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 (TES)
From sporting events to exchange programmes, there are many ways schools can spark an interest in modern languages.
This year’s GCSE results have provided a glimmer of hope that the long-term decline of students studying languages may be starting to change.
However, there is still more to be done. French entries have fallen by more than 40,000 and German by 25,000 since 2010.
So, how are we going to make language learning more appealing? How are we going to inspire our students to take up languages?
By taking languages out of the classroom, we can make them more real, relevant and fun. At our school, we have run Languages Weeks connected with sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics.
This involves activities such as an Opening Ceremony with flags, anthems and the draw conducted in French. Each class adopts a language of a team competing – anything from Chinese, Portuguese or Russian to Danish or Swedish – and different subjects look at the geography, history, music, food, famous scientists and artists of the countries involved.
Teachers can learn at the same time as their students. Or pupils who speak other languages can act as the teacher to explain the rudiments of their native tongue to their classmates – and their teacher.
The key thing is to give it a whole-school focus and get everyone involved with the idea of learning new languages and understanding different cultures.
Another fun way to boost language engagement is to take an MFL class into your local area to make a promotional tourist film in French, German or Spanish.
1 September 2019 (Forbes)
When Mina Chae first began making videos in 2008, she found less than five Korean language lessons on YouTube. Feeling a need to ”contribute some pixels to the online community,” she created YouTube lessons with the equipment she had on hand: a laptop, some green screen fabric, and an impressive talent for caricature. Playing multiple members of a fun fictional family, she shared common Korean words and their context in a series of KWOW episodes.
[...] “Many k-pop fans want to learn Korean to sing their favorite songs, which can be especially awesome for audience participation at live concerts,” said Chae. “K-drama lovers can watch their episodes in the native Korean language without reading subtitles, which are not always translated accurately. How can you? There are cultural words and feelings that just cannot be perfectly translated into another language. So learning the language is a way to better understand the culture and people."
24 August 2017 (The Telegraph)
The number of students taking modern foreign languages has plummeted because British children are have become reliant on English translations and tools like “Google Translate,” academics have warned.
Figures published on Thursday by the Joint Qualifications Council (JCQ) show that the number of entries for modern foreign languages has fallen by more than 7 per cent per cent overall, with the number of French exams falling by a tenth and German by 13.2 per cent.
Similar declines were recorded in last week's A-level results, whilst the number of British students taking languages has almost halved over the last two decades.
3 March 2017 (Open University)
Make a short video explaining what you consider your biggest hurdles to language learning and you could win up to £150 in Amazon UK gift vouchers.
We want to hear what you find most difficult about language learning, especially when you start learning a new language. We are looking for well thought-out answers with specific examples of your language learning experience, or maybe good one-liners that showcase some of the difficulties that you have faced in the following areas:
- Your motivation for learning a new language
- Managing your expectations when starting to learn a new language
- Coping with grammar and grammatical terminology
- Creating (and sticking to) a learning routine
- Practising speaking (as a beginner)
- Listening (as a beginner)
- Learning vocabulary (as a beginner)
- Reading (as a beginner)
- Writing (as a beginner)
- Finding, evaluating and selecting resources to support learning for beginners
- Immersing yourself in the language when not in an area where it is spoken
- Getting support from others (including online communities
- Keeping your motivation going in the medium to long term
Your video must cover only one of these areas, but you are welcome to submit a video for each of the topics that are relevant to you.
Your video must be no longer than 30 seconds and must be in English.
Visit the Open University website to find out more and how to submit your entry by 17 March 2017.
17 February 2017 (Junior Language Challenge)
The Junior Language Challenge is the UK’s only language challenge for primary schools, inspiring a love of languages at a young age and encouraging children to become independent learners, while raising money for charity.
The JLC 2017 will open on 10 March, but registration starts now - visit the website sign-up pages to register a school or an individual. (Please note there is an entry charge per child with all proceeds going to the onebillion
28 January 2017 (TES)
It's not enough to grandstand the fact that languages have been introduced at primary school and leave it at that, writes this veteran journalist.
I can remember my first German lesson at school only too clearly.
The first two phrases that I was taught were "Mutti bleibt zu hause" and "Vater geht zu arbeit". For the uninitiated, that means "mother stays at home" and "father goes to work".
Apart from giving a rather forlorn view of the state of society in the early 1960's, it also shows how mind-bogglingly dreary were the German textbooks of the day.
27 January 2017 (SCILT)
Inspire the future generation with relevant career advice on languages direct from the workplace via the Job Profiles on our website. These resources are designed for teachers to use in the classroom to enhance learning about the world of work and how language skills can play a part.
Our latest addition comes from modern languages teacher, Olivia Ingleby, who tells how language skills helped her discover new places, cultures and the varied opportunities that brought prior to becoming a languages teacher.
Posted in: S1-S3
, Senior Phase
, Language Learning
, Language Learning for Work
, Language Teaching
, Promoting Languages
, SCILT news
German Educational Trainees Across Borders 2017-18
26 January 2017 (SCILT/German Consulate General)
Expressions of interest are now being taken from local authorities who would like to host a German student teacher for a 6 month placement during the 2017-18 school session.
German trainee teachers from Universities in Mainz, Leipzig, Koblenz and Saarland are available to work in Scottish schools for a six month placement from September/October 2017 to March/April 2018. Participating students are native German speakers, training to become secondary teachers of English.
German Educational Trainees (GETs) support language teaching and intercultural understanding, bringing language alive for learners with a trained and motivated native speaker.
For more information please see the attached 'GET_2017_Information Sheet'.
Local authorities interested in hosting GETs should complete and return the Note of Interest form by Friday 10th February.
13 January 2017 (SCILT)
Our Job Profiles provide relevant, labour-market focused career advice on languages, direct from the workplace.
Teachers, use them in your classroom to enhance learning about the world of work.
Read our new Job Profile from Dawn Hartley, Head of Creative Learning at Scottish Dance Theatre.
6 January 2017 (TES)
As students flee modern foreign languages in droves, Alistair McConville says that we should stop talking about the earning potential of subjects and instead appeal to pupils’ youthful sense of social empathy – especially at a time of political upheaval around the world.
The full article can be accessed on TES online, 6 January 2017 (subscription required).
31 October 2016 (Huffington Post)
Do you remember your first few weeks learning Spanish?
It was lots of fun, right?
You’d learn some new words, a few useful expressions, and you’d be able to use them in simple conversations right away!
It was an amazing feeling... “At this rate, I’ll speak fluent Spanish in no time!”
Except it didn’t quite work out like that.
Somewhere along the line, your progress slowed...
Learning Spanish stopped being fun, and feelings of frustration started to creep in. You think: “Maybe I’m just not cut out to learn Spanish!”
Well, if you can relate to any of this, there’s something important I want you to know:
It’s completely normal!
6 October 2016 (The Conversation)
For some time, there have been many stories told of the “crisis” in modern languages in secondary schools and universities. There is hard evidence to support this. Even though there have been upsurges in modern languages provision – following the introduction of the English Baccalaureate for example – pupil numbers continue to fall.
In Wales, where modern languages are still an optional choice at GCSE, research shows that the number of pupils studying a foreign language declined by 44% between 2002 and 2015. The number of pupils taking French in 2015 was less than half those who took it in 2002.
But why are pupils put off taking a language at GCSE level, and how can we improve attitudes to the subjects? As a bilingual country, it seems counter-intuitive that Welsh pupils cannot see the benefits of studying languages. However, research from an engagement project we have recently been running suggests a range of things are influencing pupils’ decisions not to study a language.
The mentoring project saw undergraduate modern language students from four Welsh universities trained to work with year eight and nine pupils (aged 13 and 14) in 28 schools. The students helped the pupils to practice their language, build confidence and knowledge, and teach them how modern languages can aid personal and professional development.
Our work was part of a push by the Welsh government, to arrest and reverse the decline in modern languages study by 2020.
2 October 2016 (The Guardian)
Author Lauren Collins explains how she and her French husband translated their feelings without resorting to Franglais.
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
30 April 2016 (The Guardian)
Hyperpolyglot, linguist and language ambassador, Matthew Youlden, shares his motivational tips for learning languages and more.
28 April 2016 (TES)
'Why bother?', they ask. 'Everyone speaks English anyway.' Or worse still: 'What's the point? I'm never going to go to France/Germany/Spain/Argentina.'
There isn't a language teacher in the land who hasn't been confronted with these truculent questions, usually at some critical transitional moment when whichever child it is has started taking too much notice of his or her parents (or possibly Jeremy Paxman). Younger children tend to be more open-minded and inclusive.
It's a gift actually: an open door to serious discussion. And the great thing is, there are so many compelling answers.
26 November 2015 (SCILT/CISS)
Registrations for Word Wizard 2016 close on Monday 30th November, don't miss out on the chance to enter this motivating and challenging competition!
Open to S1-S3 pupils to compete in French, Gaelic, German, Mandarin or Spanish, Word Wizard provides learners with the opportunity to improve their vocabulary, pronunciation and memory skills in a competition format.
In partnership with UCMLS this year we have semi-finals in Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow. Sign up now to receive the first set of word lists and start practising!
Posted in: S1-S3
, Celebrating Languages
, Language Learning
, Promoting Languages
, SCILT news
, CISS news
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 May 2015 (Innovate my School)
Aside from doing the Spanish rap from Community, how can teachers bring their MFL classrooms to life? Writer and linguist Brian Powers gives his opinion on how to get students into their languages lessons.
8 January 2015 (CILT Cymru)
How do we ensure that as many pupils as possible opt to study GCSE languages? This session demonstrates tried-and-tested ways of engaging pupils across the ability range while at the same time achieving maximum linguistic progression.
18 November 2014 (Project Trust / SCILT)
Project Trust and SCILT have been developing ways for the two organisations to support each other's work, not least through the Language Linking, Global Thinking pilot programme.
In this blogpost, read how volunteering overseas inspires young people to engage with language learning, and how in turn those young people can motivate pupils to learn languages in UK schools.
10 November 2014 (The Guardian)
“Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation,” Sufi mystic Rumi once said.
Words are, however, a way for the worldly to connect with the divine through prayer and worship. For many, developing a greater understanding of a religion extends not only to studying the theological and philosophical points but to learning another language. We spoke to three people studying Arabic, Hebrew and classical Tibetan about the role languages play in their relationship with religion.
21 October 2014 (SCILT)
Show your pupils that languages are valuable in the world of work by visiting the 'Job Profiles' section of the SCILT website. People from a range of sectors - including sport, marketing, technology and many more - explain how language learning has influenced their professional lives.
NEW to the job profiles section:
- Susan Young shows us her unusual office, and tells us how she turned her passion in life into her job.
- Amy Baxter shares her story with us in a new video interview just added to her job profile.
19 August 2014 (Goethe-Institut)
The motivational game, suitable for P7 to S3 pupils, enables classes to discover German culture and language through a series of interactive challenges. Teachers now have the opportunity to visit the Goethe-Institut with their class and tackle the German Language Adventure.
New bookings are now invited for dates from 20 September onwards.
Visit the Goethe-Institut website for more information and to see what previous participants have said about the project.
26 June 2014 (The Guardian)
The reasons for learning a second language can be endless but the secret to success is rooted in the science of motivation.
06 November 2013 (QS)
Language learning is a key priority under a new EU study abroad funding program for education, training and youth organizations due to be launched in January 2014. The new scheme, called Erasmus+, follows a report from the European Commission on the importance of language skills in a market where businesses increasingly operate internationally.
Speaking at the London Language Show recently, the EU commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou, said: “Language learning is vital in Europe... foreign language competences are needed not only by the large multinationals, but increasingly also by SMEs [small and medium enterprises] with international marketing strategies, and by public services having to deal with increasingly multicultural and multilingual citizens.”
So, why should everyone (whether a student or not) be motivated to learn a foreign language, even if they don’t feel like they need one? Prepare to be persuaded…
25 October 2013 (The Guardian)
It doesn't matter how trivial it is, find something that motivates you to learn a language.
28 April 2013 (Lingua Garden)
What do you do in order to motivate your students to speak the target language in your classroom? At home? As educators and loving caregivers, we understand that every child is unique; the way they acquire knowledge, their motivations, their struggles, and their strengths vary so much between each one. Motivating your students and encouraging them to participate in the foreign language is not an easy job. Although, it is not impossible.
26 April 2013 (SCILT)
Looking for ways to inspire and motivate your language students? Using film in the classroom is a great way to combine interdisciplinary learning and generate enthusiasm amongst your pupils for language learning. These projects were filmed in three different Scottish schools involving pupils from P7 to S6 who worked together to create their own animated movies using skills they developed in Modern Languages, Art and ICT. Have a look at these video clips to see what can be achieved and hear feedback from some of the pupils who took part.
Posted in: Primary
, Senior Phase
, Cross-Curricular Working
, SCILT news
13 January 2013 (The Independent)
Lack of opportunity, cash and ambition stops our students learning abroad.
20 November 2012 (The Toronto Star)
Mette-Ann Schepelern remembers when she first heard a curious sound coming from her son’s bedroom. Someone was speaking fluent English loudly, peppered with mysterious slang. To her surprise, it was her 9-year-old Danish son. Schepelern and her son Carl live in Copenhagen, where English lessons begin in the first grade. To become fluent, a child would need to practice several hours a day — which Carl did, but not in front of a textbook. Carl was playing World of Warcraft, a multiplayer online game with more than 10 million players and available in 11 languages, none of them Danish.
8 November 2012 (SecEd)
A total of 10 education projects from across England and Wales were awarded this year’s European Language Label, which recognises innovative and effective practice in language teaching and learning. The awards were presented at a ceremony at the European Commission’s UK office in London earlier this term and included seven secondary-based projects. If you would like some ideas and inspiration, follow the link for more information on the winning projects.