vocabulary, I struggle to follow a Gaelic conversation and can’t express myself orally.
Posted in: French
, Cross-Curricular Working
, Language Learning
, Language Teaching
, Languages in the press
18 June 2018 (ALL/Language Futures)
Language Futures is an exciting, highly personalised and innovative approach to languages teaching and learning which aims to broaden languages provision. It has been designed to foster deep learner engagement and enable students to take responsibility for their own learning, which they are encouraged to extend beyond the classroom. Apart from language development, the approach encourages the development of a wide range of skills such as creativity, tenacity and the ability to carry out research and work both independently and in groups.
As part of the approach, students choose a language they wish to study, with several languages being learnt in any one classroom situation.
Find out more about the initiative, how it's being successfully applied at Grainville School in Jersey and how you can launch the approach in your own school.
20 March 2018 (The Independent)
Are you struggling to pick up a second language? Well, you’re not alone because as part of a vote organised for European Day of Languages, Britain was previously revealed to be the most monolingual country in the continent.
But with so few hours in the day, how are we ever meant to find the time to learn another lingo?
Well the answer, it seems, could be to do it while you sleep. According to research by the Universities of Zurich and Fribourg listening to recordings of new words while you sleep could actually help you learn them.
25 August 2017 (TES)
How do you encourage lower-ability students to stick with learning a new language? By offering them the chance to take the subject at GCSE … a whole two years early. The results speak for themselves, says Eva Vicente.
Learning languages didn’t come easy to Jack when he first joined secondary school. Ordinarily, he would have dropped the subject when he was choosing which GCSEs to study at key stage 4. So imagine his delight that he’d already notched up a Spanish GCSE by the end of Year 9, two years before his more proficient friends would have the opportunity to do the same.
His impressive achievement was made possible by the unconventional system we have implemented at Rushcliffe School, which allows struggling pupils the chance to study for their Spanish GCSE in Years 8 and 9. Asking teenagers to sit what is supposed to be one of the hardest GCSE subjects two years early may seem a little crazy – even more so when you consider the pupils in question are the ones who are struggling the most with the subject – but there is method in our madness.
Britain is at the back of the queue in terms of language skills. Why? Because children here don’t study languages as early, as often or for as long as those in other countries. Despite endless changes in policy, the UK simply does not invest in language learning.
But at Rushcliffe we don’t buy into the idea that learning a language is only for a handful of very academic students who are able to leap over the education system’s barriers – delayed exposure to learning languages and limited timetable allocation. We decided to turn things around and commit to ensuring that as many students as possible get a language qualification, without it impacting on their GCSE choices at key stage 4. So how does it work?
16 August 2017 (New York Times)
Learning a second language as an adult is difficult. But the process may be eased if you exercise while learning.
A new study reports that working out during a language class amplifies people’s ability to memorize, retain and understand new vocabulary. The findings provide more evidence that to engage our minds, we should move our bodies.
In recent years, a wealth of studies in both animals and people have shown that we learn differently if we also exercise. Lab rodents given access to running wheels create and maintain memories better than animals that are sedentary, for instance. And students consistently perform better on academic tests if they participate in some kind of physical activity during the school day.
Many scientists suspect that exercise alters the biology of the brain in ways that make it more malleable and receptive to new information, a process that scientists refer to as plasticity.
But many questions have remained unanswered about movement and learning, including whether exercise is most beneficial before, during or after instruction and how much and what types of exercise might be best.
So for the new study, which was published recently in PLOS One, researchers in China and Italy decided to home in on language learning and the adult brain.
15 June 2017 (EVALUATE Project)
EVALUATE is a European Policy Experiment project funded by Erasmus+ Key Action 3.
This experimentation will evaluate the impact of telecollaborative learning on student-teachers involved in Initial Teacher Education in the participating European countries and regions. Telecollaboration, also commonly known as Virtual Exchange, involves engaging trainee teachers involved in Initial Teacher Education in task-based interaction and collaborative exchange with fellow trainees in other locations through online communication technologies.
The guiding research question for the study is: “Will participation in telecollaborative exchange contribute to the development of competences which future teachers need to teach, collaborate and innovate effectively in a digitalised and cosmopolitan world?”
A teacher-training event is due to be held in Italy 5-7 July 2017.
Visit the website for more information about the project and how to get involved.
4 June 2017 (Language Magazine)
The way bilingual people read is conditioned by the languages they speak, according to researchers at Spain’s Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language (BCBL), who found that the languages spoken by bilingual people (when they learned to read in two languages at the same time) affect their reading strategies and even the cognitive foundations that form the basis for the capacity to read.
“Monolingual speakers of transparent [phonetic] languages—where letters are pronounced the same independently of the word they are included in, such as Basque or Spanish—have a greater tendency to use analytical reading strategies, where they read words in parts,” according to Marie Lallier, one of the authors of the article, “Cross-Linguistic Transfer in Bilinguals Reading in Two Alphabetic Orthographies: The grain size accommodation hypothesis,” published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.
On the other hand, speakers of opaque languages, where the sounds of letters differ depending on the word (for example English or French) are more likely to use a global reading strategy. In other words, they tend to read whole words to understand their meaning.
Researchers also observed that bilingual people who learned to read two languages at the same time do not read the same way as monolingual speakers; rather, they follow a different pattern which had not previously been described—a contamination effect takes place between the two reading strategies in speakers of two languages. Therefore, a person learning to read in Spanish and in English will have a greater tendency toward a global strategy, even when reading in Spanish, than a monolingual Spanish speaker.
15 March 2017 (British Council)
A pilot project called Listening to Language/ Cerdd Iaith, which aims to encourage language learning using music as a resource, is being delivered in ten primary schools across South West Wales. The trilingual music project addresses the decline of language learning in Wales.
Led by BBC National Orchestra of Wales, British Council Wales, ERW (Education through Regional Working) and University of Wales Trinity Saint David, musicians from the orchestra alongside language specialists have been working with teachers in schools across Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion to develop creative approaches to learning Welsh, Spanish and English.
The project, which is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, looks at how musical elements of language such as rhythm, repetition and rhyme can aid learning. The workshops are encouraging pupils to listen to the sounds of languages, to enhance the process of developing and understanding new vocabulary.
23 November 2016 (SecEd)
Modern foreign languages are “at risk” and face becoming the domain of “certain types of school and certain sections of the pupil population”.
The warning has come from Ian Bauckham, chair of the Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review, which published its report into MFL teaching at key stages 3 and 4 this week.
The Teaching Schools Council, which set-up the Review, is now encouraging schools to use the findings, alongside related evaluation documentation, to review and improve their MFL provision.
18 November 2016 (TESS)
If you want to get an insight into what your YouTube-fixated, viral-hungry students are looking at online this year, you won’t go far wrong if you spend some time with a few Asian hip hop artists. Be it the viral thrust and wry wit of Indonesia’s Rich Chigga, the America-breaking ferocity of South Korea’s Keith Ape or China’s hottest new hip hop property, Higher Brothers, this is one of the year’s most dominant, and credible, trending genres.
This rise of Asian hip hop comes at a fortuitous time for London teacher Adam Moorman. While his approach to teaching Mandarin to key stage 5 students at Fortismere School in North London was not inspired by his students’ preoccupation with the new stars of rap, it certainly feeds into it: he’s getting his class to rap in Mandarin themselves.
“It’s much easier than you think,” Moorman says. “Mandarin is a monosyllabic language with a much more limited range of sounds than English. If you discount tones, there are around 400 syllables in Mandarin, compared with more than 8,000 in English. So it’s a lot harder to come up with rhymes in English than in Mandarin.”
Students are asked to create raps as preparation for their speaking exam. Guided on content by the key topics in the qualification (pollution, for example) and on complexity by the exam marking criteria, they write, practise and then perform the raps, which are recorded. Moorman explains that rap is a useful tool to get students talking for a number of reasons. First, he says that Mandarin is an inherently musical language, so it lends itself to the genre. Second, learning a language requires repetition, and keeping that engaging is tough – writing and performing a rap gives students a compelling reason to go over sentences again and again. Third, the nature of rap means that dexterity of vocabulary is rewarded – so there is an incentive to learn more phrases and be innovative with them.
“Many teachers find that, as students move through KS4-5, they become frustrated by the difficulty of constructing longer passages of speech,” Moorman explains. “Some of the fun, freshness and simplicity of language-learning at KS3 disappears.
“This approach tackles that by combining rhythm, rhymes and repetition in an enjoyable and memorable way that shifts the focus from painstaking book-based learning, but achieves the rewards of independent research, drafting and practising.”
The full article can be accessed in TESS online, 18 November 2016 (subscription required).
8 November 2016 (Science Daily)
Currently there is a debate as to what role sign language has played in language evolution, and whether the structure of sign language share similarities with spoken language. New research shows that our brain detects some deep similarities between speech and sign language.
13 October 2016 (TES)
I have the privilege to work with one of the best PE teachers I know. Her name is Charlotte and we’ve been sharing not only the same office this year, but the same ideas, sometimes, and the same passion for teaching.
[..] But the event I have enjoyed the most was sports week, at the end of the summer term. It was a great chance for me to familiarise myself with one of the new methods in teaching a foreign language: Content and Language Integrated Learning. Shortly- CLIL.
7 October 2016 (The Guardian)
Chatbots suck. We all know it. If you want to get something done with a computer, it turns out, there are better ways to do it than laboriously type out conversational sentences to be read by a programme with a shaky grasp of the language and a gratingly affected sense of humour.
So I’m as surprised as anyone that for the past week, I’ve started every morning with a 10 minute conversation with a chatbot. In French.
The bot is the creation of Pittsburgh-based language-learning startup Duolingo, and it’s the first major change for the company’s app since it launched four years ago. In that time, the service has gained 150 million users, and stuck stubbornly to the top of the educational app charts on every platform it’s available on.
If you haven’t used Duolingo, the premise is simple: five to 20 minutes of interactive training a day is enough to learn a language.
7 September 2016 (Scientific American)
The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.
The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique human ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.
21 June 2016 (European Commission)
Software that uses statistics to adapt to your learning style and greater insight into how the brain processes ambiguity and nuance are helping scientists design new ways to learn a foreign language.
Dr Mait Müntel, CEO and co-founder of EU-backed start-up Lingvist, is an unlikely language-learning entrepreneur. He was working as a physicist at the CERN lab in Switzerland, part of the team that discovered the Higgs boson, when he had the idea that he has developed into a growing business.
17 June 2016 (SCILT)
SCILT, Scotland's National Centre for Languages and the School of Education, University of Strathclyde hosted an afternoon of seminars led by language practitioners, students and academics on various strands of language learning including bilingualism, motivation and translanguaging.
SCILT has used Storify to summarise the discussions from the day. Visit our Storify page for a flavour of the event.
Posted in: Early Years
, Senior Phase
, Language Learning
, Language Teaching
, Partnership Working
, Teacher Education
, SCILT news
16 June 2016 (BBC News)
Children at a Glasgow primary school have been using comics to help them learn French.
Artist Rossie Stone, who is dyslexic, decided to try a different approach to picking up another language and designed the comic strips to be educational and fun.
The move has been popular with teachers and pupils with the project now being rolled out in five schools across Scotland.
BBC Scotland's Catriona Renton has gone back to school to report from Glasgow.
See the video report on the BBC website.
2 May 2016 (Goethe-Institut)
Children love films. They ensure variety and entertainment in lessons – and support the learning process. What should teachers look out for when they use them in lessons? Here are some tips and practical examples.
29 March 2016 (Cambridge News)
Learning a new language is not an easy business, but a Cambridge start-up believes it can have you babbling away in another tongue in a matter of weeks by employing medieval memory techniques.
Linguisticator provides online courses which teach people the principles of 'memory palaces', a system developed in the Middle Ages by monks to store information from books, which were often in short supply. It then applies these techniques to language acquisition.
4 March 2016 (TES)
Blending English, Thai and Mandarin Chinese into a seamless experience.
(Read the full article on pages 44-45 of TES online - subscription required).
5 February 2016 (The Telegraph)
When trying to learn a foreign language, most of us have the same complaint: “I’m just not good at memorising.” Learning new vocabulary can be daunting, especially for busy adults whose minds are already occupied with work, family, and other responsibilities.
A comfort? Linguists say that to “get by” in a language, such as directing a taxi or asking for a phone number, it takes a vocabulary of about 120 basic words. It’s a manageable goal, and a firm foundation for beginners. Here are eight tips for getting there.
29 January 2016 (TESS)
Children aren't happy just learning the days of the week - give them the vocabulary for topics that excite them.
(page 39, TESS online - subscription required to access).
30 November 2015 (PETALL)
The SCILT e-bulletin of 12 November carried information about a project involving modern foreign languages and ICT. The University of the West of Scotland’s School of Education is involved in this innovative project which has the acronym PETALL (Pan European Task Activities for Language Learning. It is funded by the European Commission and involves 10 European Universities working jointly to create, trial and evaluate activities for modern foreign languages classrooms which are ‘task based’. Exactly what constitutes a ‘task based’ lesson or series of lessons is wide ranging. The key element, however, is that it should involve a language activity which is communicative, has a real-life connection and which has an end product or outcome.
By way of example, some of the tasks created by the consortium include tasks such as buying a house, making a documentary using Windows moviemaker or iMovie, planning a visit to a town abroad, poor party – rich party, presenting you town, webquests on energy issues, creating a wiki, creating animations using free software such as Voki or Go-animate, creating a Blog, using on-line dictionaries, uploading short videos to YouTube and so on.
Eventually all the tasks created by the project team will be freely available on the project website. For more information about the project visit the PETALL website.
The project team is conducting an international on-line survey on teachers’ awareness of a TBLT approach and invite all teachers involved in MFL to take part in a short survey. The survey takes no more than 10 minutes to complete. Your participation would be greatly appreciated.
12 November 2015 (PETALL)
The Pan European Task-based Activities for Language Learning (PETALL) Project is funded as part of the European Commission's Lifelong Learning Programme. It aims to help teachers teach young people how to communicate effectively in other languages through ICT by using task-based activities in the language classroom.
To learn more about the project and how you can get involved, see the attached leaflet or visit the PETALL Project website.
2 November 2015 (The Guardian)
Fact: applications to language degrees have plummeted – but students are finding novel ways to learn.
28 October 2015 (Marquette Wire)
Over the summer I made it a goal to teach myself Portuguese. No classes, no academic books, no teachers. This was a journey, and at the end of it, I was adequately knowledgeable about the language. The best part? I never spent a dime.
20 October 2015 (Babbel Magazine)
This article is a wake-up call for all those who dream of becoming multilingual: just do it! Luca Lampariello talks about where he finds the motivation for learning languages, and how he’s learned 11 so far.
6 October 2015 (The Guardian)
In Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World, a Polish boy, Reuben Rabinovitch, falls asleep next to a radio receiver. When he wakes up, he is able to recite the entire broadcast. He has no idea what any of it means, though – it’s all in English.
Countless articles today claim that you can actually learn music, hone your foreign language skills, or cram for tomorrow’s maths exam during sleep. And there is a whole industry trading on this idea. Subliminal message tapes, popularised by the self-help guru Tony Robbins, promise to help you stop smoking, lose weight, and even brush up your golf skills and find love – all the while catching some shut eye.
The big sell of “sleep learning” is seductive – how lovely it would be to be productive while we lie like lifeless lumps in bed. But is it actually based on any evidence?
29 July 2015 (Free Press Journal)
University of Washington researchers have demonstrated for the first time that an early social behaviour called gaze shifting is linked to infants’ ability to learn new language sounds. According to the study, 10 months old babies, who are engaged in more gaze shifting, show a boost in a brain response that indicates language learning.
3 June 2015 (Daily Mail)
Britons and Americans do not have the world's best reputation for learning foreign languages.
But apparently we all have the ability to learn multiple lingos, at least according to Irish polyglot Benny Lewis.
The global traveller believes he can help people become fluent in just three months, and has written a book outlining how.
11 May 2015 (European Commission)
Eurydice has launched their new website on European education systems - descriptions, comparative studies, indicators and statistics.
6 May 2015 (ECML)
Find out more about the ECML’s ICT-Rev initiative which aims to promote the benefits of ICT in language education, provide training and awareness raising workshops for teachers and develop a selection of freely available ICT tools and open education resources which support language teaching and learning.
1 May 2015 (ASCL)
Read the latest blog by ASCL Immediate Past President and Headteacher, Bennett Memorial Diocesan School Ian Bauckham.
29 April 2015 (European Schoolnet Academy)
Primary and secondary teachers are welcome to join this exciting MOOC exploring the potential of games-based learning in schools. The course is being run jointly by European Schoolnet and ISFE (The Interactive Software Federation of Europe) and is entirely free. The course will examine the opportunities but also challenges offered by integrating games into our teaching and learning and will provide practical examples of gaming tools and activities to use in your daily teaching practice. We will be learning through a mix of video, interactive activities and discussions as well as sharing of resources.
The first question we will explore is, why use computer games in schools? We will then look at a range of games which do not necessarily have an educational purpose but can be used nicely for thematic learning on topics such as gravity, planets, construction, and many others. However, we will also explore games that have an explicit pedagogical focus and are designed to help students learn anything from Maths to Languages.
The course commences on 18 May 2015 and runs for 6 weeks. Visit the European Schoolnet Academy website for more information and to sign up.
21 April 2015 (British Council Voices)
What is the best method for acquiring another language? Declan Cooley, CELTA trainer at the British Council in Poland, investigates.
26 March 2015 (Futurelearn)
This free online course offered by the British Council and University of Southampton introduces some key concepts in the effective teaching and learning of languages.
The course commences on 20 April and lasts for 4 weeks.
Visit the Futurelearn website for more information and to register.
3 March 2015 (BBC Capital)
Picture this: You want to apply for a dream assignment abroad. There’s just one problem. You need foreign language skills that you don't have — and time is not on your side.
It might sound like an impossible task, but according to language experts, you can learn basic communication skills in weeks and master the basics of a foreign language in several months. While you might not quickly reach the fluency that allows you to understand great foreign literature classics, you can, though, quickly hone in on phrases and technical language specific to your needs whether you are working with the diplomatic service or a blue chip multinational.
18 February 2015 (The Guardian)
You don’t need expensive lessons to start – try smartphone apps, foreign TV and radio, online guides and your local library.
10 February 2015 (Future Learn)
Gain practical tools and theoretical insights to help dyslexic students learn second languages with this free online course, commencing 20 April 2015.
9 February 2015 (Into Film)
We are partnering with the Guardian Teacher Network for this award and are looking for the most inspirational examples of using film or film-making activities in the classroom.
See the Into Film website for entry criteria. Submission deadline is 26 February 2015.
8 January 2015 (The Guardian)
Toki Pona is an invented language that borrows from Dutch, English and Chinese. It has only 120 words but is two days enough time to become fluent?
15 November 2014 (BBC)
Language teachers should aim beyond "functional phrasebook competence" and encourage self-expression in pupils, a leading headmistress is to say.
Bernice McCabe, headmistress of North London Collegiate School, will say teachers should be "a thorn in the side of British insularity and reticence".
[...] The aim is to bring "new life" into language lessons, Mrs McCabe says.
22 October 2014 (The Guardian)
There are more ways than ever to learn a language, but how do you find one that suits your learning style and routine? Join us on 24 October, 1-3pm BST, to discuss.
1 October 2014 (Transparent Language)
If you’re the type who gets bored easily or lacks motivation, here are five good reasons you should use the buddy system when learning a language.
29 August 2014 (TES)
Combat fear of new languages by using phonics techniques.
When I began teaching languages, I found that speaking was the biggest obstacle for most pupils. They needed to work on pronunciation, but at that time I had never heard of phonics being used in MFL. However, after speaking to primary teachers about how they used phonics and looking at phonics websites used by French schools, I built up a bank of resources suitable for children from beginners upwards.
29 August 2014 (TES)
Parlez-vous Français? Never mind, Skype does.
I have just seen my professional coffin. Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, will soon be launching a real-time translator that enables users to have a conversation with someone speaking a foreign language; their words are instantly understandable via the wonder of modern technology.
In the demonstration I watched, one person spoke German and the other English. There was only a short pause between sentences and, apparently, the translation was accurate.
Thus, my low spirits sunk to new depths. Being a modern foreign languages teacher these days is often soul-destroying, and we rely on the few students who show an interest to keep our spirits up.
24 July 2014 (The Guardian)
Could smart drugs be the future for language learning? What are the moral and ethical implications of medically enhanced education? Would you take a pill if it would help your ability to learn? These were some of the questions tackled by a panel of experts at a recent Guardian and British Academy debate. See the highlights here.
2 July 2014 (Daily News - New York)
Researchers found that German-speaking volunteers who listened to a recording of Dutch vocabulary words while they snoozed performed better on a test than those who listened to the playback while awake.
13 May 2014 (The Guardian)
From Padlets to Popplets, languages consultant Joe Dale shares the tools modern foreign languages teachers are turning to in their classroom.
21 March 2014 (TES)
The Occupy protests that have swept the world over the past few years have taught many people many lessons. But one lesson the organisers perhaps did not expect has led to a change in the way I teach Hebrew to foreign students.
The shift began because my students were frustrated that the banners they saw at Occupy protests in our city of Tel Aviv seemed nonsensical. They weren’t, of course, but when we are learning a language we often fail to recognise the importance of history and context. The banners simply used language that we don’t tend to learn in the classroom.
21 March 2014 (The Guardian)
After a fortnight's sulk, our writer is spurred into action when he watches an American actor being interviewed – in French. This article is written by Matt Hambly who is taking part in the Guardian’s online language learning challenge.
20 March 2014 (Edtechteacher)
Webinar presented by Joe Dale on using technology in the language classroom.
(Journey to Excellence, March 2014) Learn how one school makes the learning of a modern language come alive through the use of ICT and active learning.
27 February 2014 (The Guardian)
Children who learn music from a young age find it easier to learn languages even in adulthood, research has found.
25 February 2014 (eLearning Industry)
With their Online Language Learning Challenge The Guardian wants to find out if it’s possible to learn languages purely through the use of online tools by discussing the topic with readers and experts. Most people have doubts that learning online would get you as far as being able to speak a new language fluently. But there seem to be very different understandings of what online learning actually means.
18 February 2014 (Lisibo)
See the presentation shared at the #ililc4 conference last week on using iPads in the primary language classroom. The blog also includes links to further ideas and information including lists of useful apps.
Posted in: Primary
, Cross-Curricular Working
, Language Learning
, Language Teaching
, Teacher Education
14 February 2014 (LLAS blog)
Well, it is February again and I’m basking in the memory of another excellent LLAS elearning symposium on 23/24 January… This year was our 9th and biggest yet, with speakers and attendees from around the globe delighting and inspiring us with stories of innovation in the use of technology in language teaching.
We kicked off on day one, with an entertaining and informative keynote presentation from Professor Jozef Colpaert (University of Antwerp) who proposed a theory of ‘educational engineering’ as an approach to understanding when, where and how to use technology in teaching.
22 January 2014 (TES)
A teaching career can get locked into repetitive cycles: as another year starts, the same old textbooks, jargon and exams loom yet again. Some things get done simply because they’ve always been done.
Hosting a teacher from foreign climes can jolt you out of that deadening loop. Philippa Seago, who takes charge of psychology at Littleover Community School in Derby, England, saw for herself how a school might benefit.
Teacher Exchange Programme
(TES, 22 January 2014)
9 December 2013 (British Council)
A major conference offering UK head teachers and school leaders new insights into the place of language education in a world class curriculum took place on 18 November as part of International Education Week.
Keynote presentations from the conference 'Speaking the World's Languages: international perspectives on developing outstanding practice in the curriculum' are now available to download from the British Council website.
Although International Education Week may be over for this year, you can still involve your school community in celebrating international learning. The website also contains links to get you started with some ideas.
9 November 2013 (The Telegraph)
A recent study at the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music indicates that learners’ memory skills are greatly improved when memorising to music.
In this research, participants were asked to memorise phrases in Hungarian, and repeat them fifteen minutes later. Though each group studied in the same listen-and-repeat style, one group heard the phrases spoken, the second heard phrases set to a rhythm, and the third heard phrases in song. The singing group was able to recall far more Hungarian than the other two groups.
24 October 2013 (Ofsted)
At Springfield Lower School, teaching Italian through an approach based on content and language integrated learning (CLIL) is firmly established. Language lessons use the current topic in the curriculum for their content. Links with Italy and its culture provide rich opportunities to develop the pupils’ understanding and appreciation of other cultures.
This is one of four examples, two primary and two secondary, where pupils make rapid progress in learning modern languages through a curriculum designed to extend opportunities to be immersed in the language studied.
25 September 2013 (The Guardian)
According to recent reports the popularity of foreign languages at GCSE and A-Level has reached an all-time low.
Those of us involved in teaching languages – and anyone who's experienced the satisfaction derived from mastering another language – will find this disappointing and worrying. In our global world learning languages is important for many reasons – it expands cultural horizons, breaks down barriers and increases opportunities for young people interested in living or working abroad. In addition, studies have shown that studying a foreign language can improve memory, brain power and use of English. All of which is why we, as educators, must be creative and use all available tools to reverse the current trend and inspire more of our students to study languages.
One such tool is film.
11 September 2013 (New Statesman)
Britain doesn’t like learning languages. Year on year the numbers taking languages at school have fallen, leading to Britain regularly being placed at the bottom of European surveys into language proficiency. This year alone, German A-Level takers were down by 14.53 per cent and French learners by 9.9 per cent. This is often explained by citing a lack of motivation for learning foreign languages - it’s because we’re learning them in the wrong way.
2 September 2013 (Daily Mail)
Boring, repetitive language classes are letting down a generation of young pupils, a survey suggested yesterday.
Language classes will become compulsory next year for Key Stage 2 pupils – those aged seven to 11 – in English state schools.
But the research warned urgent improvements were needed in teaching, with many primary pupils saying they were repeatedly taught basics such as counting to ten or saying ‘bonjour’.
Those in Year 7, the first year of secondary school, complained they had to redo topics completed at primary school because some of their new classmates were starting from scratch.
Children criticise language lessons
(Daily Express, 3 September 2013)
14 May 2013 (TES MFL blog)
One of the most exciting things about teaching languages is that there isn't one universally-held view about how to do it. Although most of us would say that we pursue the goals of ‘communicative language teaching’, we might still differ in the ways we go about it. It’s always a good thing to question our preferred ways of doing things too, and to share ideas with others. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how we present new language to students.
I will be hosting a live web chat about this topic on Thursday 16 May at 8pm. Why not get involved and share your own ideas.
Rachel Hawkes is the TES MFL subject adviser. She’s a classroom teacher of languages with 13 years of prior experience as a head of department.
Visit the website to find out how to join her chat or to read some of her teaching ideas.
14 May 2013 (The Guardian)
How do students best pick up languages? Martin Williams talks to academics, teachers and multi-lingual speakers to find out about the science of learning a language.
Want to travel the world? Then you'll need a language
(The Guardian, 14 May 2013) Foreign language learning in UK schools is the focus of the Guardian Teacher Network all this week.
24 April 2013 (The Telegraph)
Even if you can't master a native accent, the key is to be clear and comprehensible. Anne Merritt offers five top tips.
17 April 2013 (Business Standard)
Playing simple games using words and pictures can help people to learn a new language with greater ease, according to a new study.
Researchers from The University of Nottingham found that using fun, informal ways of learning not only helped complete novices to acquire a new language but also made more traditional methods of language learning more effective.
16 April 2013 (European Commission)
The importance of creative and less conventional devices - theatre, songs, videos - within a language learning classroom.
29 November 2012 (SCILT)
SCILT is delighted to announce we have expanded our Professional Learning menu to include further options for Primary and Secondary teachers from our colleagues, the Institut Français and the Consejería de Educación. To download the new menus visit the relevant Professional Development pages on our website.
Posted in: Primary
, Senior Phase
, Language Teaching
, Partnership Working
, Teacher Education
, SCILT news
7 November 2012 (eTwinning)
eTwinning Ambassador Joe Dale shares his fantastic ideas on using QR codes to improve students language skills in today's article 'Bringing Language Learning to Life: teaching tips, tech and ideas' on the Guardian Teacher Network.
If you are a language teacher looking to reenergise your lessons and make language learning more meaningful to a 21st century learner check out the full range of innovative ideas on the Guardian Teacher Network
Posted in: Early Years
, Senior Phase
, All Languages
, Language Learning
, Language Teaching
, News from language & education organisations